To ensure that every legally cast vote is counted, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has established a legal dream team.
Legal battles are already in swing across the country over who will be allowed to vote, when and how, with dozens more expected as the nation braces for a highly contested election amid a pandemic.
To ensure that every legally cast vote is counted, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has established a legal dream team of two former solicitors general, a former attorney general, and an Obama-era White House general counsel, among others. The legal operation aims to combat any instances of voter suppression, while also tamping down foreign interference and misinformation that could weaken the Democratic process.
Biden had already announced in July that his campaign had recruited 600 lawyers and 10,000 volunteers for voter protection. He voiced concerns on “The Daily Show” that President Donald Trump might attempt to illegally tip the scales in his favor or outright reject a losing election result, saying his “single greatest concern” is that “this president is going to try to steal this election.”
The extensive legal team will focus on voting and election issues. It includes Biden’s general counsel on the 2020 campaign, Dana Remus; Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel for President Barack Obama; a “special litigation” unit led by Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and Walter Dellinger, two former solicitors general; a team at the Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, which will focus on the state-by-state fight over vote casting and counting rules; and Eric H. Holder Jr., former attorney general under the Obama administration, who will corral communication between the many different stakeholders.
The move comes as Trump ramps up claims of voter fraud before ballots have even been cast, and doubles down on comments doubting the veracity of the system ahead of the election. Trump went so far this month as to suggest that his North Carolina supporters test the system by voting twice, by mail and in person—a felony act.
Trump has been banging the drum of voter fraud for years, even though his own White House voting-integrity commission disbanded in 2018 without uncovering any evidence of widespread voter fraud. His sustained attacks on mail-in voting contradict his own history of utilizing the process.
“It’s going to be fraud all over the place,” Trump said in June. “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country and we cannot let this happen.”
The laws around casting ballots got an unexpected shakeup this year as multiple states rushed to expand eligibility for voting by mail, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits in battleground states, challenging various aspects of the states’ mail-in voting laws. In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sued the state Secretary of State and all 67 counties, arguing that mail-in ballot drop boxes were unconstitutional and increased the risk of voter fraud, and asking a federal judge to bar the use of them in the general election. A judge ruled in August that the case should be put on hold while other similar cases went their way through the state courts.
And other lawsuits are blooming in battleground states such as Florida, where an appellate court overturned a federal judge’s ruling that eased requirements for the formerly incarcerated to pay court fines and fees before they could re-register to vote. Florida voters had passed an amendment to the State Constitution in 2018 ended this disenfranchisement. The appeals court ruling blocked more than 774,000 former felons from the rolls, in a state where Trump carried the vote by just 113,000 votes in 2016.
In Wisconsin, the majority conservative State Supreme Court voted to halt the printing of absentee ballots Friday to allow the Green Party’s presidential candidate to appear on the ballot. This would have affected all 1,013,458 voters who requested absentee ballots in Wisconsin for the November election, especially those living overseas or serving in the military who need their ballots mailed out earlier. The state Supreme Court ruled Monday afternoon, however, against reprinting the ballots.
Congressional Democrats are also scrutinizing changes at the United States Postal Service that could slow down mail-in voting. The changes were enacted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican mega donor appointed earlier this year.
To counter these maneuvers, the communications side of Biden’s legal operation is urging voters to request ballots now, make a voting plan, and cast their votes as soon as possible.
“Just do everything early this cycle,” Remus commented to the New York Times.