Trump Campaign Sues To Block New Jersey’s Mail-In Ballot Plan

PROVO, UT - NOVEMBER 6: A Utah County election worker collect actual mail-in ballots after they were opened for the midterm elections on November 6, 2018 in Provo, Utah. Utah early voting has been highest ever in Uta... PROVO, UT - NOVEMBER 6: A Utah County election worker collect actual mail-in ballots after they were opened for the midterm elections on November 6, 2018 in Provo, Utah. Utah early voting has been highest ever in Utah's midterm elections. One of the main proportions on the ballet in Utah is whether Utah will legalize medical marijuana. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 19, 2020 8:13 a.m.

The Trump campaign on Tuesday sued to block the state of New Jersey from rolling out the governor’s executive order to mail a ballot to every registered voter in the state  ahead of the November elections.

The lawsuit follows an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) on Friday that would expand mail voting due to health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump campaign lawsuit expands on a months-long baseless argument by President Donald Trump that mail voting promotes fraud. 

“In his haste the Governor created a system that will violate eligible citizens’ right to vote,” the plaintiffs’ counsel wrote in the complaint. “By ordering universal vote-by-mail, he has created a recipe for disaster. Fraudulent and invalid votes dilute the votes of honest citizens and deprive them of their right to vote in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The lawsuit argues that Murphy’s executive order is unconstitutional, saying that his move to sign the executive order resembled a “brazen power grab” to make a decision that the Constitution entrusts to the state legislature.

The suit also mentioned a case of voter fraud during a special election in Paterson, New Jersey, where a council member and a council-elect as well as two other men are now facing charges for voter fraud and other charges. 

Murphy previously acknowledged the case as an isolated incident, adding that any potential foul play would be closely watched.

“If you screw around with voting you’re going to be caught,” Murphy said. “I’m pretty sure we have a higher probability of being hit by lighting than uncovering voter fraud.”

President Trump seized on the case in tweets claiming the incident was indicative of a wider trend, but election law experts have said that Trump’s focus on this singular case shows both how rare they are as well as the safeguards in place to protect the integrity of ballots.

“I had been predicting that the Paterson scandal was going to get to the President’s attention, because he’s been making so many unsupported claims about voter fraud that when there is an actual case involving election crime and absentee ballots, it’s not surprising that he’s making some hay out of it,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law told NPR.

Trump has made repeated false claims that mail voting will lead to widespread fraud in what appear to be attempts to discourage eligible voter participation, especially in Democratic-led states. Recently he pivoted his mailed ballots attack away from Florida suggesting that it had been “cleaned up” and encouraging his base to use mail voting there. 

The Trump campaign’s lawsuit comes as more than 20 states, announced they would be suing to  block cost-cutting measures and other changes to the US Postal Service’s mail delivery system amid reports of mail delay. 

Trump-allied postmaster general Louis DeJoy, who is scheduled to testify Friday before the Senate, announced Tuesday he would “suspend” his initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”

The governor’s office has yet to respond to the lawsuit.

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