Judge to lawyers in Trump mail-in ballot lawsuit against New Jersey: Hurry up

09/08/2020 

Politico

A man walks past a vote-by-mail drop box for the New Jersey primary election outside the Camden, N.J., Administration Building. 

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A federal judge had a message Tuesday for those involved in the Trump campaign’s lawsuit to stop New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s plans to hold the November election primarily by mail: Hurry up.

“This matter was filed and it was presumably referring to the election in November, but it was filed in ordinary course,” U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, who sits in Trenton, told lawyers on the case. “By the time this matter is fully briefed and presented to the court, we’re going to be butting up against the election.”

Shipp’s hastily called teleconference came shortly after POLITICO reported that the Trump campaign has not sought to hasten the case after filing the lawsuit on Aug. 18, despite calling Murphy’s election plans a “recipe for disaster.”

Lawyers for the Trump campaign never filed a motion to halt the plans before the full case is decided.

“It needs to proceed a lot quicker than that. I’m just not sure why this was not filed with any urgency,” Shipp said.

Context: Murphy last month signed in an executive order requiring that every active registered voter in New Jersey be sent a mail-in ballot, which they can mail back, place in a drop box or deliver to poll workers on Election Day. Voters can also cast provisional ballots in person on Election Day.

The Trump campaign, joined by the Republican National Committee and New Jersey Republican State Committee, sued on the grounds that Murphy usurped the Legislature’s power by unilaterally ordering the mail-in election, and that the election plans violate the U.S. Constitution’s Electors and Elections clauses as well as the 14th Amendment.

The Legislature late last month passed a bill essentially writing Murphy’s executive order into law. Murphy quickly signed the bill, undermining a key argument in Trump’s lawsuit about legislative authority.

Impact: If the lawsuit succeeds, it’s not clear how it will affect the Nov. 3 election, as some county clerks plan to start mailing voters ballots this week.

What’s next: The Trump campaign told Shipp it plans to file an amended complaint within the next few days to address the recent legislative action. Attorneys for the state of New Jersey and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which joined the case as an intervenor for the state, said they plan to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Shipp said he’d hold off on filing a briefing schedule until the Trump campaign submits its amended complaint. But he told the lawyers to be ready to get on the line soon after.

“I don’t want to push the court against the wall here,” Shipp said.

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