Democrats prep teams of lawyers for ‘Election Week’
House Democrats, confident of gaining ground in Tuesday’s elections, are also girding for a protracted legal battle over the results of contested races.
President Trump and his Republican allies have voiced heavy doubts about the validity of ballots cast this cycle, particularly in states that have expanded early voting and mail-in options to account for health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
With that in mind, the House Democrats’ campaign arm has teamed up with Democrats in the Senate, the states and within the grass-roots community to field teams of lawyers spread around the country in anticipation of long, litigious fights over the legitimacy of ballots.
At the same time, they’re warning the public and the media alike that the outcome of any number of close races almost certainly won’t be known on Wednesday morning.
“This is an Election Day that may end up looking like an Election Week,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told reporters Tuesday morning. “I hope [it’s] not a whole lot longer than that, but if it [is], the goal here is to count every single vote, and we have a whole team leading up to this.”
Bustos said Democrats have already dedicated $10 million this cycle to “litigation efforts” and are prepared to spend more post-election if the need arises.
“We will use every legal means necessary to make sure that we count every vote,” she said.
For election operatives of both parties, bracing for election challenges is hardly a new phenomenon, particularly since the long fight over ballot-counting in the hotly contested Bush-Gore race of 2000.
But the pre-election warnings of protracted legal fights is unique to this cycle, reflecting both the logistical challenges of voting in the pandemic and a divisive political landscape.
For months, Trump has hammered states that have expanded windows of early voting, mail-in balloting and drop-boxes to accommodate the public health crisis, warning without evidence that they promote voter fraud. And some of Trump’s Republican allies have challenged those policy shifts in lawsuits, with mixed results.
In recent days, however, several court rulings have leaned in favor of more lenient voting rules.
On Monday, a federal judge in Texas denied a Republican request to discard almost 127,000 ballots cast at drive-up polling sites in the massive county comprising Houston. And last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against Republicans seeking to prevent the state from counting mail-in ballots post-marked before Election Day but received afterward.
Trump on Monday hammered the Pennsylvania decision, warning without specifics that it would incite violence.
“The Supreme Court decision on voting in Pennsylvania is a VERY dangerous one. It will allow rampant and unchecked cheating and will undermine our entire systems of laws,” Trump tweeted. “It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!”
Twitter tagged the president’s tweet with a warning that “some or all of the content … is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has, for months, predicted that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would defeat Trump this year, and she amplified that message again on Tuesday. But, echoing Bustos, the Speaker said Democrats are also prepared to battle any effort to disqualify legitimate ballots.
“We are ready legally and constitutionally, congressionally in every way, to protect our democracy for any skullduggery that the president may try to introduce into this,” she told reporters on the DCCC call.
“But be assured that our democracy will survive,” she added. “I don’t like saying that; I don’t like to have to do that. But if that’s what the president wants to do, go onto that battlefield, we’re ready.”
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