State Watch

Judge throws out Trump campaign lawsuit against New Jersey mail-in ballots

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A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit from President Trump’s reelection campaign to block New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) plan to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters as a safety precaution during the pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp wrote that the plaintiff’s claims that unsolicited mail-in ballots would lead to rampant illegal voting “are largely conjectural, hypothetical, and lacking in imminence,” according to an opinion obtained by Bloomberg.

The judge pointed to how state election officials have implemented several security measures, including bar codes on each ballot and laws making it a third-degree crime to engage in voter fraud.

“Any suggestion of these measures’ imminent failure is also speculative,” wrote Shipp, an appointee of former President Obama.

The Trump campaign pointed to a case of voting fraud that allegedly occurred in a May special election in Paterson, N.J., in which a candidate was accused of arranging for ballots to be stolen from mailboxes to win their local race.

The statewide July 7 primary was conducted entirely through mail-in ballots and encountered some problems. Approximately 1,666 ballots in Sussex County were accidentally left uncounted for more than two months, according to elections officials.

But despite the issues, Murphy heralded the process as “not perfect, but overwhelmingly a success.” 

In its arguments, the president’s campaign also noted that a Postal Service mail carrier in New Jersey was arrested for allegedly discarding mail, including 99 general election ballots. 

Shipp said these “unfortunate instances” did not mean widespread fraud would be guaranteed in November.

“Perhaps it will recur. But perhaps not,” Shipp wrote. “It is difficult — and ultimately speculative — to predict future injury from evidence of past injury.”

In a statement to Bloomberg, Republican National Committee (RNC) national press secretary Mandi Merritt said: “We are disappointed with the ruling and are assessing our options.”

“Governor Murphy, who has disingenuously quipped that New Jersey has ‘a higher probability of being hit by lightning than we do uncovering voter fraud’ better seek shelter—he only has himself and his liberal legislature to blame for the chaos and confusion we’ve already seen ahead of November 3,” Samantha Zager, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary, told The Hill. 

The Trump campaign and the RNC filed the lawsuit in August after Murphy announced that the Garden State will vote primarily by mail-in ballots in November, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All 6.3 million of the state’s registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot. A number of polling stations will still be open for residents who want to cast their ballots in-person.

The Trump campaign claimed that Murphy appropriated power that belongs to the New Jersey state legislature when he overhauled the state’s election law, alleging he violated both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also accuses Murphy of violating the 14th Amendment.

It also has filed a similar lawsuit against Nevada. However, unlike Murphy’s executive order, lawmakers in Nevada passed a bill along party lines aimed at expanding mail-in voting before the November general election that was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak (D).

Trump has for weeks claimed that mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud and has alleged that the election will be “rigged” and “fraudulent” if Americans vote through the mail. Experts have insisted that there is no meaningful evidence suggesting mail-in voting contributes to voter fraud.

The president and first lady Melania Trump have both requested mail-in ballots for the Florida congressional primary.

 Updated 10:46 a.m. 

Tags absentee ballots Barack Obama coronavirus pandemic Donald Trump mail-in voting Melania Trump New Jersey Phil Murphy Postal Service Steve Sisolak USPS voter fraud
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