Trump Campaign 'Seeking to Disenfranchise Black Voters' With Election Fraud Claims: Lawsuit

A lawsuit by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is challenging President Donald Trump's campaign's claims about voter fraud, saying that the attempts to overturn the results in Michigan are disenfranchising Black voters.

The complaint filed on Friday named both Trump and his campaign as the defendants. It claims that the Trump campaign has sought to pressure local and state officials to not count ballots for Wayne County, where Detroit is located. The lawsuit said that the president's efforts violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which rules against disenfranchising Black Voters.

Trump has filed a number of lawsuits, claiming that voter fraud cost him the election. But as the LDF lawsuit pointed out, most of the lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign have been unsuccessful.

"Defendants are openly seeking to disenfranchise Black voters," said the suit, adding: "Defendants' tactics repeat the worst abuses in our nation's history, as Black Americans were denied a voice in American democracy for most of the first two centuries of the Republic."

As CNN reported, the president reached out to two Michigan Republican canvass board members to offer support. On Wednesday, the board members tried to rescind votes certifying the election results in Wayne. One of the members told The Washington Post that Trump was calling her out of a "genuine concern for [her] safety," rather than to pressure her on Tuesday.

After a tie led to a delay in certification, people spoke out against the canvassers for refusing to certify the election. The two canvassers later reversed their vote, thus certifying the election results.

The lawsuit stated: "By exerting pressure on state and local officials in the manner described above, Defendants are intimidating or coercing state and local officials from aiding Plaintiffs and other residents of Detroit and Wayne County from having their votes 'counted properly and included in the appropriate totals of votes cast.'"

The filing is seeking the court to block the Trump campaign "from continuing to exert pressure on state or local officials in Michigan, or in any other state."

"We filed the case yesterday in federal court in the District of Columbia. The suit is based on a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 known as 11b. That provision is designed to prohibit any sort of intimidation or coercion or attempts to intimidate or coerce anyone either in exercising the franchise directly or in baiting someone who's exercising the franchise. The Voting Rights Act defines voting broadly to include not just the act of casting the ballot, but everything necessary for the ballot to be counted and effective," NAACP LDF Director of Litigation Sam Spital told Newsweek in a phone call.

Spital continued: "Essentially what President Trump and the Trump campaign are doing, we allege in our lawsuit is to be engaged in a campaign in Michigan clearly to pressure state and local officials to disregard entirely the votes of either Wayne County or Detroit, which would thereby disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of prominently Black Michiganders."

A number of people have spoken out against the president's voter fraud claims and condemned pressure being put on officials like Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney.

"If you look at what Senator Romney tweeted, he said essentially that the President was engaged in this campaign of pressuring state and local officials to overturn what the people decided. The key points that our case makes is that: yes, that is right, but the other part of the story is that the president is doing this in a very racially-targeted way that ties into a really long and shameful history of overt and subtle attempts to disenfranchise Black Voters," Spital said.

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) November 20, 2020

LDF President and Director Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill said in a statement that the efforts to stop the votes from being certified from Trump are dangerous.

"These allegations have been consistently debunked and the campaign's litigation attempts turned away by courts in several states. The president's use of dog whistles to suggest the illegitimacy of votes cast by Black voters in Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Atlanta are an appeal to a dangerous and corrosive racialized narrative of voter fraud," she said.

Ifill continued: "Equally alarming have been the president's attempts to pressure state and local officials in Michigan-first with a demand that votes in Detroit not be counted and now, more recently, urging officials to refuse to certify votes from Wayne County. The right of Black voters to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice is protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That legislation protects against efforts to intimidate or coerce officials to disenfranchise Black voters."

Ifill's statement concluded with a commitment to protecting the ballots cast by Black voters from the president's efforts to overturn the election.

A federal court can put a halt to Trump's alleged interference. "The goal of the lawsuit is to make this stop, to make clear what is happening, what the president is doing, and what apparently some of his allies on his campaign are doing violates the law, and its precisely the kind of conduct that federal courts have the power to enjoin and stop from happening," Spital said.

Press contacts for the Trump campaign did not respond to Newsweek's emailed requests for comment in time for publication.

Votes Michigan
A "Count every vote" sign lays outside of the TCF center where ballots are being counted in downtown Detroit, Michigan on November 4,2020. Getty/SETH HERALD / AFP

Correction 3:39 PM ET: An earlier version of this story referred to the lawsuit as an NAACP lawsuit, not an LDF lawsuit.