Republicans Are Already Suing to Get Midterms Ballots Thrown Out in Key States

Under the guise of rooting out the fraud that Donald Trump baselessly insists cost him the last election, Republicans have mounted a coordinated legal campaign to throw out mail-in ballots in key battleground states — an effort seemingly aimed at Democratic voters. “[Republicans are] looking for every advantage they can get,” Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at the nonpartisan democracy organization Common Cause, told the Washington Post on Monday. “And they’ve calculated that this is a way that they can win more seats.”

As the Post reports, the GOP is seeking to disqualify some mail-in ballots in at least three states, all of which were key to Joe Biden’s 2020 victory and have been at the center of Trump’s election lies and conspiracies since: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Kristina Karamo, the MAGA Republican running for secretary of state in Michigan, filed a lawsuit in Detroit in October challenging absentee ballots that were not cast in person with an ID, without offering rationale for zeroing in exclusively on the majority-Black, Democratic-leaning city. Karamo has been pushing conspiracy theories about fraud — including some pulled from a widely-debunked Dinesh D’Souza movie. That suit is seen as unlikely to succeed. But in Wisconsin, Republicans won their challenge against the nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission to toss absentee ballots with incomplete witness addresses. And in Pennsylvania, the Republican National Committee filed a suit to toss ballots with undated envelopes; the state Supreme Court found the RNC has standing and ordered that election officials “segregate and preserve any ballots contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes,” putting thousands of already-cast votes at risk of going uncounted. That could prove hugely consequential in the state, home of one of the highest-stakes Senate races: a close contest between Democrat John Fetterman and Trump-backed Republican Mehmet Oz.

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“A cornerstone of our democracy is that every ballot should be counted,” Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf wrote Sunday evening. “No voter should be disenfranchised simply because they made a minor error in filling out their ballot.”

Trump and the Republicans have railed hard against mail-in voting since 2020, lying ahead of that election that the method would be rife with fraud. That proved not to be true; the 2020 election, carried out in the middle of a raging pandemic, was “the most transparent, secure, and verified election in American history,” as elections expert David Becker told me in September. That the lies have persisted is no accident: Trump’s attacks on the integrity of mail-in ballots helped form the foundation of his failed campaign to “stop the count” before Biden overtook his Election Night lead. The GOP appears to be continuing those attacks as one component of a broader strategy both to challenge unfavorable outcomes and to limit Democratic participation in the process, including via state-level voting restrictions and intimidation campaigns against both voters and election workers. 

It hardly seems accidental that, as they mount legal challenges to absentee ballots, Republicans have also encouraged their own base to vote on Election Day. “If you can eliminate one percent of the votes and they tend to lean Democratic, then that gives you a statistical advantage,” Clifford Levine, a Pittsburgh-based election lawyer for Democrats, told the Post. It remains to be seen what kind of impact the challenges have on this week’s midterms. But the suits underscore the extent to which ongoing lies about the 2020 election are factoring into the 2022 election. “This is not about stopping fraud,” Levine continued. “It’s about discounting mail ballots. There’s just no question.”

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