Updated Jun 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

The legal fight over the 2024 election has begun

an lilustration of a voting booth with a large shadow of a gavel over it

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Former President Trump's team is more focused so far on building a sprawling network of "election integrity" lawyers and poll watchers than on rounding up organizers and door knockers to reach voters.

Why it matters: It's a sign that five months before Election Day, the legal battle over the 2024 race is underway — and that Trump plans to cry "rigged" if he loses, just as it did after the 2020 election and his felony convictions.

The Trump-controlled Republican National Committee is assembling a network of lawyers and volunteers to gather string for lawsuits challenging the results of the Nov. 5 vote.

  • The RNC plans to hire more people for the operation than for any other department it has, a committee official told Axios.

The RNC has installed 13 "election integrity" state directors who've been hosting training sessions with state and county GOP parties in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin.

  • It's also contracted with 13 in-state counsels to help identify local litigation opportunities.
  • Beyond that, Trump's campaign and RNC plan to recruit and deploy 100,000 volunteers, law students and lawyers to serve as poll watchers and observers.

Between the lines: The RNC, along with state Republican parties and groups including Stephen Miller's America First Legal, already have filed dozens of election-related lawsuits in 25 states.

  • Several of the lawsuits seek to prevent states from counting mail-in ballots that are missing a date or that are received after Election Day.

Others are challenging whether states have maintained accurate voter registration lists, prevented noncitizens from voting and tightened voter ID rules.

  • Republicans have won a couple of the lawsuits, including one in New York that struck down a law that allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections.
  • The GOP also won a Pennsylvania case: A court ruled undated mail-in ballots shouldn't be counted.

Zoom in: The swing state of Wisconsin, which Biden won by less than 1 point in 2020, has been a hotbed of legal activity.

  • "We are going to have deployed attorneys specifically for Milwaukee ... and roaming attorneys for Racine and Kenosha," Mike Hoffman, the RNC's Wisconsin director for the unit, told 50 conservative activists last month on a training call, the New York Times reported.
  • Republicans have filed complaints against elections officials in Milwaukee and Madison — heavily Democratic cities — along with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The complaints allege Republicans were denied poll worker positions in the state's April primary election.

The other side: Democrats are responding to the onslaught of GOP lawsuits with legal challenges of their own. Some are spearheaded by the Democratic National Committee and election lawyer Marc Elias' firm, which is operating independently from the Biden campaign.

  • A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from voters represented by Elias' firm that sought to block Wisconsin's law requiring voters to secure a witness signature when casting an absentee ballot.

The DNC and the Biden campaign are building out their own election litigation team to respond to GOP lawsuits.

  • "The DNC has built a robust voter-protection operation, investing tens of millions of dollars to protect against MAGA Republicans' assault on our voting rights," DNC spokesperson Alex Floyd told Axios.
  • Democrats have challenged some GOP lawsuits, including a pair in Arizona targeting the state's election procedures. They're also challenging North Carolina's 2023 law that made it tougher to register to vote on Election Day.
Go deeper