WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's campaign has filed a barrage of lawsuits amid President-elect Joe Biden's win — leveling, without proof, accusations of large-scale voter fraud in states that broke for Biden.
Experts said the effort faced long odds given the Electoral College tally and recent court rulings that found no evidence of widespread vote fraud. Across the country, election officials from both parties say the 2020 election unfolded smoothly and there has been no conspiracy.
In fact, election experts said the large increase in advance voting — 107 million people voting early in person and by mail — helped take pressure off Election Day operations. There were also no incidents of violence at the polls or voter intimidation.
“Nothing that I’ve seen regarding the election raises a legal issue that could succeed. There is just is nothing there,” Barry Richard, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 recount in Florida that ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, told the Associated Press.
“When these kind of lawsuits are filed it just breeds contempt for the whole legal system,” he added.
Biden was projected by the Associated Press and FOX News as the 46th president of the United States on Nov. 7 after claiming the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, pushing him well past the needed 270 Electoral College votes to win the White House.
Biden has claimed a total of 306 votes to Trump’s 232, according to projections by FOX News and the AP.
The president has refused to concede his loss to Biden, and instead has sought to discredit the integrity of the election and argued without evidence that the results will be overturned. Biden’s transition process as president-elect has been stalled amid Trump’s resistance to acknowledging the outcome of the race.
Former campaign adviser of U.S. President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski (L) and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speak to the media about a court order giving President Trump's campaign access to observe vote counting operations on Nov. 5,
Biden has been unable to access the administration’s pandemic and national security briefings, even those he was getting during the campaign. Many Republican leaders have spoken out about this, saying the president-elect should have access to the information.
“At this point at least, I think he should absolutely be getting intelligence briefings," Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said of Biden earlier this month. “The briefings he’s been getting as a candidate should continue. I think he should continue to get what he’s been getting and then let’s get on with the resolutions on some of these disputes.”
Last week, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed this, telling reporters that Trump should provide intelligence briefings to Biden even as the president contests the election results.
Studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is exceptionally rare, and when it does happen, people are generally caught and prosecuted and it does not change the outcome of the election. Typically, it involves someone wanting to honor the wishes of a loved one who recently died and either knowingly or not commits a crime by filling out that ballot.
Long before a single ballot was cast in the 2020 presidential election, Trump raised, without evidence, questions about the integrity of the election and railed against mail voting despite a long history of mail ballots being used successfully in the country. At one point, he falsely claimed the only way he could lose was if the election were rigged.
Some states that expanded mail-in voting to make it safer to cast a ballot during the virus outbreak lean Republican and voted for Trump — Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. He has raised no concerns about the results there.
Prior to Election Day, there were also hundreds of lawsuits filed by both sides, dealing with changes to how the election was going to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them were still live on Nov. 3, but most were sorted out.
Here is a look at the lawsuits that have been filed and recounts that have been requested related to the 2020 presidential race since Election Day:
Trump lawsuits in Michigan
Trump and his lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 11 in Michigan against Wayne County and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, claiming irregularities, incompetence, and unlawful vote counting. Trump wanted the state to hold off on certifying the election until it was verified that the votes were cast legally.
The Trump campaign dropped its case Nov. 19, citing statements from the Republican Wayne County canvassers who initially blocked certification of election results before approving them. The two canvassers now say they want to change their position again, but officials say there’s no way for them to rescind their vote.
Another lawsuit filed last week on behalf of two poll challengers asked a court to halt the certification of election results until an independent audit is completed to “ensure the accuracy and integrity of the election.” But the lawyers for the two poll challengers then abruptly withdrew the suit with no explanation.
The day after Election Day, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Nov. 4 to halt Michigan’s vote count, claiming it did not have proper access to observing the opening of absentee ballots — which was later dismissed. The Associated Press called Michigan for Biden on the same day.
The suit was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims. The next day, Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled against the campaign after questioning Trump’s attorneys over the evidence that she called hearsay.
Poll watchers from both sides were plentiful at one major polling place in question, the TCF Center in Detroit, according to the Associated Press.
Mark Brewer, a former state Democratic Party chairman who was observing the Detroit vote counting as a volunteer lawyer, said he had been at the TCF Center all day on Nov. 4 and had talked with others who had been there the past couple of days. He said Republicans had not been denied access.
“This is the best absentee ballot counting operation that Detroit has ever had. They are counting ballots very efficiently, despite the obstructing tactics of the Republicans,” Brewer said.
Another lawsuit in Michigan also sought to halt the certification of election results in Detroit, a Democratic stronghold, and the surrounding Wayne County. But on Nov. 6, Judge Timothy Kenny denied the motion for injunctive relief — ruling that the plaintiffs had made “only a claim but have offered no evidence to support their assertions.”
On Nov. 13, Kenny dismissed the lawsuit, saying there were "no sinister fraudulent activities" at the TCF Center on the day ballots were counted.
Separately on Nov. 12, the Trump campaign filed a wide-ranging lawsuit challenging the counting of votes in Wayne County. But according to reports, it was “misfiled” at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., which does not have jurisdiction, and was intended for Western Michigan's U.S. District Court. It was later dismissed by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Trump lawsuits in Nevada
A state court legal fight to stop the counting of mail ballots in the Las Vegas area has ended after the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Donald Trump campaign and the state Republican Party, at their request.
On Nov. 17, a Trump campaign attorney declared the Republican president won in Nevada, not Biden, despite results showing the Democratic former vice president drew 33,596 more votes in the battleground state.
“Donald Trump won ... after you account for the fraud and irregularities that occurred,” campaign attorney Jesse Binnall told reporters as he announced a new lawsuit asking a state judge to declare Trump the winner or to invalidate the presidential vote results.
The Associated Press and FOX News on Nov. 7 declared Biden the winner of Nevada’s six electoral votes. State election figures show Biden with 50.06% of the vote, and 47.67% for Trump. Nevada’s 17 counties are in the process of finalizing results.
The new lawsuit, filed Nov. 17 in Carson City, rehashes arguments that judges in Nevada and elsewhere have already rejected. It claims that votes were cast on behalf of dead people, that election observers weren’t allowed to witness “key points” of processing and that people on American Indian territories were illegally given incentives to vote.
The suit was assigned to Judge James Wilson Jr., who last month rejected Binnall’s bid on behalf of the Trump campaign and state Republican Party to halt the count of mailed ballots received in and around Las Vegas — a Democratic stronghold in an otherwise predominantly GOP state.
Wilson ruled that neither the state nor Clark County did anything to give one vote preference over another. Binnall appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, but dropped that effort before ballot counting ended last week.
A hearing in the Trump campaign challenge is scheduled Dec. 1. But time is short, with the state Supreme Court scheduled on Nov. 24 to certify the Nevada election as complete.
In a separate court filing on Nov. 20, a voting watchdog group led by a conservative former state lawmaker wanted a judge to block statewide certification of the election.
The Election Integrity Project, a group with right-wing ties, claimed voter fraud and alleged members found nearly 1,400 people who registered to vote in Nevada, moved to California, then voted in Nevada.
The judge disagreed with the contention that the election results shouldn’t be certified, saying there were ways of handling fraud, but they don’t include throwing out an election.
Trump lawsuits in Pennsylvania
The Associated Press on Nov. 7 called the presidential contest for Biden after determining that the remaining ballots left to be counted in Pennsylvania would not allow Trump to catch up. The president-elect leads by more than 81,400 votes in the state, according to FOX News’ count.
Trump loyalists have filed at least 15 legal challenges in Pennsylvania alone in an effort to reclaim the state’s 20 electoral votes.
One Trump campaign case aims to stop the state from certifying the election, alleging Philadelphia and six counties wrongly allowed voters to correct problems with mail-in ballots that were otherwise going to be disqualified for a technicality, like lacking a secrecy envelope or a signature.
But the total number of affected ballots was not expected to come anywhere close to Biden’s margin of more than 80,000 votes.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, signed onto the case last week after others abruptly withdrew, and the former New York mayor argued in court on Nov. 17 for the first time since the 1990s. Giuliani made allegations of a nationwide conspiracy by Democrats to steal the election, even though no such evidence has emerged in the weeks since Election Day.
On Nov. 21, the judge issued a scathing ruling, dismissing the case and barring them from filing it again. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann said the plaintiffs had asked the court to disenfranchise almost 7 million voters.
“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens,” Brann wrote. “That has not happened.”
Following the ruling, the president and other plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal Nov. 22 to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The campaign also filed a motion asking for an expedited hearing on Nov. 25 as they seek to amend the Pennsylvania lawsuit that Brann dismissed before the state certifies its election results.
On Nov. 23, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the Trump campaign’s appeal to disqualify ballots in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, ruling that mail-in ballots cast can be counted even if a voter failed to completely fill out the envelope.
Trump’s team filed another lawsuit Nov. 9 against Pennyslvania’s Secretary of Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar and seven county boards of elections. They claimed the state created a “two track system of voting.” Trump’s lawyers alleged that led to voters being treated differently depending on how they exercised their right, either in person or by mail.
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, one of the law firms representing the Trump campaign in the suit, moved to withdraw from the case on Nov. 12. The filing stated that Linda Kerns, another lawyer on the case, would remain on representing the Trump campaign, according to reports.
At the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief Nov. 9 to support a challenge to Pennsylvania's decision to count mail-in ballots that arrived through Nov. 6. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had unanimously upheld the three-day extension set by Democratic state officials concerned about Postal Service delays and the COVID-19 pandemic. The attorneys general say the court usurped a power reserved for state lawmakers.
The U.S. Supreme Court had declined to fast-track the challenge, but the vote was 4-4, and three justices expressed reservations. Republicans now hope to try again with new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the court. The attorneys general believe the extra time meant "unscrupulous actors could attempt to influence a close Presidential election.”
Still, it's far from clear that enough ballots came in after Election Day to change the results of the presidential race in Pennsylvania.
A federal judge dismissed a motion to stop counting in Philadelphia, but an appellate court allowed the Trump campaign to have its representative as close as 6 feet away from the vote-counting process. The state's supreme court later ruled on Nov. 17 that the city had given observers sufficient access from the start.
Trump lawsuit in Georgia
A federal judge dismissed the Trump campaign’s lawsuit on Nov. 19 that sought to halt certification of the state’s election, according to FOX 5 Atlanta. Trump-appointed Judge Steven Grimberg issued his ruling, saying Trump’s loss didn’t rise to the level of harm that would stop the certification process.
Trump’s lawyers filed the lawsuit claiming voter irregularities. According to FOX 5, a poll watcher testified that a stack of ballots looked suspicious because it appeared to be uniform and pristine.
Georgia affirmed Biden’s victory Thursday evening after a statewide recount, according to the Associated Press.
A judge in Georgia on Nov. 5 dismissed a lawsuit by the state Republican Party and Trump's campaign that asked him to ensure a coastal county was following state laws on processing absentee ballots.
Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass did not provide an explanation for his decision Nov. 5 at the close of a roughly one-hour hearing. Chatham County includes the heavily Democratic city of Savannah.
The suit had raised concerns about 53 absentee ballots that poll observers said were not part of an original batch of ballots. County elections officials testified that all 53 ballots had been received on time.
Georgia became a battleground state in the 2020 election, coming into play during the presidential race as demographics, particularly in the metro Atlanta area, have shifted. The state was called for Biden by the Associated Press and FOX News.
Trump lawsuit in Arizona
The state GOP is asking a judge to stop Maricopa County from certifying the election results until the party’s lawsuit, seeking a hand recount, is settled, according to the Associated Press. As of now, the county has until Nov. 23 to certify the results and Biden’s lead over Trump.
County leaders said they conducted an audit and found no discrepancies.
The state’s GOP request came after the Trump campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona’s Maricopa County after finding that Biden’s margin of victory in the state is too big for the disputed ballots to make a difference.
In a filing Nov. 13, the campaign said that “the tabulation of votes statewide has rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling as to the presidential electors.”
The suit, filed by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee on Nov. 7, had alleged the county "incorrectly rejected votes" made by in-person voters on Election Day.
It sought a manual inspection of the alleged rejected ballots that were cast in person — though attorneys said the votes in question only totaled 191.
On Nov. 10, an attorney representing Trump’s reelection team asked the Maricopa County Superior Court judge to seal the evidence of their claim to "protect identities of witnesses," which the judge denied. Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Tom Liddy had argued against the sealing of evidence, saying the public has a right to know.
"If you are going to bring a case and claim you have evidence that the election is no good, that there’s systematic failure, that there’s thousands of ballots out there for Donald J. Trump that aren’t being counted, you must make it in the sunshine," Liddy said, according to local news reports.
The lawsuit was announced the same day Arizona was called for Biden by FOX News and the AP. Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs responded to the lawsuit saying it had no merit and was a tactic to try and stall the election.
Trump recount requests
The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Nov. 19 ordered a recount of more than 800,000 ballots cast in two heavily Democratic counties. Biden won Wisconsin by 20,600 votes.
Trump paid $3 million and filed a petition for the recount, seeking to undo Biden's victory in the key state. Trump claims “irregularities” in Milwaukee and Dane counties, which went for Biden by a more than 2-to-1 margin, but no evidence of illegal activity has been presented.
The state does not have automatic recounts, but under Wisconsin law, one can be requested with the required margin of 1% or less. The losing candidate must pay for it, but is refunded if the recount changes the election outcome.
Trump’s three objections attempting to discard the ballots were denied by the three-member Dane County Board of Canvassers. Trump was expected to make the same objections in Milwaukee County ahead of a court challenge once the recount concludes.
Prior to the election being called, the Biden campaign reacted to Trump's recount request in Wisconsin -- citing an example of Trump's margins of victory in 2016.
"When Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by roughly the same amount of votes that Joe Biden just did, or won Michigan with fewer votes than Joe Biden is winning it now, he bragged about a 'landslide,' and called recount efforts 'sad,'" campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said.
Georgia’s results showed Biden beating Trump by 12,670 votes out of about 5 million cast, or 0.25%.
State law allows a candidate to request a recount if the margin is less than 0.5%. Election workers already spent days recounting the state’s votes cast in the race — part of a statewide audit to make sure the state's new voting machines counted accurately. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp formalized the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors.
The Trump campaign sent a hand-delivered letter to the secretary of state’s office requesting the recount, meaning Georgia’s votes would be tabulated for a third time. This time, the recount would be done by high-speed scanners and not by hand.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.