In the days following the election, President Trump’s baseless allegations of rampant fraud in the vote-counting process have been incorporated into a hasty, slapdash legal strategy that so far has yielded limited results.
As Trump loses his grip on the presidency, his campaign is using state and federal courts to attempt to “stop the count,” as Trump himself has said, and question the validity of the ballots that have already been counted. But vote counting has continued despite the campaign’s efforts and no persuasive evidence of fraud has surfaced.
“The Trump legal strategy seems to be a strategy based on wishful thinking,” attorney Stephen Kaufman, an election law expert, told Yahoo News on Friday. “There does not seem to be any legal basis for the challenges that are being brought by the campaign.”
This strategy, experts say, seems to be less about preserving the integrity of the election process, which is what Trump’s campaign says it’s trying to do, and more about fostering the false impression with the public that the election is fraudulent, and laying the groundwork to ask for relief from the federal courts, which the administration has assiduously stacked with Republican judges.
“From what I’ve seen so far, in terms of the charges of fraud or irregularities, there just doesn’t seem to be anything very substantial,” Alexander Keyssar, a history and social policy professor at Harvard Kennedy School and expert on the Electoral College, told Yahoo News. “If [Trump] continues to say, and I think he will, that his loss was fraudulent, I think it will de-legitimize [Joe] Biden in the minds of some people out there.”
Since Tuesday, Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania — all closely contested states that could decide the election — challenging the integrity of the vote-counting process, and several have already failed. The cases in Michigan, Georgia and Nevada were dismissed for lack of merit, while a state case in Pennsylvania is pending on appeal. The central issues in these cases are the legitimacy of the ballots being counted and the ability of Republican poll watchers to observe the process.
The Trump campaign filed a motion Wednesday to intervene in Pennsylvania Republican Party v. Boockvar, a case in which the Pennsylvania GOP challenged a state Supreme Court order that allowed mailed ballots received up to three days after Election Day to be counted. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the GOP last month but was asked to reconsider its ruling.
“I had such a big lead in all of these states late into election night,” Trump tweeted Friday, “only to see the leads miraculously disappear as the days went by. Perhaps these leads will return as our legal proceedings move forward!”
I had such a big lead in all of these states late into election night, only to see the leads miraculously disappear as the days went by. Perhaps these leads will return as our legal proceedings move forward!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2020
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel announced Friday that the RNC has deployed legal teams in four states, including Georgia, to look into voting irregularities and ensure observers have access to ballot counting.
Reuters reported Friday that the RNC is trying to raise at least $60 million to fund legal challenges from Trump’s campaign, according to sources who spoke to the outlet.
“I think that what's going on more broadly is setting up to try to create an aura of uncertainty or even fraud,” Keyssar told Yahoo News, “although no one’s finding any fraud, so far as I can tell.”
In a video conference with reporters on Friday, Joshua Geltzer, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and a member of the National Task Force on Election Crises stressed that the ongoing litigation doesn’t mean that this election will be resolved in court.
“The litigation thus far filed by the Trump campaign has gone nowhere fast,” Geltzer said. “It's been rejected across the board [and] in some cases abandoned on appeal. Fundamentally there do not seem to be strong, legal claims and plausible factual assertions to back up challenges to particular counts in particular states.”
Kaufman, who was a recount attorney for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, noted that what’s happening now — the continued counting of ballots, in multiple states, days after the election — is normal and expected in an election with a high volume of mail-in ballots.
“We never see these issues play out unless there’s a very close election,” he said. “But it is not unusual in many states for the vote canvass process to continue for days, if not weeks, after an election.
In many instances, including the current one, he said, results flip as the votes are counted.
“The cynicism that’s coming out of the White House is discouraging to hear,” he said. “We are watching democracy at work right now. And again, every claim of fraud, every claim of corruption to this point has been debunked.”
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