It's unclear whether President Trump and his allies actually hope to overturn the results of the election. Some reports indicate that the pushback is largely for show. But even if the challenges persist, they collectively don't seem to be enough right now to overcome Biden's commanding lead. Still, the Trump reelection campaign has brought lawsuits in states like Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Nevada over ballots they say are ineligible to be counted and votes they claim were cast fraudulently. A number of these challenges have already been dismissed. Those that remain haven't gained significant traction.In at least one instance, Trump's lawyers have flat-out acknowledged that they're not actually alleging fraud despite the president's insistence. On Tuesday, in a case over 592 disputed ballots in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania—a county where Biden leads by more than 130,000 votes—judge Richard Haaz pressed Trump reelection campaign lawyer Jonathan Goldstein.
"Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 ballots?" Haaz asked. "To my knowledge at present, no," Goldstein responded. "Are you claiming that there is any undue or improper influence upon the elector with respect to these 592 ballots?" Haaz asked. Goldstein again said no."In every election, state and especially local election officials go through many processes and procedures to examine the results for completeness and correctness," says Pam Smith, codirector of the election integrity nonprofit Verified Voting. "They are the ones on the ground, at the front lines of our elections. If there are any concerns, we need to ask them first. It's irresponsible and undemocratic for anyone to claim anything in the absence of solid evidence."
Yet the Trump campaign's efforts have been light on evidence, and some failed suits have actively reinforced the legitimacy of existing results. In Michigan, for example, poll watchers and one election worker in Detroit brought a suit against the city on Monday for alleged voter fraud. In a detailed response of more than 100 pages, lawyers for Detroit countered, "Most of the objections raised in the submitted affidavits are grounded in an extraordinary failure to understand how elections function." The plaintiffs argued, for example, that election workers responsible for counting votes were not trained to verify signatures of absentee ballots. Detroit's lawyers pointed out, though, that this is because by law the city's clerks must conduct the signature checks before ballots go to counting centers.In Michigan last week, judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed one Trump campaign voter fraud suit in part because of accusations that were "inadmissible hearsay within hearsay." That suit also lost on appeal. On Wednesday, the reelection campaign attempted to stop Michigan from certifying its election results, producing 238 pages of affidavits from Republican poll watchers in Michigan. But in spite of its length and breadth, the testimony did not contain damning evidence of fraud. Much of it simply outlined complaints of alleged impolite or standoffish behavior from poll workers and Democratic poll watchers. Investigations of data from states like Michigan and Pennsylvania have also found that claims of dead voters voting have been vastly overstated by the Trump campaign and allies.
At Least Election Day Didn't Melt Down