More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year around the upcoming midterm elections. The suits, largely by Republicans, target rules over mail-in voting, early voting, voter access, voting machines, voting registration, the counting of mismarked absentee ballots and access for partisan poll watchers.
It’s the most litigation ever before an election and it’s likely a preview of a potentially contentious post-election landscape. The strategy was born in part of the failure of allies of former President Donald Trump to successfully challenge and overturn the free and fair results of the 2020 presidential election.
But while the 2020 election effort was an ad hoc response fronted by a collection of increasingly ill-prepared lawyers that included Rudy Giuliani, today’s effort is a more formalized, well-funded and well-organized campaign run by the Republican National Committee and other legal allies with strong bona fides. Party officials say they are actively preparing for recounts, contested elections and more litigation. And there are thousands of volunteers in place primed to challenge ballots and hunt down evidence of malfeasance.
“Jocelyn Benson not only disregarded Michigan election law in issuing this guidance, she also violated the rights of political parties and poll challengers to fully ensure transparency and promote confidence that Michigan elections are run fairly and lawfully,” McDaniel said in a statement.
The RNC has won legal challenges in Nevada and Arizona over the appointment of poll workers and in Wisconsin on ballot curing and drop boxes. Other legal action includes litigation in Pennsylvania over absentee ballots dating and whether outside parties should be allowed examine voting machines.
Democrats are continuing to file litigation, too. Democratic-led groups have initiated roughly 35 lawsuits that focus largely on making voting easier. Just this week, litigation was filed on behalf of Voto Latino and the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans to stop intimidation over using drop boxes in Arizona. The ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to Allegheny County officials on mail-in ballot concerns.
Heading into 2020, the nation had been focused mostly on whether any foreign actors — Russia or perhaps China — would meddle in the election and wreak havoc on vote tabulations. That didn’t come true; instead, the conspiracy was born and nurtured from Trump and his supporters.
U.S. officials are again sounding the alarm that Russia is working to amplify doubts over the integrity of the elections.
This week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “No outside cyber activity has ever prevented a registered voter from casting a ballot; compromised the integrity of any ballot cast; or affected the accuracy of voter registration information.”
And she promised the government would “monitor any threats to our elections if they arise and work as a cohesive, coherent interagency to get relevant information to the election officials and workers on the ground.”
“The problem with the Republican Party right now is that conceding you lost an election is the only thing that will hurt you,” Elias said. “Contesting an election that is clearly lost is now where all the incentive structure is, and that is incredibly corrosive for democracy.”
Litigation around elections is nothing new; almost every election begets some legal challenge. But the bulk of this litigation generally occurs after the votes have been cast, not before Election Day.
In 2020, pro-Trump attorneys filed roughly 60 lawsuits across the nation and asked judges to set aside votes. Those lawsuits were roundly rejected. Trump’s own leadership found the election was fair, and state election officials nationwide saw no widespread evidence of fraud. Biden earned 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, the same margin in Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, which he repeatedly described as a “landslide.”
At the time, the Republican establishment had not adopted Trump’s lies about the election. Since then, though, the falsehoods have taken root within the party and become a major talking point for many of the candidates. Some have refused to commit to accepting the results after Nov. 8.