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Midterm fights in court

3 ballot boxes with Midterm Matters logo

Welcome back to our new daily feature, Midterm Matters, where we pick a red-hot US midterms story and separate the signal (what you need to know) from the noise (what everyone is yelling about).

Less than two weeks before the US midterm elections, more than 100 lawsuits have been filed related to things like mail-in voting, access to the ballot box, voting registration, voting machines, and poll watchers. Does that mean some of the results will be contested? Perhaps. But there's more to it.

Noise: Most of the lawsuits come from Republicans. That's no surprise given that former President Donald Trump, the undisputed leader of the GOP, still denies he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and requires Republican hopefuls to agree publicly to get his endorsement. Democrats are bracing for a deluge of contested results from losing GOP candidates, many of whom have already said they won't accept defeat.

Signal: Election-related lawsuits are as American as apple pie. After all, the 2000 presidential election turned into a legal battle in Florida – over those pesky hanging chads – that was ultimately decided by the top judicial authority in the country: the Supreme Court.

This time, there are three interesting developments. First, the volume of lawsuits far exceeds the average for a midterm vote, which makes challenges more likely. Second, scores of Trump-backed Republican candidates are seeking state offices that directly supervise elections and certify results. Trump failed to get Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find him 11,000 votes in Georgia, but if there’s a Round Two, he might succeed in Arizona (another swing state Trump lost), where GOP hopeful Mark Finchem is running as a proud election denier.

Third, Democrats have also gone to court, in their case mainly to get more people to vote — where the party stands to benefit. While that might be a good thing for democracy, it also raises the question: will at least some Dems refuse to concede over voter suppression laws passed by Republican-led states?

Upshot: Some results will be contested in 2022. But the bigger court battle over election results will come in 2024. And it’ll be very bad if both sides refuse, for different reasons, to accept the outcome.


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