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Trump’s losses stack up further as Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to hear campaign challenge to election results

Absentee ballots sit in stacks during a recount of Milwaukee County results at the Wisconsin Center on Nov. 20.
Absentee ballots sit in stacks during a recount of Milwaukee County results at the Wisconsin Center on Nov. 20. (Taylor Glascock/for the Washington Post)
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The daily drumbeat of legal losses for President Trump continued on Thursday as he and his allies once again hit roadblocks in court on cases seeking to have the election overturned.

In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the election results filed by Trump’s campaign, finding that under state law, the campaign should have gone first to a lower-level court.

In Arizona, a judge dismissed a key part of a suit seeking to overturn the election filed by the state’s Republican Party chairwoman.

And in Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court had previously dismissed a Republican lawsuit challenging universal mail voting, the court Thursday issued a one-sentence order unanimously refusing to stay the dismissal.

Since Nov. 4, President Trump has repeatedly claimed his election loss as a result of massive fraud. The following is a roundup of his claims. (Video: The Washington Post)

Despite the steady stream of legal defeats, Trump and his allies pressed forward with their attempts to open new fronts and roll back President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

[Trump escalates baseless attacks on election with 46-minute video rant]

A day after Trump delivered a 46-minute, falsehood-filled rant from the White House attacking the integrity of the election, his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani continued his traveling road show, in which he has been making baseless allegations about fraud to audiences of Republican state lawmakers.

On Thursday, he was at the Georgia Capitol, where he encouraged GOP legislators to reject Biden’s victory in the popular vote and instead choose electors who will back Trump.

“State law doesn’t in any way prevent you, the legislature, from immediately taking this over and deciding this,” Giuliani said at a state Senate subcommittee hearing.

Ray Smith, legal counsel for Trump in the state, said the campaign will be filing a new lawsuit asking the Fulton County Superior Court for a new election and urged Georgia state legislators to select electors independently.

Meanwhile, in the Pennsylvania case, Trump allies late Thursday formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state high court’s rejection of their challenge to Act 77, the 2019 law that established universal mail voting there.

But judges around the country continued to express skepticism at claims lodged by Trump and his allies. During a hearing in Michigan on Thursday, where Biden’s win has already been certified, state Judge Timothy M. Kenny quizzed an attorney for a group of Republican poll workers seeking an audit of the results in Wayne County about the intentions of the plaintiffs.

“You really are trying to change the results, are you not?” Kenny asked.

“Honestly, Judge, I don’t know what the results will be,” attorney David Kallman responded.

David Fink, an attorney for Detroit, asked the judge to not just reject the request but also to sanction the plaintiffs for bringing it. “They want to undermine our democracy,” he said. “Grant significant sanctions, because this has to stop. They are trying to use this court in a very improper way.” The judge said he would rule by Tuesday.

In Arizona, Maricopa County Judge Randall Warner dismissed part of a challenge brought by state GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward, saying she had brought the claim too late.

But he held an hours-long hearing Thursday on another piece of her suit, allowing her lawyers to present evidence they claimed shows that the processing of ballots in Maricopa County was so flawed that the election results — which were certified this week — were either wrong or so uncertain that they should not be allowed to stand.

Ward’s lawyers focused on errors in the duplication of ballots that were damaged or otherwise unreadable by tabulation machines. In such cases, a bipartisan board of election workers looks at the ballot to determine the voter’s intent and then fills in a clean ballot accordingly.

Before Thursday’s hearing, Ward’s lawyers were allowed to compare 1,626 duplicated ballots to the originals in the presence of attorneys for Democrats and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. They found a total of nine errors, an error rate of about half a percent.

In other words, county elections official Scott Jarrett said Thursday, 99.45 percent of the inspected ballots were duplicated properly.

Jarrett said some level of human error is unavoidable. “We’re all people,” he said. “It would be unreasonable to expect there would be no errors.”

Seven of the errors deprived Trump of votes, compared with two that deprived Biden. Applying the same error rate to the more than 27,000 ballots that were duplicated countywide, Trump would gain a total of 103 votes, Jarrett said.

That is far less than Biden’s margin of victory of 10,457 votes.

The judge said he would continue to hear evidence Friday and did not disclose when he plans to rule in the matter.

In Wisconsin, where Biden beat Trump by more than 20,000 votes, the Trump campaign formally appealed the results of the state’s recount in the circuit courts of Milwaukee and Dane counties late Thursday. The campaign’s top lawyer in the state said in a statement that he expects “to be back in front of the Supreme Court very soon.”

The refusal of the state’s highest court to take up Trump’s petition was a particularly stinging rebuke, given that conservatives hold a 4-to-3 majority on the elected panel.

One conservative member of the panel, Brian Hagedorn, joined the court’s three more liberal members in declining to take the case.

In a concurring opinion, he wrote, “We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high-profile cases. Following the law governing challenges to election results is no threat to the rule of law.”

Hagedorn wrote that he had determined the court should decline to take the case so the Trump campaign could “promptly exercise” its right to seek action in a lower court.

Election results under attack: Here are the facts

Trump’s campaign had argued the matter was of such pressing and urgent concern that it should be considered immediately by the high court. In the petition, it argued that more than 220,000 ballots cast in the state’s two most Democratic counties were improperly accepted by election officials and should be thrown out.

The campaign did not allege that individual voters committed fraud or engaged in wrongdoing but rather that election officials misinterpreted state law regarding several large categories of ballots. That included all ballots cast early and in person in the two counties. The campaign challenged the practices, even though they were identical to those in place statewide and were unchanged since before the 2016 election, which Trump won and did not contest.

Three of the court’s conservative members appeared open to the Trump campaign's arguments and said they wanted to take the case.

“Petitioners assert troubling allegations of noncompliance with Wisconsin’s election laws by public officials on whom the voters rely to ensure free and fair elections,” wrote Justice Rebecca Bradley in their dissent. “The majority’s failure to embrace its duty (or even an impulse) to decide this case risks perpetuating violations of the law by those entrusted to follow it.”

Still, the judicial discussion did not indicate how the court would ultimately view the merits of the Trump campaign’s arguments should the matter eventually return to the state’s highest court. Nor did justices offer any indication that they believed that overturning the election would be the proper recourse if the court decided to eventually hear it.

Indeed, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, who is part of the conservative wing, wrote that she believed the court should take the case to decide whether the state gave incorrect advice to local clerks about how to run the election.

“However, doing so does not necessarily lead to striking absentee ballots that were cast by following incorrect . . . advice,” she wrote. “The remedy Petitioners seek may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”

Robert Barnes, David A. Fahrenthold, Keith Newell, Maya Smith, Aaron Schaffer, Tobi Raji and Anna Brugmann contributed to this report.