Politics

Texas sues four battleground states in Supreme Court over 'unlawful election results' in 2020 presidential race

Key Points
  • Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate presidential election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan.
  • The lawsuit asserts that "unlawful election results" in those four states, which President-elect Joe Biden won, should be declared unconstitutional.
  • The filing argues that those states used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to unlawfully change their election rules.
  • Experts in election law were quick to dismiss the likelihood of the nine Supreme Court justices taking the case.
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Texas sues battleground states where Biden won, calling results 'unlawful'

Texas' Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, on Tuesday announced a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate presidential election results in four key swing states that helped secure Democrat Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump.

The unusual lawsuit, which was filed directly to the Supreme Court, asserts that "unlawful election results" in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan — all of which Biden won — should be declared unconstitutional.

Legal experts quickly dismissed the case as political theater without precedent in American history.

The filing argues that those states used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to unlawfully change their election rules "through executive fiat or friendly lawsuits, thereby weakening ballot integrity."

"Any electoral college votes cast by such presidential electors appointed" in those states "cannot be counted," Texas asks the high court to rule.


The Lone Star State's attempt to discount other states' electoral votes follows a slew of long-shot legal challenges with similar goals that have been brought in lower courts by Trump's campaign and other attorneys. Those lawsuits have repeatedly failed to invalidate ballots cast for Biden.

The claims in Texas' lawsuit "are false and irresponsible," Georgia's deputy secretary of state, Jordan Fuchs, said in a fiery statement shortly after Paxton announced the legal action.

"Texas alleges that there are 80,000 forged signatures on absentee ballots in Georgia, but they don't bring forward a single person who this happened to. That's because it didn't happen," Fuchs' statement said.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called the suit a "publicity stunt" and "beneath the dignity" of Paxton's office. Josh Kaul, the attorney general of Wisconsin, said in a statement the case was "genuinely embarrassing."

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Experts in election law were also quick to dismiss the likelihood of the nine Supreme Court justices taking the case. Paul Smith, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who has argued voting rights cases at the Supreme Court, said the case was "wacko."

"There is a whole system in Pennsylvania and the other states for contesting the election — that's all been done," said Smith, who also serves as vice president of litigation and strategy at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. "I don't think the Supreme Court will have interest in this."

The professor added that Texas could run into trouble in proving that it has grounds to sue, known in legal terms as "standing."

"It's totally unprecedented, the idea that one state would, at the Supreme Court, claim that other states' votes were cast in the wrong way — that's never happened," he said. "What is the injury to the state of Texas because Pennsylvania's votes were cast for Mr. Biden instead of Mr. Trump? There is no connection there."

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, wrote on his popular legal blog that the suit was "utter garbage" and also disputed the idea that Texas had standing, noting that "it has no say over how other states choose electors."

Paxton wrote in the brief that Texas has standing because of its interest in which party controls the Senate, which it says "represents the States."

"While Americans likely care more about who is elected President, the States have a distinct interest in who is elected Vice President and thus who can cast the tiebreaking vote in the Senate," he wrote.

"This injury is particularly acute in 2020, where a Senate majority often will hang on the Vice President's tie-breaking vote because of the nearly equal—and, depending on the outcome of Georgia run-off elections in January, possibly equal — balance between political parties," Paxton added.

The lawsuit against the four states comes on a pivotal deadline in the election certification process, known as the "safe harbor" threshold, after which Congress is compelled to accept states' certified results.

Six days later, electors in the Electoral College will cast their votes, finalizing Biden's win. The suit is also asking the Supreme Court to extend that Dec. 14 deadline "to allow these investigations to be completed."

In most cases, the Supreme Court only hears cases from lower courts that have been appealed. In cases between two or more states, however, the court has original jurisdiction. It generally requires four justices to agree to hear a case.

The suit comes as Paxton faces an FBI criminal investigation related to alleged efforts to help a wealthy campaign donor. The investigation was confirmed by The Associated Press after seven senior lawyers in Paxton's office claimed to authorities in September that Paxton was guilty of abusing his office.

All seven have since been fired, put on leave or resigned, spurring a whistleblower lawsuit from several of them. Paxton has denied wrongdoing.

The case is not the first over the election to reach the justices, though the court has yet to deliver a substantial ruling for either side. In another suit the court could soon weigh in on, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, a Trump ally, is challenging virtually all of the state's mail-in ballots, urging the court to nullify millions of votes.

Biden is projected to win 306 Electoral College votes — 36 more than needed to beat Trump, who is set to receive 232 such votes.

But Trump is refusing to concede to Biden. The president, more than a month after Election Day, continues to falsely insist he won the race while spreading a wide array of unproven conspiracy theories that purport to show electoral or voter fraud.

The president is also pressuring swing-state officials to take action toward overturning the results of their elections. Trump has heaped criticism on Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, while angrily demanding that he call a special session of the Peach State's legislature in order to appoint pro-Trump electors.

Trump has personally reached out to Kemp and Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, according to reporting from The Washington Post. In November, Trump hosted Republican lawmakers in Michigan at the White House for a meeting. Those lawmakers said after the event that they had no plans to replace Biden's electors.

At a Covid vaccine summit at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, Trump once again falsely claimed he won the race, adding, "let's see whether or not somebody has the courage, whether it's a legislator or legislatures, or whether it's a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court ... to do what everybody in this country knows is right."

Even before the election, Trump predicted that the Supreme Court would likely decide the results of the race, and pressed the GOP-controlled Senate to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the bench in time for it to do so.

In recent weeks, however, as his legal challenges have floundered, Trump has acknowledged that he is unlikely to overturn the results of the 2020 election in court.

"Well, the problem is, it's hard to get into the Supreme Court," Trump told Fox News last month in his first full interview since his Nov. 3 defeat.

"I've got the best Supreme Court advocates, lawyers, that want to argue the case, if it gets there. They said, 'It's very hard to get a case up there,'" Trump added. "Can you imagine, Donald Trump, president of the United States, files a case, and I probably can't get a case."