US Election

What’s happening in Trump campaign lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Georgia & Michigan?

POTUS' farcical attempts to disregard ballots across several key states continues, with precious little luck remaining, but plenty of typos.

What’s happening in Trump campaign lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Georgia & Michigan?
JONATHAN ERNST REUTERS

Donald Trump has filed over 40 separate lawsuits in the six key battleground states, contesting the results of the 2020 election which he has decisively lost. Most of them have been shot down or withdrawn, and no court has found even a single instance of fraud. Of at least 41 cases to have been filed, including some not directly involving Trump but which could nonetheless affect his standing, at least 26 have been denied, dismissed, settled or withdrawn. Many are still pending decisions.

Campaign lawyers so far have found little sympathy from judges, nearly all of whom dismissed their complaints about the security of mail-in ballots, which millions of people used to vote from home during the covid-19 pandemic.

Let’s take a look at where the cases stand in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan.

Pennsylvania court case, what happened and updates

Yesterday Trump’s assault on election integrity suffered yet another blow in the courts.

The latest Pennsylvania case was originally argued in a lower court by Rudy Giuliani, where he failed to offer any proof of fraud whatsoever in a five-hour hearing.

He alleged that Republican voters were disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties gave voters the chance to fix errors on their ballots. Giuliani went on to argue that 680,000 ballots cast in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be thrown out because Republican observers weren’t allowed to watch them be counted. The law does not dictate where poll watchers should be allowed to go. The suit also included a request to stop the certification of the sates’ results which was swiftly denied.

Giuliani in the hearing now infamously admitted that he didn’t know what “strict scrutiny” or “opacity” meant.

On Friday the same case was heard in a federal appeals court. In the damning ruling the court said that the Trump campaign was in effect requesting disenfranchisement of the state’s 6.8 million voters or at least to “cherry-pick” the 1.5 million who voted by mail in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other Democratic-leaning areas.

“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Third Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel, all appointed by Republican presidents.

Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judges’ assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit” and called any revisions “futile.

“On to SCOTUS!” wrote Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign attorney, on Twitter after the ruling, referring to a planned appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud.”

Pennsylvania’s vote count was certified on Monday confirming that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes. Biden was therefore given all of the state’s 20 electoral college votes. 13

Georgia court case, what happened and updates

The lawsuit in Georgia centres on trying to reverse the certification of Georgia’s election results. Sidney Powell, a former Donald Trump team lawyer who was recently publicly dumped for being too conspiratorial, is bringing the case. The Trump administration now claims she is operating solo.

In the Georgia lawsuit, (Pearson v. Kemp, Northern District of Georgia), Powell is seeking an emergency order demanding that the state decertify the already certified election results which awarded Biden the state’s 16 electoral college seats. If this doesn’t work, the suit alternatively proposes that Georgia’s electors are either disqualified from counting toward the 2020 presidential election, or that electors should be directed to vote for Donald Trump instead of Joe Biden.

It has been widely reported that the case, which was filed yesterday, was not compiled especially meticulously, as it features two different typos in the spelling if the word “district” on the first page. First there was 'DISTRICCT' and then a few words later, 'DISTRCOICT.' 17

The lion’s share of the suit addresses claims that the Dominion Voting Systems software and voting machines used in Georgia and 16 other states were “created and run by domestic and foreign actors” to render ballot stuffing practices invisible. 

The “Smartmatic and Dominion were founded by foreign oligarchs and dictators to ensure computerized ballot-stuffing and vote manipulation to whatever level was needed to make certain Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez never lost another election,” the lawsuit claims. “Notably, Chavez ‘won’ every election thereafter.”

“This scheme and artifice to defraud affected tens of thousands of votes in Georgia alone and ‘rigged’ the election in Georgia for Joe Biden.”

Dominion released a statement Friday night, saying, in part:

“Every vote from a Dominion device in Georgia is documented on an auditable paper trail and creates a verifiable paper ballot available for hand-counting. In fact, the Georgia hand counts, independent audits, and machine tests have all repeatedly affirmed that the machine counts were accurate.”

The case is yet to be resolved in Georgia.

The deadline for Georgia’s certification was Friday 27 November at 5pm, but the results were certified a week early by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger following a full hand recount and audit. Owing to this recount in Georgia - which confirmed Biden’s win, albeit by a smaller margin of over 12,000 votes - obviously any claims that the voting machines contributed to fraud are moot. Trump’s campaign has now ordered another recount, which is now under way in the state.

A previous lawsuit filed in Georgia last Thursday to try to delay the vote certification was thrown out by a federal judge. At least two other cases have also been dismissed.

Michigan court case, what happened and updates

Sidney Powell is again the star of the show in the latest attempt to disenfranchise thousands of voters in Michigan. The case (King v. Whitmer, 20-cv-13134, US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan) was filed Wednesday and involves similar claims to those presented in Georgia detailed above. Frankly they’re largely conspiratorial rantings on Dominion Voting Systems and deceased Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Powell and a group of Michigan Republicans are requesting that a federal judge reverse Biden's victory in the state.

The Michigan filing appears to have had formatting issues too, Bloomberg reported, with Powell forgetting to put the spaces between words. For example:

“TheTCFCenterwastheonlyfacilitywithinWayneCountyauthorizedtocountthe ballots.”

The case is awaiting a hearing. Six previous cases in Michigan were either denied or withdrawn, and a group of Michigan voters is now suing Donald Trump, arguing that his legal challenges in the state violated the rights of Black voters.

Michigan’s 16 electoral votes were awarded to Biden and certified on Monday, after he won the state by 155,000 votes.

Besides her work on behalf of Mr Trump, Ms Powell serves as an attorney for Michael Flynn,  who has now been pardoned by Mr Trump after twice pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

Key US 2020 presidential election dates for the diary

So how long will this circus go on for? There’s a few weeks yet for Trump’s failed attempts to overturn the election results to be referred to the Supreme Court.

All states must have finalised their elector appointments by 8 December and the electors will cast their votes across states on Tuesday 14 December. On 23 December Mike Pence gets an early Christmas present, he will receive all states’ electors vote certificates. Then on 6 January the House and Senate will count the electoral votes ahead of the inauguration for Biden on 20 January.

Certification of election results is a necessary step in the process before the state’s electors cast their votes and send their election to the White House. Certification deadlines vary from state to state.