Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, et al. v. Trump and Trump Campaign

Date Filed: 11/20/2020

On November 20 2020, LDF filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and three Detroit residents in a lawsuit challenging President Trump and the Trump Campaign’s ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by disenfranchising Black voters in Michigan, specifically efforts to pressure state and local officials not to count or certify votes.

The lawsuit alleges that both the president and his campaign are in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Section 1985(3) of the KKK Act. Exerting pressure on state and local officials not to count or certify voters is prohibited by Section 11(b) because it involves conduct that “intimidate[s], threaten[s], or coerce[s], or attempt[s] to intimidate, threaten, or coerce” people involved in “aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote.” Under the Voting Rights Act, voting is specifically defined to include “all action necessary to make a vote effective in any … election, including, but not limited to … having such ballot counted properly and included in the appropriate totals of votes cast with respect to candidates for public or party office and propositions for which votes are received in an election.” Section 1985(3) of the KKK Act prohibits two or more persons from conspiring to deny “either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws,” to “prevent[] or hinder[] the constituted authorities of any State or Territory from giving or securing to all persons within such State or Territory the equal protection of the laws,” or “to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for President or Vice President, or as a Member of Congress of the United States.”

“For two weeks, the president and his campaign have been spreading misinformation and making baseless accusations of voting irregularities in cities with large concentrations of Black voters who participated in record numbers in this election,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “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.”

On December 21 2020, LDF filed an amended complaint, adding NAACP as a Plaintiff and the Republican National Committee as a Defendant as well as further allegations of Defendants’ conduct in systematically seeking to disenfranchise voters in numerous states during and after the 2020 election cycle. The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants: encouraged their supporters to slow and attempt to stop vote counting efforts in tightly contested states, pressured state and local officials not to certify election results, raised baseless challenges to the validity of legally cast ballots, and engaged media campaigns designed to intimidate and misinform voters and election officials 

The defendants filed a motion to transfer the case from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to the Eastern District of Michigan, where certain of the Plaintiffs reside. Plaintiffs filed an opposition to transfer, arguing that the at issue-conspiracy was directed in and from DC, where both Defendants Trump and the RNC were located and engaged in relevant conduct, and the case does not implicate claims or conduct that occurred, or witnesses that are located, exclusively or even primarily, in the Eastern District of Michigan. Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. We are currently awaiting decisions on both motions.

In December 2022, a federal court ruled in favor of LDF and its clients in Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, et. al. v. Donald J. Trump, et. al., LDF and co-counsel Jenner & Block represent the NAACP and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization in this case.

The Court’s ruling will allow LDF and co-counsel to proceed with filing a second amended complaint on behalf of the Plaintiffs. The Complaint alleges that former President Trump sought to prevent the counting and certification of legally cast ballots in an effort to overturn the will of the voters and ensure that then-President Trump remained in office despite losing the 2020 election. The Complaint further alleges that there is a substantial risk that President Trump, and the other Defendants, will engage in similar election subversion measures in the future, in violation of Plaintiffs’ federal civil rights.