Results of Lawsuits Regarding the 2020 Elections
The various claims of evidence alleging a stolen 2020 election have been exhaustively investigated and litigated. Judges heard claims of illegal voting and found they were without merit.
Rep. Liz Cheney, the former chair of the House Republican Conference, stated on February 23: "The president and many around him pushed this idea that the election had been stolen. And that is a dangerous claim. It wasn't true," she said. "There were over 60 court cases where judges, including judges appointed by President Trump and other Republican presidents, looked at the evidence in many cases and said there is not widespread fraud."
CLC’s researched the cases. Some, as referenced by Rep. Cheney, were withdrawn by the Trump team before the courts ever ruled or dismissed on procedural grounds. But many were decided on the merits.
For a full case tracker, visit Election Law at Ohio State.
Post-Election Cases Decided on the Merits:
- Trump v. Biden (Wis. Dec. 14, 2020) – In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed three of Trump’s four claims under the doctrine of laches. However, it decided on the merits Trump’s claim that voters wrongfully declared themselves indefinitely confined. Ultimately, the court ruled against Trump on this claim because Trump challenged the status of all voters who claimed an indefinitely confined status, rather than individual voters. Trump petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court for writ of certiorari on Dec. 29, 2020 with a motion for expedited consideration, but the court denied his motion to expedite on January 11.
- Trump v. Wis. Elecs. Comm’n (E.D. Wis. Dec. 12, 2020) – The district court dismissed Trump’s claim that Wisconsin officials violated his rights under the Electors Clause because said officials allegedly issued guidance on state election statutes that deviated significantly from the requirements of Wisconsin’s election statutes. First, the court found that interpretations of election administration rules do not fall under the meaning of “Manner” in the Electors Clause. Moreover, even if “Manner” were read so broadly, the defendants had acted consistently with, and as expressly authorized by, the Wisconsin Legislature; their issued guidance did not significantly or materially depart from legislative direction. Thus, there was no violation of the Electors Clause. The U.S. Appeals Court for the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court’s opinion on Dec. 24, 2020. Trump filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 30, 2020 along with a motion for expedited consideration, and the court denied Trump’s motion to expedite on January 11.
- King v. Whitmer (E.D. Mich. Dec. 7, 2020) – While the district court stated that the claims of plaintiffs—Republican presidential electors—could be dismissed for lack of standing, the district court nonetheless analyzed the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims. First, the district court was unpersuaded by the plaintiffs’ claim that defendants violated the Elections and Electors Clauses by allegedly violating the Michigan Election Code because it found that deviations from state election law are not the same as modifications of state election law. Second, the district court found the plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim to be too speculative, finding no evidence that physical ballots were altered. The plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2020, and subsequently filed a motion for expedited consideration on Dec. 18, 2020. However, the court denied the motion to expedite on January 11.
- Ward v. Jackson (Ariz. Sup. Ct., Maricopa Cnty. Dec. 4, 2020) – The superior court denied relief requested by the plaintiff in an election contest because the plaintiff failed to meet the evidentiary standard necessary for such a contest. First, plaintiff’s evidence failed to show fraud or misconduct—rather, it showed that the duplication process of the presidential election was 99.45% accurate, and that the inaccuracies were caused by human error. Moreover, the plaintiff’s evidence failed to show illegal votes or an erroneous vote count. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision on Dec. 8, 2020. The plaintiff filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2020, and subsequently filed a motion for expedited consideration on the same day. However, the Court denied the motion to expedite on January 11.
- Law v. Whitmer (Nev. Dist. Ct., Carson City Dec. 4, 2020) – The district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ election contest on the merits. First, the plaintiffs—Republican presidential electors—failed to prove that there had been either a voting device malfunction or the counting of illegal/improper votes in a manner sufficient to raise reasonable doubt as to the election’s outcome. Next, the plaintiffs failed to prove that the election board or any of its members were guilty of malfeasance. Finally, the plaintiffs failed to prove that defendants had manipulated or altered the outcome of the election. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision on Dec. 8, 2020.
- Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar (M.D. Pa. Nov. 21, 2020) – While the district court found that Trump lacked standing, the court decided to touch upon the merits of his Equal Protection claim, ultimately rejecting the claim. The district court held that different counties implementing different types of notice-and-cure policies (many implementing none) did not violate the Equal Protection Clause because the clause does not require complete equality in all situations—“a classification resulting in ‘some inequality’ will be upheld unless it is based on an inherently suspect characteristic or ‘jeopardizes the exercise of a fundamental right.’” The district court highlighted the fact that the notice-and-cure policies adopted by certain counties imposed no burden on voters, and that it would be impossible to require every single county to administer elections in exactly the same way. The U.S. Court for Appeals for the 3rd Circuit affirmed this decision on Nov. 27, 2020.
- Wood v. Raffensperger (N.D. Ga. Nov. 20, 2020) – While the district court stated that the claims of a plaintiff—a registered voter—could be dismissed either for lack of standing or under the doctrine of laches, the court nonetheless ruled on the merits. First, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s Equal Protection claim because there was no disparate treatment among Georgia voters. Next, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s Elections and Electors Clauses claim because Secretary Brad Raffensperger had not overridden or rewritten any state law. Finally, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s Due Process claim because there is no individual constitutional right to observe the electoral process (i.e., monitor an audit or vote recount). The U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s opinion on Dec. 5, 2020. The plaintiff filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 8, 2020 and filed a motion for expedited consideration on the same day. However, the court denied the motion to expedite on January 11.
- Bower v. Ducey (D. Ariz. Dec. 9, 2020) – The district court largely dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint on the grounds of lack of standing. However, the court did touch upon the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud, ultimately finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were largely based on, “anonymous witnesses, hearsay, and irrelevant analysis of unrelated elections.” For one, the declarations from poll watchers that the plaintiffs provided as proof of fraud did not actually allege fraud at all, but rather simply raised concerns about the manner and process by which election officials matched signatures on absentee ballots. Moreover, none of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses stated that defendants committed any fraud; instead, they only provided speculative statements about what “could have” happened. Additionally, one of the plaintiffs’ experts relied on a study with no information about its author or methodologies involved. Finally, the court found the plaintiffs’ claim of alleged voting machine hacking to be unconvincing since the voting machines’ behavior could be easily explained by standard voting machine protocol. The plaintiffs filed an emergency petition for extraordinary writ of mandamus to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 15, 2020, and the court denied the plaintiffs’ emergency petition on January 11.
- Costantino v. City of Detroit (3d Jud. Ct. Wayne Cnty. Nov. 13, 2020) – In denying the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction, the court found that the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud would unlikely prevail on the merits. The court noted that many plaintiffs failed to include crucial information in their allegations, such as locations of alleged misconduct, frequency of alleged misconduct, names of those involved in alleged misconduct, and so on. Overall, the court found the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud to be speculative, filled with “guess-work,” and often unsubstantiated. Moreover, defendants provided a sufficient amount of evidence to convince the court that they had acted within the law. This decision was affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals on Nov. 16, 2020, and by the Michigan Supreme Court on Nov. 23, 2020.
- Arizona Republican Party v. Fontes (Ariz. Sup. Ct., Maricopa Cty.) – The superior court ordered the Arizona Republican Party and its lawyers to pay legal fees for bringing a “groundless,” bad faith lawsuit challenging Maricopa County election procedures. The court noted that the relief plaintiff sought—an additional hand count of ballots—was not legally available due to the suit’s numerous procedural defects. The court found that plaintiff did not adequately assess the validity of their claims before filing the suit, and thus failed to prove that the county had inappropriately applied the statute in question. The court determined that plaintiff brought the suit for the “improper purpose” of undermining Arizonans’ confidence in election results, rather than to defend election integrity as they claimed.
Given the sheer number of election-related cases that lacked merit, federal judges in states like Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin have begun moving to consider and, in at least one instance thus far, implement sanctions against the lawyers that submitted them. For instance, according to a July 16 article from The Washington Post, a federal judge in Michigan began questioning Sidney Powell and eight other pro-Trump lawyers to decide whether to sanction the group for submitting a lawsuit crafted on false information that sought to overturn the results of the presidential election. On August 25, the judge imposed sanctions on Powell and the other pro-Trump lawyers, recommending that their respective state bars investigate whether they should be suspended or disbarred.