Obama-appointed judges hear election lawsuits — but Trump picks loom

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Republican election fraud lawsuits are landing in the laps of judges who got their jobs on the federal bench from the Obama-Biden White House.

President Trump’s lawsuit alleging voter fraud in Pennsylvania went to U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, who was appointed by President Obama in 2012.

Republican congressional candidates alleging voter misconduct in Las Vegas are making their case before U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon, a 2013 Obama appointee.

Conservatives so far aren’t sweating the case assignments.

They say Mr. Trump’s record number of appointments to the federal appeals courts puts his conservative judges in line as the cases climb the judicial ladder.

“It’s important these cases are being heard in different parts of the country because that means there is a high likelihood we will have different decisions in different circuits, which inevitably leads to the Supreme Court considering a case,” said Rick Manning, president of the conservative Americans for Limited Government.

Mr. Manning said this isn’t about the presidency but rather ensuring voters are treated equally across the nation.

“Voters deserve to have their ballots treated the same way whether they live in Las Vegas or Philadelphia,” he said. “That should be everybody’s concern.”

District courts are where fact-finding will take place and set the foundation for legal arguments. But in the end, high-profile legal battles almost certainly make their way up to circuit courts.

Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, said an appeals court will take a fresh look at these disputes, noting a district court judge assignment “matters less in these high-profile cases.”

Judge Brann has set oral arguments for Tuesday in the Pennsylvania dispute.

Not all the lawsuits are going before Obama-appointed judges.

Mr. Trump’s federal lawsuit in Michigan was assigned to Judge Janet T. Neff, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007.

The Michigan and Pennsylvania cases argue equal protection claims, alleging Republican poll observers were treated differently from Democratic poll watchers. They claim observers were unable to properly review mail-in ballots for errors.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said seven Democrat-leaning counties in Pennsylvania checked mail-in ballots before Election Day, allowing voters to correct any inaccuracies. She said that was not done in 60 other counties.

“That is a big systemic equal protection argument,” she said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

Richard Anderson, a political science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the judge assignments in the president’s legal challenges won’t matter because the president has lost the election. The lawsuits, the professor said, are just aimed at assuaging supporters.

“Judges can be very arbitrary, but not even more than the occasional Trump appointee can be completely and totally arbitrary. They won’t rule for Trump, and his appeals won’t go anywhere,” Mr. Anderson said.

Mr. Trump chalked up a win Thursday in a state court in Pennsylvania, where a judge said state officials exceeded their authority by extending the deadline for voters to cure their ballots through photo identification.

After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the state’s move to extend the deadline for receiving ballots from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar also extended the time for voters to cure defective ballots by providing proof of identity.

State law allowed six days after the election for voters to provide proof for their ballots to qualify, which would have been Nov. 9. Ms. Boockvar attempted to change the deadline to Nov. 12.

The court said the ballots that had been segregated after her unilateral extension could not be tabulated past Nov. 9.

It’s a small win because only a small number of ballots won’t be counted in a state where presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden leads by roughly 54,600 votes.

Matt Morgan, general counsel for the Trump 2020 campaign, said the ruling shows the secretary of state “plays fast and loose” with statutory deadlines.

At this juncture, the most likely path to victory for Mr. Trump is through Pennsylvania. The margin there is relatively slim, and there’s a slew of disputes.

Mr. Morgan said the goal is to keep Pennsylvania officials from certifying the results before the campaign can prove illegal votes were counted. The hope is to get an automatic recount, which would occur if the candidates were 0.5% apart. The current margin is 0.8%.

If Mr. Trump succeeds in reversing Mr. Biden’s projected win there, he would need to do the same in Arizona or Nevada and then come out on top in too-close-to-call races in Georgia and North Carolina.

Georgia officials will begin a hand recount of the results Friday. Under state rules, Republican and Democratic observers will be able to object to ballots that they claim are erroneous.

“We are ready for it,” Mr. Morgan said.

The president’s attorneys also were in court in Arizona, where Mr. Biden leads by roughly 11,390 votes. They argued for several hours before the Maricopa County Superior Court that poll workers did not allow voters to correct ballot mistakes on Election Day.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said it was time for Mr. Trump to concede.

“President Trump lost,” Mr. Schumer said. “Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. Kamala Harris will be the next vice president of the United States.”

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