Case by case: Trump’s legal challenges to US election outcome

Donald Trump’s baseless claims that his loss to Joe Biden was due to election fraud are set for their toughest test this week with hearings set in his federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania.

The case is one of a flurry of legal actions that have sought to undo the result of the November 3rd US presidential election.

None of the lawsuits appears likely to change the outcome, legal experts have said. In the main, judges have found the campaign’s claims to be lacking in evidence of significant irregularities. Trump has had some successes on questions of process or small numbers of ballots that would not affect the overall vote.

The Financial Times has summarised the main legal challenges made by Trump’s legal team since election day:

PENNSYLVANIA

An official poll watcher uses binoculars as workers count ballots for the US presidential election at the Philadelphia Convention Center in November 3rd. Photograph: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg
An official poll watcher uses binoculars as workers count ballots for the US presidential election at the Philadelphia Convention Center in November 3rd. Photograph: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 68,312 votes, or 1 per cent

Certification deadline: November 23rd

State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc v Kathy Boockvar and County Boards of Elections

Relief sought: Tossing out some ballots

Current status: Relief granted

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear, but expected to be small

Voters in Pennsylvania can fix or “cure” issues with their ballots after polling day. For example, the required identification for a mail ballot might be missing. County elections boards try to reach such voters to allow them to cure these problems so their vote can still count.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, had issued guidance to allow voters to cure mail ballot ID issues by November 12th, three days after the deadline under state law.

This was in line with a three-day extension to mail ballot deadlines ordered by the Pennsylvania supreme court, a decision that is the subject of continued litigation at the US supreme court.

The Trump campaign sued to prevent the counting of any mail ballots where the ID was cured in the extended period set out by Boockvar. A state judge granted their request.

Name: In re: Canvassing Observation

Relief sought: Standing closer to poll workers as they counted ballots

Current status: On appeal

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear if any at all

Votes in Philadelphia were counted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where local election officials had instituted social-distancing rules as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. These included limiting how close election observers could get to the poll workers as they counted ballots. The count was also livestreamed online.

The Trump campaign sued to be allowed to stand as close as six feet away. A state trial court denied the request, but a state appeals court sided with the campaign. The case is currently before the Pennsylvania supreme court.

Name: In re: Canvass of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots of November 3rd, 2020 General Election

Relief sought: Throwing out ballots

Current status: On appeal

Number of ballots at issue: 8,329

The Trump campaign had challenged the validity of several thousand votes in Philadelphia through five cases in the state’s court of common pleas, alleging that the mail ballots were unlawful because the voters had failed to write certain information on the envelopes, such as the date or their name and address.

All five of the cases were rejected on November 13th. The judge noted that “the pre-printed ballot already contains the elector’s name and address on the pre-printed exterior envelope” and said there was no requirement for voters to write the date. The Trump campaign has appealed.

Name: Donald J Trump for President v. Montgomery County Board of Elections

Relief sought: Throwing out ballots

Current status: Denied

Number of ballots at issue: 592

The Trump campaign had also challenged the validity of ballots in Montgomery County, on similar grounds to the Philadelphia case, alleging that ballots that did not have handwritten addresses on the envelope were invalid. A state judge on Friday rejected the lawsuit.

Name: Donald J Trump for President v Bucks County Board of Elections