Lawsuit tracker: Trump’s battle faces scepticism from judges


Donald Trump has mounted an aggressive but unsuccessful legal effort to undo Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, launching lawsuits in key battleground states that have mostly been dismissed by courts.

The outgoing president has claimed widespread fraud in the November 3 election but has provided no substantial evidence to back up his extraordinary claims of malfeasance.

Again and again, judges, including conservatives and Mr Trump’s own appointees, have rejected the president’s attempts to throw out millions of votes in order to cling to power. He has had just one win in a minor case concerning a small number of ballots.

The Financial Times has summarised the main legal challenges made by Mr Trump’s legal team since election day:

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Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 80,555 votes, or 1.21%


State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc v. Kathy Boockvar and County Boards of Elections

Relief sought: Tossing out some ballots

Current status: Relief granted

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear, but expected to be small

Voters in Pennsylvania can fix or “cure” issues with their ballots after polling day. For example, the required identification for a mail ballot might be missing. County elections boards try to reach such voters to allow them to cure these problems so their vote can still count.

The Pennsylvania secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, had issued guidance to allow voters to cure mail ballot ID issues by November 12, three days after the deadline under state law.

This was in line with a three-day extension to mail ballot deadlines ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a decision that is the subject of continued litigation at the US Supreme Court.

The Trump campaign sued to prevent the counting of any mail ballots where the ID was cured in the extended period set out by Ms Boockvar. A state judge granted their request.

Trump campaign complaint | Pennsylvania response | Order of the court

Name: In re: Canvassing Observation

Relief sought: Standing closer to poll workers as they count ballots

Current status: PA Supreme Court ruled against President trump

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear if any at all

Votes in Philadelphia were counted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where local election officials had instituted social-distancing rules as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. These included limiting how close election observers could get to the poll workers as they counted ballots. The count was also live-streamed online.

The Trump campaign sued to be allowed to stand as close as 6 feet away. A state trial court denied the request, but a state appeals court sided with the campaign. Philadelphia appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The state high court on November 17 ruled against the Trump campaign in a 5-2 decision, with the majority finding that Philadelphia complied with state election law. The dissenters said the issue was moot.

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, one of the dissenters, criticised the idea that votes might be tossed out on the basis of the election observers issue.

“Short of demonstrated fraud, the notion that presumptively valid ballots cast by the Pennsylvania electorate would be disregarded based on isolated procedural irregularities that have been redressed — thus disenfranchising potentially thousands of voters — is misguided,” he wrote.

Trump campaign filing | Pennsylvania appeal | Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling | Pennsylvania Supreme Court dissents, one and two

Name: In re: Canvass of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots of November 3, 2020 General Election

Relief sought: Throwing out ballots

Current status: On appeal

Number of ballots at issue: 8,329

The Trump campaign had challenged the validity of several thousand votes in Philadelphia through five cases in the state’s court of common pleas, alleging that the mail ballots were unlawful because the voters had failed to write certain information on the envelopes, such as the date or their name and address.

All five of the cases were rejected on November 13. The judge noted that “the pre-printed ballot already contains the elector’s name and address on the pre-printed exterior envelope” and said there was no requirement for voters to write the date. The case is pending at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Judge’s orders: One, Two, Three, Four, Five.

Name: Donald J. Trump for President v. Montgomery County Board of Elections

Relief sought: Throwing out ballots

Current status: DENIED

Number of ballots at issue: 592

The Trump campaign had also challenged the validity of ballots in Montgomery County, on similar grounds to the Philadelphia case, alleging that ballots that did not have handwritten addresses on the envelope were invalid. A state judge on November 13 rejected the lawsuit. The Trump campaign initially filed a notice of appeal but subsequently withdrew it.

Trump campaign complaint | Montgomery County response | Judge’s ruling | Withdrawal of appeal

Name: Donald J. Trump for President v. Bucks County Board of Elections

Relief sought: Throwing out ballots

Current status: PENDING

Number of ballots at issue: 2,177

The Trump campaign has similarly challenged the validity of some ballots in Bucks County. Both parties agreed to a stipulation that there was no fraud affecting any of the ballots. On November 19, a trial judge ruled against the campaign, which appealed and lost again.

Trump campaign complaint | Stipulation of facts | Judge’s order | Appellate judge’s ruling

Federal court cases

Name: Donald J Trump For President, Inc et al v. Boockvar et al

Relief sought: Prevent the certification of Pennsylvania’s election result, declare trump the winner

Current status: dismissed

Number of ballots at issue: Potentially all

This lawsuit brought together a broad swath of alleged irregularities in Pennsylvania’s election to claim that the entire process was fundamentally unconstitutional.

The case sought to prevent the state from certifying its results, which it must do by November 23. The Trump campaign has since told the court it wants “the remedy of Trump being declared the winner” in Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit claimed that ballots were treated differently in different counties, that voters were improperly allowed to fix issues with defective ballots, and that large collections of mail ballots were unlawfully counted.

The case included claims about how close observers could stand to poll workers, and allegations from a Pennsylvania postal worker that his supervisor tampered with mail ballots. The worker walked back the claims when interviewed by US Postal Service investigators.

On November 15, the Trump campaign amended its lawsuit, striking out its complaints about poll observers. Three days later, the campaign said it would put back those claims, telling the court they were “inadvertently deleted”.

Pennsylvania said the lawsuit was brought “on the basis of repeatedly rejected legal theories and no evidence”.

Two separate teams of lawyers representing the Trump campaign in the case have resigned in succession, including on November 16, a day before a key hearing. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, ultimately represented the Trump campaign in the case.

On November 22, the judge in the case, Matthew Brann, dismissed the lawsuit in a scathing 37-page opinion. A unanimous panel at the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Trump campaign in an opinion authored by Stephanos Bibas, an appointee of Mr Trump.

Trump campaign complaint | Trump campaign amended complaint | Trump campaign motion to file second amended complaint | Pennsylvania motion to dismiss | Democratic National Committee response | Audio of the November 17 hearing | Judge’s opinion dismissing the case | Appeals court opinion dismissing the case

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections

Relief sought: Halting the count in Philadelphia

Current status: Settled

Number of ballots at issue: None

While Pennsylvania was still tallying votes, the Trump campaign rushed into federal court seeking an emergency injunction to stop the count in Philadelphia. It claimed its observers were not allowed to be present in the counting room. At an emergency hearing, the campaign’s lawyer admitted that, in fact, some of its observers were present, prompting the judge to ask: “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?”

The case was settled at the hearing with an agreement that Republicans and Democrats could have up to 60 observers each in the counting room.

Trump campaign complaint

Michigan mini-map

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 154,188 votes, or 2.78%

Votes certified on November 23

State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc et al v. Jocelyn Benson

Relief sought: Halting the counting of absentee ballots

Current status: Request denied, appeal pending

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear

Under Michigan law, ballot drop boxes must be monitored by video surveillance cameras. The Trump campaign sued to stop the counting of absentee ballots because it claimed that its observers had the right to view all video footage of the drop boxes before the ballots could be counted. The lawsuit also included claims from a poll watcher who had heard from a poll worker that they had been told by other poll workers to change the dates on late ballots.

The judge denied the request to stop the count, calling the poll watcher’s claims “inadmissible hearsay within hearsay” and noting that the Trump campaign had not cited any Michigan law that required drop box video footage to be provided for review to election observers.

The Trump campaign appealed the ruling. The appeal was initially rejected because the filing did not follow Michigan judicial rules for appeals.

Trump campaign complaint | Michigan Response | Judge’s order

Federal court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc et al v. Jocelyn Benson et al

Relief sought: Prevent the certification of Michigan’s election results

Current status: dismissed

Number of ballots at issue: Potentially all

The Trump campaign’s lawsuit alleged that Michigan state officials had allowed “fraud and incompetence to corrupt the conduct of the 2020 general election”. It included more than 100 affidavits from Republican observers who claimed they witnessed election irregularities and were denied the chance to meaningfully observe the count. Many of the allegations related to Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

The Democratic attorney-general of Michigan, Dana Nessel, has called the case “baseless”, adding: “If I ever walked into court with claims this baseless and this frivolous, I would be sanctioned.”

On November 19, the Trump campaign voluntarily dismissed the case, effectively claiming it had won. The move came after the Wayne County board of canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, two days earlier initially deadlocked on certifying the county’s votes before unanimously approving them.

The two Republican board members suggested in affidavits filed in the case that they wanted to rescind their votes to certify Wayne County’s results.

Trump campaign complaint | Trump campaign dismissal | Affidavits One, Two

Nevada header

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 33,596 votes, or 2.39%


Federal court cases

Name: Stokke et al v. Cegavske et al

Relief sought: Preventing the use of signature verification machines in Clark County

Current status: Emergency motion for relief denied

Number of ballots at issue: Unclear if any

The Trump campaign was not a party to this case, but it did hold a press conference touting the lawsuit. The case was brought by four Nevada Republicans against Clark County, the largest in the state and home to Las Vegas.

One of the plaintiffs claimed that the use of signature-matching machines meant that a mail ballot had been improperly recorded in their name. A second claimed they were not allowed to observe the count.

At a hearing on November 6, a federal judge noted that the plaintiffs had no evidence to show that the signature-matching machines affected their ballot. The motion for emergency relief was denied because the plaintiffs did not provide “a sufficient legal showing and a sufficient evidentiary basis”.

Complaint | Nevada response

State court cases

Name: Jesse Law et al v. Judith Whitmer et al

Relief sought: declare trump the winner

Current status: pending

Number of ballots at issue: potentially all

The Trump campaign is similarly not a party in this case but has also touted the lawsuit. The case was brought by Nevada electors pledged to Mr Trump against electors pledged to Mr Biden seeking to have Mr Trump declared the winner.

The lawsuit, brought as an election contest under Nevada state law, repeated allegations previously rejected by other judges about the unreliability of signature verification machines, the counting of illegal ballots, and a failure to allow election observers to watch the count.

Complaint | Motion to dismiss

Arizona header

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 10,457 votes, or 0.30%


State court cases

Name: Donald J Trump for President, Inc et al v. Katie Hobbs et al

Relief sought: Prevent Maricopa County certifying its results and review all over-votes

Current status: Moot

Number of ballots at issue: 191

The Trump campaign’s case largely repackaged previously debunked claims that Republican voters who encountered issues with voting machines were encouraged to mark ballots with Sharpie pens that would invalidate their votes.

The claim was that Sharpie ink might bleed through the paper and create an “over-vote”, where a ballot indicates a preference for more than one candidate. Arizona election officials have repeatedly said that ballots marked with a Sharpie were still counted.

The number of “over-votes” of any kind in the Arizona presidential race was 191.

At a hearing on November 12, the lawyer representing the Trump campaign admitted that one of their witnesses was his business partner, and that they knew some of the witness affidavits the campaign had collected via an online form were effectively spam.

On November 13 the Trump campaign said in a filing that the case was moot because Arizona had finished counting its votes and the margin was far greater than the number of over-votes.

Trump campaign complaint | Arizona motion to dismiss | Trump campaign notice of mootness

Georgia mini map

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 12,670 votes, or 0.24%


State court cases

Name: In re: Enforcement of Election Laws and Securing Ballots Cast or Received after 7pm on November 3 2020

Relief sought: Segregate mail ballots that arrived after deadline 

Current status: Dismissed

Number of ballots at issue: 54

The Trump campaign had claimed that vote counters in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, had not been properly separating mail ballots that arrived before and after an election-day deadline. To support these claims, they included allegations from a poll watcher who thought he saw 54 late-arriving ballots mixed in with other ballots.

A judge dismissed the case at a hearing on November 5, finding “no evidence” that the 54 ballots had in fact arrived late.

Complaint | Dismissal

G2135_20X Wisconsin header

Joe Biden’s margin of victory: 20,682 votes, or 0.68%


State court cases

Name: Donald J. Trump et al v. Anthony S Evers et al

Relief sought: rescind certification, throw out certain mail ballots 

Current status: pending

Number of ballots at issue: 221,000

The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on December 1, after a partial recount it requested failed to alter Mr Biden’s win and the state certified its results.

The lawsuit alleged that hundreds of thousands of mail ballots had been unlawfully counted. The campaign’s claims included allegations that Wisconsin election officials had issued mail ballots to people who did not request them and had fixed basic errors on certain ballots that only voters themselves could lawfully correct.

Two days later, the court rejected the lawsuit in a 5-4 decision, saying that the campaign had to bring a case up through the courts in the normal way rather than go directly to the state Supreme Court.

Complaint | Rejection by Wisconsin Supreme Court

Federal court cases

Name: Trump v. The Wisconsin Elections Commission et al

Relief sought: rule election unconstitutional and let state legislature decide next steps 

Current status: pending

Number of ballots at issue: all

On December 2, Mr Trump filed a federal lawsuit in his personal capacity in Wisconsin, asking the court to rule that the election in the state was run in an entirely unconstitutional manner. As a result, he said, the Republican-controlled state legislature should decide how to remedy the issue.




Georgia on November 19 completed a hand recount of all 5m presidential ballots in the state that began eight days earlier. The effort was not under Georgia’s formal recount processes, but is part of a “risk-limiting” audit. The process reduced Mr Trump’s margin of loss by about 500 votes, according to the Georgia secretary of state. The Trump campaign subsequently requested a formal recount.


Wisconsin on November 30 completed a recount of votes in two counties, Dane and Milwaukee, after a request from the Trump campaign, which had to pay $3m up front to cover the costs of the process. The recount slightly increased Mr Biden’s margin of victory, which the state has now certified.

US presidential election 2020: You tell us

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