How long can Trump keep contesting 2020 election results with lawsuits?
President Trump faces a pair of looming deadlines next month to wrap up his challenges to the 2020 election results as the nation prepares for Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
Trump — who’s refused to concede the race to Joe Biden and doesn’t appear likely to do so — has filed a series of election lawsuits alleging official misconduct and other improprieties in crucial swing states that he’s projected to lose.
The two most recent came Monday in Pennsylvania and Tuesday in Michigan, just days after Trump’s personal lawyer and former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, suggested as many as 10 suits were possible.
The first deadline facing Trump is the “safe harbor” date established in federal law following the disputed election of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.
Under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, states have until six days before the Electoral College meets to resolve any election-related disputes and finish any recounts of the votes cast.
This year, that date is Dec. 8, after which states no longer have to consider any further issues and can certify their presidential election results.
The vast majority of states have laws that set the same deadlines for certifying the vote counts and resolving court cases, all of which fall within 30 days of the election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But eight — Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — require “that disputes surrounding the selection of presidential electors be resolved in time to meet the ‘safe harbor,’ deadline,” the NACL’s website says.
The next deadline that Trump faces is the meeting of the Electoral College, whose 538 members convene in their respective states and actually elect the president.
Under a law passed in 1948, that vote takes place “on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December,” which this year is Dec. 14.
William and Mary law professor Rebecca Green recently told CNN that the Electoral College Act — which created the “safe harbor” deadline — “is tremendously complex and leaves a lot of gaps.”
Ohio State law professor Edward “Ned” Foley, an expert in election law, told CNN that he considered the Dec. 8 deadline “optional,” but insisted the Dec. 14 deadline was “a real hard stop” because of the legal requirement for electors to meet and vote.
Former Federal Election Commission lawyer Adav Noti told Milwaukee’s Fox 6 that “there’s really no reason to think that the Dec. 8 date is going to present any difficulty, even in the states that are conducting recounts.”
Noti, now senior director of trial litigation and chief of staff at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, also noted that courts were adept at handling election cases “very quickly.”
“Even courts that generally take a long time to hear cases can deal with election cases within a matter of days,” he said.
Trump has yet to score a major court victory over last week’s election and suffered his latest setback on Wednesday, when a judge dismissed his campaign’s libel suit over an op-ed posted on CNN’s website last year.
In the column, network contributor and former FEC general counsel Larry Noble opined, “The Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”
Georgia federal Judge Michael Brown ruled that campaign “did not adequately plead that the statement was published with actual malice” but said the suit could be amended and refiled by the end of the month.
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