The Republican National Committee has filed dozens of election-related lawsuits in 2022, mostly in state courts, as part of an aggressive legal approach to guarantee what it calls “election integrity” in the upcoming midterms.
Emma Vaughn, an RNC spokesperson, told OpenSecrets that the committee has made a $30 million investment in election-related efforts ranging from litigation to recruiting and training poll workers.
“We’re working to ensure that states follow the laws that they have on the books,” Vaughn said.
On Oct. 20, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted that the RNC has filed 73 “election integrity” lawsuits in the 2022 election cycle, “with more to come.”
RNC Communications Director Danielle Alvarez told OpenSecrets that the party might continue to file new litigation in the days leading up to the election “as problems arise,” pointing to an ongoing dispute in Pennsylvania over counting undated mail-in ballots and a recent legal challenge alleging underrepresentation of Republican poll workers in Maricopa County, Arizona.
The RNC says it has recruited over 70,000 poll workers and poll watchers, filed lawsuits in 20 states, and hired 37 state-based “election integrity counsels,” who are lawyers hired to communicate with poll watchers and advise them.
Vaughn described the 2022 cycle as the “most litigious” for Republicans and emphasized that the RNC is no longer restricted by a decades-old consent decree limiting its ability to challenge voters’ qualifications. The consent decree was declared to have expired by a federal judge in 2018.
The lawsuits claim state election officials violated rules related to voter registration, mail-in ballots, early voting and granting access to partisan poll watchers. The RNC has said its mission is to “make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
Election law scholar Richard L. Hasen, a professor and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA Law School, told OpenSecrets that some of the Republican lawsuits are intended “to create the appearance that state and local election officials are not playing by the rules,” feeding into the narrative of malfeasance in election administration.
“This helps to back up the ‘rigged’ rhetoric, even though there is no indication of anything other than contested interpretations of certain election provisions,” Hasen said.
RNC Challenges Election Administration in Key Swing States
The RNC has recently filed election-related lawsuits in battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona, alleging violations of state regulations by both Democratic and Republican election officials.
In one legal victory for Republicans in Michigan, a court of claims judge threw out a manual regulating the duties of election challengers that was issued by the Democratic secretary of state’s office.
In Pennsylvania, the RNC and state Republican Party are seeking to disqualify mail-in ballots with incorrect or missing dates on their return envelopes.
The number of pre-election lawsuits in federal courts has dropped since 2020, but election-related litigation in state courts has increased in 2022, according to the research of Miriam Seifter and Adam Sopko, attorneys with the State Democracy Research Initiative at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Republicans have also undertaken a nationwide effort to recruit and train poll workers to monitor elections and use reporting software to submit their findings to lawyers trained in election law. These state-based “election integrity counsels” have been hired to use that information as the basis for lawsuits alleging voter fraud or other election violations.
The RNC commissioned a Committee on Election Integrity in 2021 after a sustained campaign by former President Donald Trump to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
In an August 2021 report to the national party chair, the Committee on Election Integrity recommended that the RNC implement an election integrity plan that “includes the recruitment, training, and organization of volunteers at every phase of the election process.”
“The RNC should look for offensive litigation opportunities whenever possible,” the committee also recommended.
The report also calls for Republicans to establish a “war room” that is staffed with “trial lawyers who can discern and identify potential litigation opportunities.”
For decades, a consent decree limited the ability of the national Republican Party to observe voting after the party was sued for allegedly intimidating voters of color in the 1981 gubernatorial election in New Jersey. The consent decree expired in 2018.
The RNC committed $20 million to 2020 election efforts to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting rights activists to expand voting access during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the three weeks following Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden, Trump and the RNC raised more than $200 million while claiming election fraud and fundraising off of “election defense” funds.
Democrats have also made large investments in voting-related initiatives. Last year, the Democratic National Committee announced it would commit $25 million to voter registration and election litigation efforts this election cycle in response to what Democrats have called “unprecedented voter suppression efforts” by Republicans.