WASHINGTON, D.C. — As President Donald Trump promised to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, Republicans activated a massive network of attorneys in battleground states crucial to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, hoping to thwart the counting of thousands of early and absentee ballots.
Republican National Committee and Trump campaign officials told McClatchy that the scenario unfolding with a handful of Rust Belt and Southwestern states deciding the presidency was exactly what they had been preparing for over the course of a year. One source described it as “hand-to-hand combat” in legal battles over ballots that could decide the race.
“We have been planning for any post-election litigation and recounts for well over a year and are extraordinarily well-positioned,” Mandi Merritt, national press secretary for the Republican National Committee, told McClatchy early Wednesday morning. “With the help of our national network of attorneys and multiple firms retained across Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states, the RNC will continue to litigate as necessary should Democrats attempt to sue their way to victory.”
Republican attorneys already laid the groundwork in several states that on election night proved highly competitive, including Pennsylvania and Nevada, where lawsuits were filed throughout the day on Tuesday. More filings are expected, and the RNC has committed to spending at least $20 million on legal efforts.
Trump’s re-election campaign filed suit in Michigan’s Court of Claims seeking a halt of ballot counting in Michigan “until meaningful access has been granted” to observe the ballot-counting process.
In Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Republicans filed a federal lawsuit to prevent Montgomery County from allowing voters who submitted ballots incorrectly to correct their mistakes. A federal judge scheduled a hearing on it for Wednesday.
Also on Tuesday, the Trump campaign and the Nevada Republican Party filed an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court to challenge the state’s signature matching system.
Both lawsuits were part of a broad pre-election legal strategy aimed at preventing absentee votes from being counted.
The Republican Party has already appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to exclude the counting of ballots that arrive after Election Day — an effort that has twice failed. But it also has laid a legal foundation in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina to challenge ballot receipt deadlines, ballot postage, ballot signatures, ballot boxes and several other mail-in or early voting procedures that were enhanced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But as votes were still being counted late into the night, outside conservative legal groups were holding their fire.
“It is too soon to know whether the election results will be inside the margin of litigation,” said Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project. “Unfortunately, because of an unready rush to mail-in voting and a torrent of litigation forcing voting changes mid-election, the states most likely to decide the presidential election are the least likely to deliver prompt results. The importance of an accurate, timely, and complete count of lawful ballots cannot be understated.”
The president vowed an aggressive legal fight in early Wednesday remarks from the White House, shortly after sending out a post-election fundraising email to supporters asking them to help “ensure we have a MASSIVE WARCHEST to protect the integrity of this Election.”