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These Republicans did a deep dive into 2020 election lawsuits, including in Pa. Here’s why most of them failed

They say the "woefully deficient" filings should boost faith in election security.

  • Robby Brod
President Donald Trump speaks at the

 Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election.


Eight well-known Republican attorneys, judges and politicians say they want conservatives in particular to know the 2020 election wasn’t stolen — former President Donald Trump lost.

They’ve published a report called “Lost, Not Stolen,” which re-examines the lawsuits filed by Trump and his supporters calling for election results to be overturned in six tightly contested battleground states: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.

The ‘Lost, Not Stolen’ report says Trump’s failed legal challenges should inspire more trust in our election security.

David Hoppe contributed to the report. He served as former chief of staff to two Republican Congressional Majority Leaders and has decades of legal experience in D.C.

“I’m certainly not a ‘Never-Trumper.’ I voted for Donald Trump twice for President… if the evidence had said there was something wrong with this election and it was stolen, we would have said that,” Hoppe said. “We looked through the evidence and it didn’t add up. It was woefully deficient, as a matter of fact.”

Hoppe said conservatives should prioritize stopping the spread of Trump’s election-fraud lies over partisan politics, calling the security of our elections, “absolutely critical to both people wanting to vote and to having fair elections.”

Former President Donald Trump claims millions of illegal votes cost him the 2020 election. However, all but three of his 64 election challenges failed.

Trump’s lawsuits included claims of voter fraud, illegal polling procedures, and errors with ballots and voting machines that would invalidate the 2020 election results.

He pulled out of 14 cases; 47 were dismissed by federal judges, including Democratic and Republican appointees. Of those, at least eight were appointed by Trump.

Eighteen of those lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania, and most focused on mail-in and absentee voting, extended pre-election deadlines, or technically deficient ballots.

His three legal victories, all in Pennsylvania, threw out 270 provisional ballots lacking signatures, separated Election Day provisional ballots from those cast afterward, and moved back Pa.’s deadline for absentee voters to present voter ID by three days.

One case that failed sought to block certification of Pa.’s election results, throwing out close to seven million votes. The Trump campaign argued against certifying results because not all counties allowed voters to fix errors on mail-in ballot declarations.

Hoppe said the report was conceived and written by a group of former Capitol Hill Republicans loosely connected by their shared time in D.C.

“The claims that [the 2020 election] had been stolen got stronger and stronger while the evidence got weaker and weaker. And so we decided to try and do a very deep dive into all the court cases and all the efforts that have been made.”

Former federal judge Michael McConnell co-wrote the report. He served for seven years on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals after being appointed by George W. Bush in 2002. Now, he’s director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford.

McConnell said the U.S. has “debated for 200 years” about whether to count ballots with minor technical issues, but the vast majority of courts in the past have ordered states to include them in their tallies.

“It comes up over and over. It was a big issue in Bush v. Gore. Sometimes one side benefits, sometimes the other side benefits,” he said. “The question is, do you count a vote where there is no actual uncertainty about what the voter was trying to do because the voters screwed up in some highly technical way?”

McConnell noted all but four of Trump’s lawsuits in Pa. were filed after the election was held under legally binding state and federal election codes.

“We ought to take a step back and just tip our hats to the system because we have safeguards against stolen elections. And they worked remarkably well,” he said. “When you look at it, not a single state legislature succumbed to these efforts by Mr. Trump and his supporters to get them to repudiate the actual results.”

Trump’s legal team didn’t argue fraud in Pa. courts, and no fraud was detected that would have altered election results anywhere in the country.

The report’s authors include former U.S. Senators John Danforth (R-MO) and Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Or.), Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, and former federal judges Thomas B. Griffith and J. Michael Luttig — both appointed by Republican presidents.

Here’s a breakdown of the 18 election challenges filed by Trump, his campaign, and his allies in Pa.:

← Scroll left to see results

Case Claim Result
Trump v. Boockvar, No. 2:20-cv-966 (W.D. Pa.) Trump’s campaign claimed Pa.’s no-excuse mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes, and counting of improperly filled-in mail-in ballots could lead to fraud and was unconstitutional. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania found for the defendants on all federal claims, declined to rule on state-law issues related to those claims, and dismissed the case.
Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Degraffenreid, 407 MD 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.); 133 MM 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); Nos. 20-542, 20-574 (U.S.) Pre-Election: The Republican Party of Pa. sued the state’s Democratic Party after Dems claimed counties could decide whether to extend a number of election deadlines, count improperly filled out ballots, and install temporary drop boxes. Dems also claimed Pa.’s pollwatcher law was unconstitutional. Pa. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Dems but upheld the poll-watcher residency requirement. U.S. Supreme Court denied the Pa. GOP’s application to stop the legal proceeding. Justice Alito granted Pa. GOP’s request to set aside mail-in ballots that came in after 8 p.m. on Election Day before declining to hear the case.
Trump v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections, No. 200902035 (Philadelphia Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl.); 983 C.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.) Pre-Election: Trump Campaign requested permission to observe ballot processing in satellite election offices. Case was dismissed by Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, citing Pa. law not allowing poll watchers at satellite offices. Ruling affirmed by Commonwealth Court.
In re: November 3, 2020 General Election, 149 MM 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); No. 20-845 (U.S.) Filed by Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who asked Pa. Supreme Court whether county elections boards had authority (or a legal requirement) to reject absentee/mail-in ballots based on perceived signature differences. Pa. Supreme Court ruled counties are not authorized/required to reject absentee/mail-in ballots based on signature differences. Decision appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
Bognet v. Boockvar, No. 3:20-cv-215 (W.D. Pa.); No. 20-3214 (3d Cir.), No. 20-740 (U.S.) Pre-Election: Congressional candidate and several voters alleged Pa. Supreme Court illegally overruled the Pa. legislature by allowing Pa. to accept absentee/mail-in ballots up to three days after election day, as long as they were postmarked by 8 p.m. on election day or received by 5 p.m. Nov. 6. U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson agreed that counting improperly stamped ballots postmarked after Election Day “creates a preferred class of voters” in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. However, she denied the petition in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania because the claims were brought too close to the election. U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling. U.S. Supreme Court took up the case and told the Third Circuit Court to dismiss it.
In re: Canvassing Observation/Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Degraffenreid, 201107003 (Phila. Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl.); 1094 C.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.); 30 EAP 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); No. 20-845 (U.S.) Trump Campaign alleged election officials broke   the law by making pollwatchers stand 15-18 feet from officials, which Trump lawyers said was too far to ensure the count’s accuracy. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the case, holding that state law does not require observers to ‘meaningfully’ oversee the process. Pa. Commonwealth Court reversed the ruling. Pa. Supreme Court reinstated the first order, finding the distance reasonable. U.S. Supreme Court  declined to hear the case.
Hamm v. Boockvar, 600 M.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.) Plaintiffs sought order to prevent then-Sec. of  State Kathy Boockvar from transferring improperly marked  ballots to another ballot (‘curing’ ballots) and to prevent her from disclosing voter info for those who filled out  ballots improperly. Commonwealth Court granted the request in part, ordering that provisional ballots cast on Election Day should be kept separate from provisional ballots cast in the three-day ‘no excuse’ window and each vote should be individually evaluated.
Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar, 602 M.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.) Trump Campaign sought to prevent then-Secretary of State Boockvar from counting ballots for   voters who didn’t   present ID by Nov. 9, 2020. Commonwealth Court ruled Boockvar overstepped her authority by changing the mail-in ballot ID deadline and ordered county elections boards to segregate the affected ballots and exclude them from vote tallies.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections , No. 2:20-cv-05533 (E.D. Pa.) Trump Campaign alleged that the Philadelphia County elections board broke state law by not allowing Trump poll watchers. Settled. Philly board of elections allowed poll watchers from Trump and Biden campaigns to oversee the mail-in ballot counting process.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Montgomery County Board of Elections , No. 2020-18680 (Montgomery Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl.) Trump Campaign claimed the Montgomery County elections board illegally counted 592 absentee/mail-in ballots either improperly filled out or without signature, address, or date.  Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas denied the petition, saying state law doesn’t require a voter to provide their address on the declaration envelope. Court ruled the 592 challenged ballots must be counted.
Barnette v. Lawrence, No. 2:20-cv-5477 (E.D. Pa.) Republican congressional candidates, on behalf of Trump electors in Montgomery and Berks counties, alleged that the Montgomery County elections board illegally pre-canvassed mail-in ballots before Election Day, and allowed deficient ballots to be ‘cured.’ Judge denied the motion to stop the vote count, and Barnette dropped the case.
In re: Canvass of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots of November 3, 2020 Election, No. 20-05786-35 (Bucks Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl.); 1191 C.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.); 676 MAL 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); No. 20-845 (U.S.) Trump Campaign alleged that the Bucks County elections board illegally counted 2,177 deficient absentee/mail-in ballots. Bucks County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the case, partly due to lack of evidence that ballots lacking the secrecy envelope were at risk of fraud. Commonwealth Court affirmed that claims lacked evidence. Pa. Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court  each declined to hear the case.
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Boockvar, No. 4:20-cv-02078 (M.D. Pa.); No. 20-3371 (3d Cir.) Trump Campaign alleged that the Secretary of   State and various county elections boards  prevented the   Campaign’s observers from meaningful access to   view pre-canvass and canvassing activities and improperly permitted mail-in ballots to be cured. Campaign asked U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals to enjoin certification of the election results. Judge dismissed the case and concluded that Trump Campaign had failed to prove that its watchers were treated differently from Biden Campaign watchers and concluded that alleged differences in implementation among counties was not equal protection violation. 3rd Circuit affirmed, holding that the campaign was unlikely to succeed on the merits and was unable to show irreparable harm.
Pirkle v. Wolf, No. 4:20-cv-02088 (M.D. Pa.) Voters alleged that Allegheny, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties included illegal ballots in the state’s certified results. Voters dropped the case.
In re: Canvass of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots, Nos. 201100874–201100878 (Philadelphia Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl.); 31- 35 EAP 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); No. 20-845 (U.S.) Trump Campaign alleged Philadelphia County elections board illegally counted 8,329 absentee/mail-in ballots that were missing a date next to a signature, printed name of the voter, and/or the voter’s street address. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the claim, noting the signature/date/address were not necessary to prevent fraud. Pa. Supreme Court affirmed, noting that failing to include any of those does violate Election Code, but doesn’t warrant throwing out thousands of votes. U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
In re: 2,349 Ballots in the 2020 General Election, No. GD20-011654 (Allegheny Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl.); 1162 C.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.); 29 WAP 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); No. 20-845 (U.S.) Pa. Senate candidate alleged the Allegheny County elections board illegally counted 2,349 mail-in ballots missing a date on the outer envelope. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas held that the ballots were properly counted, and the defects were too minor to disqualify them. Pa. Commonwealth Court reversed, holding that state law required the missing information. Pa. Supreme Court reversed, holding that minor violations of the Election Code aren’t grounds to disqualify thousands of votes. U.S. Supreme Court didn’t take up the case.
In re: Allegheny County Provisional Ballots, GD 20-011793 (Allegheny Cnty. Ct. Com. Pl); 1161 C.D. 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.); 338 WAL 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.) Pa. Senate candidate argued 270 provisional ballots were defective either because they   lacked a required signature or affidavit or for another reason. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas concluded no fraud occurred and provisional ballots should be counted. Commonwealth Court reversed and said Election Code prohibits counting deficient ballots and ordered the ballots not be counted. One judge dissented. Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Kelly v. Pennsylvania, 620 MD 2020 (Pa. Commw. Ct.); 68 MAP 2020 (Supr. Ct. of Pa.); No. 20-810 (U.S.) Pa. Rep. Mike Kelly and a handful of voters said ‘no excuse’ mail-in voting illegally expanded the scope of absentee ballots. They tried to stop the   vote count while the courts ruled on the issue. Commonwealth Court temporarily halted certification of results. Pa. Supreme Court vacated the injunction and dismissed the case with prejudice because plaintiffs failed to challenge the year-old law in a timely manner. One justice dissented. U.S. Supreme Court denied expedited consideration and did not take up the case.
Metcalfe v. Wolf, 636 MD 202 (Pa. Commw. Ct.) Plaintiff electors, which included nine Republican Pa. House Reps., alleged that the Wolf administration failed to implement recommendations from the Department of the Auditor General and   broke state election code by counting defective absentee and mail-in ballots. Electors sought   to decertify election results and stop electors from casting votes.


Commonwealth Court dismissed the claim because it was filed past the deadline to challenge the election results.


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