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Judge tosses Trump challenge to New Jersey mail-in ballots

The judge wrote that the fraud claims rest on “highly speculative fear.”
Richard Lynch drops his mail-in ballot into a drop box in Hackensack, N.J., on July 7, 2020.Seth Wenig / AP file

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s campaign that had sought to stop New Jersey’s mail-in ballot program.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp’s opinion was foreshadowed when he rejected the GOP’s request for an injunction to stop the program on Oct. 6 and wrote the plaintiffs “fail to establish they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.”

In a court filing last month, the campaign alleged the state’s ballot procedures violated the Constitution and opened the door to widespread voter fraud, including that ballots mailed after Election Day would still be counted. Shipp wrote Thursday that the fraud claims rest on “highly speculative fear.”

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed legislation in August that allowed election officials to begin counting mail-in ballots 10 days before Election Day and accept unpostmarked ballots up to two days afterward. All registered New Jersey voters were mailed ballots in what Murphy has said are concerns over potential coronavirus transmission from in-person voting.

The GOP sued New Jersey in August, calling the state’s plan “a brazen power grab” by Murphy that created the possibility of widespread voter fraud. The suit named a recent incident in Paterson in which a campaign worker allegedly admitting stealing ballots out of mail boxes in a local election.

“It is difficult — and ultimately speculative — to predict future injury from evidence of past injury,” Shipp wrote Thursday.

Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, wrote in an email Thursday night, “Governor Murphy, who has disingenuously quipped that New Jersey has ‘a higher probability of being hit by lightning than we do uncovering voter fraud’ better seek shelter — has himself and his liberal legislature to blame for the chaos and confusion we’ve already seen ahead of November 3.”

The two major political parties are embroiled in dozens of lawsuits across the country over issues including mail-in ballots, ballot drop boxes, witness requirements and time extensions for voting and for counting ballots.