President Donald Trump’s campaign lost a battle in federal court Tuesday when a judge denied its bid to stop New Jersey from counting ballots early and accepting ballots after Election Day.
The Trump campaign’s legal war against New Jersey is one of numerous it is waging against new election rules nationwide. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the two New Jersey rules “opened the door to voter fraud and widespread confusion in the upcoming election.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton denied the motion for a preliminary injunction on Tuesday. It doesn’t end the lawsuit entirely, but absent a timely appeal, it kills the GOP’s hopes of halting the new election rules from taking place. The state’s Republican Party joined the Trump campaign as a plaintiff.
The new rules opposed by the Trump campaign allow election officials to count ballots starting 10 days before Election Day and allow the counting of ballots received with no postmark up to two days after polls close. They were approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in August as part of a package of election-related bills.
Shipp ruled against the Trump campaign, he said in a written decision, because it failed to show it was likely to succeed on the merits of its claims. Federal law does not prohibit New Jersey from counting ballots early or setting rules of deciding when a mail-in ballot is timely received, he said. The campaign is relying too broadly on federal laws governing the timing of Election Day, which offer wide latitude to states to make up their own election rules, Shipp said.
The judge also said a ruling in favor of the Trump campaign would have been against the public’s interest.
“Here the risk is not just voters remaining away from the polls but also voters traveling to the polls,” he wrote. “It is foreseeable that an injunction on the even of the by-mail election could prompt such confusion or distrust that voters opt to avoid the mail system altogether and cast provision ballots in person. Such an outcome would defeat the purpose of the vote-by-mail election and needlessly force voters and poll workers into close proximity.”
Murphy in August ordered the state to conduct a largely mail-in election this fall, limiting in-person voting to people with visual impairments and those voting with provisional ballots. The state’s two previous attempts at mail-in elections, local races in May and primaries in July, were marred by allegations of voter fraud and a dramatic increase in the number of rejected mail-in ballots.
The issues continue. On Monday, nearly 7,000 Teaneck voters were sent the wrong ballots, leaving Bergen County officials scrambling to replace them.
Terrence T. McDonald is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.