‘A Litigation Arms Race.’ Why The 2020 Election Could Come Down To The Courts

Alana Abramson:

The litigation landscape

To the extent that it can be simplified, this year’s election-related legal brawls can be distilled into two groups: a push to eliminate expanded mail-in voting policies on the basis that they would produce unprecedented fraud, and a push to ease the restrictions already in place.

The first battle, waged by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, has largely failed. Lawsuits on this theme filed in Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were all dismissed because of a lack of evidence. In Pennsylvania, federal Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who was appointed by Trump, dismissed the Trump campaign’s case on the grounds that their allegations of fraud were “speculative”—the same word invoked by federal district Judge James C. Mahan, who was nominated by George W. Bush, in dismissing a similar case in Nevada. In Montana, federal district judge Dana Christensen described the Trump campaign’s fraud allegations as “a fiction.”

The second battle—the fight over the weedy regulations governing voting by mail—has had more grist. Democrats have banked key victories in lower courts, while Republicans have gotten at least half a dozen of these decisions either reversed on appeals or put on hold pending further consideration. “It’s not the score at the end of the first quarter that counts, and there is a lot of game left in most of these cases,” says an aide at the Republican National Committee.