Even before Election Day has arrived, Republicans and right-wing groups have already filed dozens of lawsuits in the hopes of invalidating thousands of votes in states that could be key in determining control of Congress for the next two years.
The GOP has filed an avalanche of lawsuits in swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where contested races could help determine control of the House or the Senate. These lawsuits target voter eligibility and technicalities in mail-in ballots, with the potential to change outcomes or at least delay results if they are taken up in court.
According to Democracy Docket, at least 120 election-related lawsuits had been filed as of Thursday, more than half of which are seeking to restrict ballot access. Many of the cases have been brought by fringe right-wing groups that helped Donald Trump in his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, although about one in five were brought by official GOP committees or by the Republican National Committee (RNC) itself.
This is nearly double the number of lawsuits that had been filed ahead of Election Day in 2020, signaling that suing to invalidate votes or overturn election results may now be a bedrock election strategy for Republicans after Trump, without evidence, opened a pathway within the right wing to attempt to overthrow or question the legitimacy of elections — a harbinger of fascism.
One particularly high-profile case is being fought in Pennsylvania, where the RNC has successfully sued to get election officials to discount ballots in which a voter didn’t put the date on the outside of the envelope, potentially invalidating thousands of ballots.
The state Supreme Court ruled in the GOP’s favor last week, and the amount of ballots that now may not be counted could determine the result of prominent races like the U.S. Senate race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz, which polls show is at a dead heat.
Targeting mail-in ballots is at least in part a strategy to suppress Democratic votes. In 2020, Trump railed against mail-in ballots, falsely claiming that they disproportionately favor Democrats. In some cases, the lawsuits also directly seek to suppress the vote in Black areas that typically lean Democratic.
In Michigan, for instance, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, Kristina Karamo, filed a lawsuit over absentee ballots in Detroit, which is 77 percent Black, trying to get absentee ballots that weren’t retrieved from the city clerk’s office thrown out, even though there are no state requirements that absentee ballots be obtained in such a way. The lawsuit was dismissed by a county judge on Monday.
Republicans have had luck in Wisconsin, however. In Wisconsin, absentee voters must have a witness — who must sign a ballot envelope and provide an address — attest that they legally completed a ballot. Recently, a county’s Republican Party won a suit to block election officials from being able to correct witness’s address information if it is missing from mail-in ballots. In response, voting rights groups asked for new guidelines on what elements of an address would invalidate a ballot, but a judge ruled that it was too close to the election for such a change.
Experts have raised the alarm about the conservative lawsuits, saying that they are an attempt to attack mail-in voting and suppress votes, working in concert with other attacks on the election process. In Texas earlier this year, for instance, new Republican-made voting restrictions caused over 18,000 mail-in votes across many of the state’s largest counties to be thrown out.
Efforts to throw out mail-in votes could disproportionately affect voters with disabilities, as absentee voting is essential for such populations.
Mail-in voting is likely just the first frontier for Republicans’ legal challenges. Ever since each of Trump’s lawsuits over the 2020 election failed, Republicans have been beefing up their election legal strategies and have spent the last two years building up a nationwide network of operatives at all levels of elections to contest election results.