As counting continues in the US election, Donald Trump has followed through on his pre-election pledge to challenge the result in the courts.
While Twitter has already flagged several of his tweets alleging fraud as potential misinformation, the prospect of a protracted legal battle is real. More than 300 lawsuits had already been filed in 44 states ahead of the election, many initiated by Republicans seeking to overturn state laws on absentee ballots and other voting issues.
Since Tuesday’s poll the Trump campaign has announced several more legal challenges.
One question is whether they have a reasonable case that will stand up in a court of law. It is worth noting that most of the Republican challenges brought to date have been dismissed. Further, even if Trump was to win any of the legal challenges, a change would have to be enough to offset Biden’s vote margins, which seems a tall order.
Nonetheless, the prospect of multiple lawsuits means that a final election result could be delayed for several days or even weeks. Here are some of the cases that have been announced since election day, including several that have already been dismissed, although further suits may be forthcoming from the Trump team.
The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Michigan on Wednesday, arguing that it “has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law”.
The suit filed at the Michigan Court of Claims has called for all counting to stop until these observation rights are restored, and it also demanded that the ballots that were opened and counted while Trump campaign officials “did not have meaningful access” should be reviewed. However, the case was dismissed by the court on Thursday.
Detroit, Michigan has witnessed some scenes of unrest after Trump supporters were denied access to the main count centre, claiming that their observation rights under state law were being undermined.
The Trump campaign has not launched a legal challenge as such in Wisconsin, but it says it has requested a recount, citing “reports of irregularities in several counties”.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said some votes had been “tainted” in red, arguing that this showed that someone other than the voter had made the changes. Officially the campaign will not be able to file a recount petition until Wisconsin certifies its election results, due on December 1st. The Trump campaign would have to pay for at least some of the cost.
Recounts are not unusual in the state – they were held in 2000, 2004 and 2016. But Biden’s margin of 20,000 this year means it is difficult to see a recount changing the result.
The Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party filed a lawsuit in Chatham County, arguing that some votes that arrived after 7pm were illegally added to a stack of on-time ballots. Georgia does not allow ballots that arrive after the close of polls to be counted.
The lawsuit alleges that a campaign official witnessed 53 late absentee ballots being counted in the county, which includes the city of Savannah. “We will not allow Democrat election officials to steal this election from president Trump with late, illegal ballots,” the campaign said.
A judge dismissed the case on Thursday. Nonetheless, local Republicans have indicated that more suits may be filed in different counties across the state.
Several legal challenges are under way in Pennsylvania and could prove to be the most consequential in this election. One of the cases taken argues that Trump campaign officials were not allowed to observe the counting, particularly in the Philadelphia area – similar to the argument made in the Michigan case. The campaign is also challenging the state’s voter ID regulations.
But of most significance potentially is a possible US supreme court case. On Wednesday the Trump administration joined an existing case taken by the local Republican Party challenging state law that allows absentee ballots that arrived after election day to be counted, as long as they were posted by election day.
The supreme court indicated just before the election that it could revisit this issue, despite allowing the three-day extension to receiving ballots to stand.
Separately, the Trump team scored a small victory on Thursday when an appellate court reversed an earlier motion restricting closer observation of the canvassing of ballots. Campaign observers can now observe the counting process from six feet away.
Ahead of the election, Republicans lost a court case challenging the governor’s decision to allow mail-in ballots to be posted to all registered voters – a measure that was introduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the Trump campaigned filed a new federal lawsuit claiming that non-residents voted by mail in the election, and that votes were cast in the names of people who are deceased.