President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is fighting a legal battle in Arizona over a number of ballots so infinitesimally small that even were the outcome to go entirely the president’s way, those efforts would have no cognizable impact on the outcome of the race whatsoever.
According to The Arizona Republic, tabulations from a ballot-counting system show there a total number of 180 ballots at issue in the president’s litigation–out of a 14,746 vote margin for Joe Biden.
In other words, the Trump campaign–along with the Republican National Committee and the Arizona Republican Party–is hinging its Grand Canyon State legal strategy on less than one percent of Biden’s overall victory margin.
“These lawsuits continue to defy reason and logic, and are purely theater to make the president feel like he’s still fighting,” national security attorney Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime. “It’s all a farce, and they will change nothing of substance.”
To be clear, the GOP effort in Arizona does not explicitly hang its hat on those 180 votes. Rather, the central premise of the lawsuit is that “potentially thousands of voters” were “disenfranchised by systematic improper tabulator overrides” of so-called “overvotes.”
An overvote occurs when a voter improperly attempts to cast a ballot by marking more options–candidates or ballot initiatives–than any given race allows. When that happens, Arizona’s election software alerts the voter that something has gone wrong. Sometimes, stray marks or other issues can cause a tabulator to tell a voter that their ballot has a mistake when no actual mistake has been made.
Here’s how the Trump campaign has framed the issue:
Qualified electors casting ballots in person on Election Day in Maricopa County submitted their completed ballot to an electronic tabulation machine. Numerous voters were alerted by these devices to a facial irregularity in their ballot—frequently an ostensible “overvote”—but were induced by poll workers to override the tabulator’s rejection of the ballot in the good faith belief that their vote would be duly registered and tabulated. In actuality, overriding the electronic tabulator’s alert automatically disqualifies the putative “overvotes” without additional review or adjudication.
Voters are given two options if a tabulator catches a would-be overvote: (1) request a replacement ballot; (2) cast the potentially problematic ballot. According to the lawsuit, voters who shrugged off the overvote alert and cast their ballot in stride may have their ballot “subjected to further review in an effort to discern the actual intent.”
Essentially, the Trump campaign and the national and state GOP are arguing that poll workers improperly advised voters to accept overvotes and failed to offer them valid, legally-required remedies.
“Upon information and belief, the adjudication and tabulation of these ballots will prove determinative of the outcome of the election for president of the United States in Arizona and/or other contested offices in Maricopa County,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Poll workers struggled to operate the new voting machines in Maricopa County,” Trump campaign attorney Matt Morgan said on Saturday. “The result is that the voting machines disregarded votes cast by voters in person on Election Day in Maricopa County.”
As it turns out, however, the number of potential overvotes specifically at issue here is only the aforementioned 180.
Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Tom Liddy, son of chief Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, told a judge on Monday the 45th president’s entire theory was bunk and unsupported by the data culled from the voting machines themselves.
“There were 155,860 votes voted in person on Election Day,” Liddy said, referring to the Maricopa County numbers. “Of those, the tabulator only identified 180 potential overvotes on the presidential line … 180, that’s it.”
The elections official went on to note that under Trump’s theory of the case, “you’d also see thousands of votes for the Democratic candidate” going uncounted as well. Liddy went on to note that the 180 potential overvotes were also highly unlikely to go entirely for Trump–a prediction he called “absurd.”
“There is no possibility of systematic error with only 180 out of 155,860,” he concluded.
The Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold called the the campaign’s Arizona strategy “[t]he Fyre Festival of the legal world,” an obvious allusion to the fraud-marred influencer event that just couldn’t get off the inhospitable ground of New York City during the spring of 2017.
Of course, invocations of fraud carry with them a heavy amount of secondary meaning: namely that the Trump campaign is launching a barrage of less-than-longshot legal challenges in an effort to convey an image of strength, fight and tenacity among the MAGA-hatted, Trumpworld faithful–while providing those same adherents nothing more than false hopes of an overturned result in exchange for continued support.
As Law&Crime previously reported, such efforts don’t only yield emotional coping dividends, they’re also a gangbusters way to fundraise off of confused partisans who are being increasingly and falsely convinced they are being robbed by the Democratic Party.
But maybe the mood is so dire that the Trump campaign is seriously convinced of–at least some of–the merits here? That’s a possibility according to one legal expert.
“It seems some Trump loyalists genuinely believe there may be a narrow, albeit unlikely, path to litigate a victory,” Tulane Law Professor and election litigation expert Ross Garber said in an email. “And, in any event, it appears they are litigating in the hopes of getting information (and time) to evaluate whether such a path exists. But it’s hard to see a way forward for them.”
[image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]
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