President Donald Trump’s campaign has filed a lawsuit in Michigan over what it calls “meaningful access” to ballot counting. Less than a day later, a Michigan judge tossed it out, the Associated Press reported, saying the suit was filed too late in the process.
Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were running neck and neck in the state, but on Wednesday evening, numerous news outlets called the Wolverine State for the Democrat. Here’s what you need to know about some Republicans’ demand to halt the process.
What’s the issue?
In documents filed in the Michigan Court of Claims, the plaintiffs allege that observers were unable to appropriately watch how the absentee votes were being tabulated, which was to have been done with people from both parties present. The listed defendants are the state’s Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and rural Roscommon County resident Eric Ostergren, an election challenger.
Why is this happening?
As of 8:34 a.m. ET, more than 98% of precincts in the Wolverine State had reported, and Biden is projected to win the state’s 16 electoral votes. Michigan is a key battleground state. In 2016, Trump narrowly carried it with 10,704 more votes than Democratic candidate former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But as of this morning, Biden was leading Trump by about 150,000 votes with 98% of the votes counted, according to the New York Times.
Ken Kollman, a University of Michigan political science professor and the director of its Center for Political Studies, questions the basis of the lawsuit in his state.
“I haven’t seen any evidence yet [as reported] that anyone who requested legal access to observe counting of ballots was denied that access,” he says. “I’m not exactly sure what the Trump administration hopes to achieve here . . . Recounts at the state level generally might change a few hundred votes at most. It’s almost unheard of for election results to be overturned in a recount.”
Is Michigan the only state where a lawsuit has been filed?
It’s one of three. The Trump camp also has gone to court in Georgia and Pennsylvania over ballot-related issues. (The Georgia suit has also been dismissed by a judge.) All three are battleground states and could determine the election.
Back in Michigan, Kollman doubts Republicans could make an argument for a wholesale dismissal of votes.
“I can’t imagine any court of law would toss out large numbers of votes that were cast legally,” he says. “Someone has to produce some evidence that there was massive fraud or an extremely larger administrative mistake.”
Is there anything unusual about how Michigan’s polls operate?
No, but there is a quirk. Among its 83 counties, 15 make up the Upper Peninsula, which is attached to Wisconsin, not Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Making things more confusing is the fact that four of those 15 are in the Central Time Zone, like their across-the-border dairy-fan neighbors. Note that 14 other states also straddle two time zones.
Has Michigan played a role in the U.S. presidency before?
Not in a big way. The only Michigander who called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home was Grand Rapids’s Gerald Ford, who became the 38th man to hold the job. He replaced Richard Nixon who’d resigned the office due to the Watergate scandal in 1974; Ford didn’t run two years later. Another Wolverine Stater almost made it to the White House—kind of. Owosso native (and eventually New York’s Republican governor) Thomas Dewey ran against Harry Truman in 1948 and today is best known as the subject of the most embarrassing newspaper headline ever, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Truman, a Democrat who’d been Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president and then his successor after he died in office, actually won that election.
What happens next?
Michigan officials have vowed to count every vote no matter how long it takes, so expect the counting to continue. How the Trump campaign’s legal challenges will play out remains to be seen.
This story is developing and this post has been updated with new details.