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Why Trump's Legal Challenges To The Election May Not Change The Outcome

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President Trump is expected to file lawsuits against certain election results, but they may not do much to change the final vote totals.

This year’s election was unprecedented in the way people voted and how long anxious voters have had to wait for election results. Wisconsin went blue for Vice President Joe Biden by a narrow margin. But, before the call was even made, President Donald Trump’s campaign requested a recount of the votes cast. 

There has also been a lot of litigation leading up to the election in Wisconsin and across the country in an attempt to define deadlines for receiving and counting ballots. Additionally, Trump claimed victory on election night while millions of votes were still being counted. He has also sued to stop the counting of legitimate votes in key battlegrounds states.

“A lawsuit without provable facts of a statutory and constitutional violation is just a tweet with a filing fee, and so I think you can expect to see a lot more litigation and a lot more cases, but I don’t know that they’re gonna matter,” says Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Calif.

>>Trump Wants A Recount In Wisconsin. How Would It Work?

Not having official election results on the night of or even days after the election is normal. In Wisconsin, election law allows certification to happen as late as Dec. 1, but officials have said their goal is to fully certify the results within the next two weeks.

“We’ve always taken the time to make a list and check it twice, and to count all of the valid ballots, to dot i’s and cross t’s and that’s true again this year,” he says.

Levitt doesn’t expect there to be many court cases brought against this election, in part because so much was decided by the courts in the months before the election. According to Levitt, over 325 lawsuits across the country were raised to challenge election laws. In Wisconsin, one went all the way to the Supreme Court, which decided mail-in ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

President Trump will still likely ask for a recount in Wisconsin and file some lawsuits challenging the validity of ballots. But Levitt does not expect this to be a repeat of 2000 when courts helped decide the election. 

“Unless a final tally is 537 votes close, as it was in Florida in 2000, the voters are going to decide this election, not the courts,” he says.

His recommendation at this point: be patient, relax and allow state officials to complete their counts.

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Jack Hurbanis started as the WUWM Digital Intern in January 2020, transitioning to Assistant Digital Producer in July and Digital Producer in January 2021.