Trump campaign files lawsuit in Michigan, continues to challenge election results

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - 8:45pm

President Donald Trump speaks at his rally in Macomb, Michigan, November 11.

President Donald Trump speaks at his rally in Macomb, Michigan, November 11. Buy this photo
Becca Mahon/Daily

The Donald Trump campaign hosted a press call on its legal efforts to challenge the results of the general election in Michigan Tuesday evening. The press call featured Tim Murtaugh, campaign director of communications, Matt Morgan, campaign general counsel, and Thor Hearne, counsel to the campaign, who discussed details of the litigation the campaign plans to file in Michigan.

The Associated Press officially called the election on Saturday — four days after the polls closed — after former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win Pennsylvania and secure an excess of the necessary 270 electoral votes to win. This projection included Biden collecting Michigan’s 16 electoral votes. 

Murtaugh expressed confidence in the lawsuit and said it is taking the campaign one step closer to its goal of Trump’s reelection.

“Everytime we file a lawsuit, we do so because we believe that it has merit and because we believe we will win,” Murtaugh said. “Every action that we are taking (is) getting us closer to the president getting reelected.”

Despite the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, there has been no evidence of fraud in any U.S. state. 

Murtaugh cited election projections from Real Clear Politics as evidence to why the lawsuit is valid, which show inconclusive results for the presidential race, with Pennsylvania as a toss-up. Real Clear Politics, however, has decisively called the Michigan race for Biden.

Leading up to Nov. 3, Biden was projected to win the state of Michigan. According to Five Thirty Eight Politics, Biden was polling 7.9% higher than Trump as of Election Day. Cook Political Report also said Michigan was leaning toward the Biden-Harris ticket.

Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, claimed a software glitch resulted in 6,000 Michigan ballots cast for Trump not being counted, retweeting a video of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., explaining the theory. In reviews from the Michigan Department of State and county clerks, officials determined this assertion was false. They concluded any initial unofficial vote count errors were isolated cases of human error and were not due to software glitches signaling issues with other counts across the state. 

Criticism of Michigan’s ballot-counting system centered around Detroit’s TCF Center, where more than 167,000 absentee ballots were tabulated. The Trump campaign criticized the vote counting process at the TCF center, claiming Republican challengers were not being allowed into the building. This is not true; both Democratic and Republican challengers were turned away, as the number of challengers had reached capacity. More than 100 Republican challengers were already observing the vote count. 

A previously filed lawsuit against Michigan claimed Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson allowed absentee ballots to be counted with no observers or challengers being present. 

At a press conference Wednesday evening, Benson criticized the lawsuit for spreading misinformation about the safety of Michigan’s ballot counting system. Benson, who called the suit “frivolous,” said there was no evidence of election fraud in the counting of absentee ballots.

“Whether it’s doctored images, staged demonstrations, false tweets or frivolous lawsuits, the purpose is all the same: to reduce the public’s faith in our elections and our outcomes,” Benson said. “But those efforts will not succeed. In Michigan, the process worked. Our system is secure, accurate and anyone who tells you otherwise is attacking our democracy or unhappy with the results.”

Hearne wanted the courts to direct Benson to allow “meaningful access” for poll watchers to witness the counting of ballots and to allow access to videotape surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes. Benson had previously issued an expanded effort to allow for meaningful access, making Hearne’s claims irrelevant. 

A judge initially threw out the case, but the Trump campaign decided to appeal to the higher courts. However, the Trump campaign legal team was missing some of the necessary files needed to send the case to court. A letter from the Michigan Court of Appeals stated that the missing paperwork must be sent in within 21 days or the case will automatically be thrown out.

In addition to reported issues with absentee ballots, the campaign claimed that witnesses saw 35 ballots counted despite them allegedly not being connected to voter records. The campaign also used a voter who reported that her son was recorded as voting twice since he passed away in 2017 and a set of ballots with the birthdate Jan. 1, 1900, as evidence for their claims of fraudulence. There is no proof of foul play or that any deceased person has voted in Michigan, according to election officials.

The Trump campaign is planning to pursue similar lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia, where margins of Biden’s victory are narrow.

Daily Staff Reporters Sarah Payne, Julia Forrest and Emma Ruberg can be reached at paynesm@umich.edu, juforres@umich.edu and eruberg@umich.edu


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