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Missouri Republicans dive into presidential election challenges

  

Attorney General Eric Schmitt has thrown his weight behind another state’s legal challenge of the 2020 presidential election results in four battleground states. 

His office filed an amicus brief Wednesday with the U.S. Supreme Court, leading 16 other states, in support of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s challenge of the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Texas filed the suit with the nation’s highest court earlier this week in what’s largely been seen as a longshot bid. Paxton alleged the four battleground states erroneously used the COVID-19 pandemic to circumvent their state legislatures and “unconstitutionally revised their state’s election statutes” — thus changing the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. 

“The allegations in the Bill of Complaints raise important questions about election integrity and public confidence in the administration of Presidential elections,” the recently-filed amicus brief said. 

The brief argued the U.S. Constitution includes a separation of powers provision to act as a “structural check on government that safeguards liberty.” It also alleged the four states abolished certain safeguards necessary to protect against fraud that could occur through voting by mail. 

“The integrity of our elections is of critical importance to maintaining our republic, both today and in future elections,” Schmitt said in a statement. “The stakes of protecting our Constitution, defending our liberty, and ensuring that all votes are counted fairly couldn’t be higher. With this brief, we are joining the fight.” 

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, who formerly served as Missouri’s attorney general, tweeted his support of Schmitt’s involvement Wednesday morning. 

But Chuck Hatfield, a partner at Stinson LLP, called the decision to join the matter “very unusual.” 

“The Missouri attorney general is asking the Supreme Court to invalidate what other states have done. I don’t think he’d want Pennsylvania suing us and trying to invalidate what we do in our state,” Hatfield told The Missouri Times. “This is really new territory, that a state is going to reach in and try to invalidate another state’s decisions on voting. … It’s a whole new theory, and I don’t think it has ever happened before.”

Aside from Missouri, other attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia joined the brief.

Schmitt is scheduled to meet privately with President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday along with some of the other attorneys general from the brief.

Future elections

Earlier this week, House Speaker Elijah Haahr also filed an election-related amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court — this one regarding rules governing future elections. 

On social media, Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr said election integrity is “the cornerstone of our democracy.” (PROVIDED/TIM BOMMEL)

Haahr, along with other lawmakers from across the country, said the brief was to highlight the role state legislatures play in ensuring fair elections. But the legislators also sought an adoption by the U.S. Supreme Court of “clear, comprehensible, and predictable legal standards to govern disputes” for future elections. 

“Lawmakers across the country, in fulfilling their constitutional duty to regulate the ‘Time, Places, and Manner’ of elections, should have a fair opportunity to enact neutral voting regulations without subjecting state officials to a flood of lawsuits — lawsuits which are often filed after voting has begun and force state officials to change rules and regulations mid-election,” the brief said. 

On social media, Haahr, a Republican, said election integrity is “the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Haahr was joined by Paul Gazelka, majority leader of the Minnesota Senate; David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House; Ron Ryckman, speaker of the Kansas House; Brady Brammer, member of the Utah House; Matt Simpson, member of the Alabama House; Mike Shirkey, majority leader of the Michigan Senate; and Lee Chatfield, speaker of the Michigan House. 

All of the signees are Republicans. The underlying lawsuit is the ongoing battle between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Arizona over the state’s ballot harvesting rules. Harvesting is the third-party collection of ballots to be delivered to the appropriate authorities. 

“We don’t allow ballot harvesting in Missouri, but, if we did, we would want to have the opportunity to regulate it for election integrity,” Haahr told The Missouri Times. 

What about Missouri?

Former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Trump in the November election — but multiple states have been embroiled in legal challenges mounted by the president and his supporters as he has refused to concede. But in Missouri, where results were officially certified Tuesday, the election is uncontested: Trump beat Biden by nearly 16 points. 

Missouri elections did change slightly this year as the state, like the rest of the country, grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Municipal elections scheduled for April were moved to June, and Gov. Mike Parson OK’d a bill expanding access to different voting options due to the health crisis. Under the new law, voters could request a mail-in ballot for the 2020 elections from a local election authority (which required notarization), and individuals who contracted the virus or were considered to be high-risk could vote absentee without notarization. 

Since, some Missouri lawmakers have pointed to the success of the November election and called for the adoption of no-excuse absentee or other expanded voting options for future elections. 

At the executive level, aside from Schmitt, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has been vocal about his concern that “convenience” is overshadowing “integrity” with elections across the U.S.

“I think this country went in the wrong direction with states that were just willy-nilly mailing ballots out to people,” Ashcroft said in an interview with The Missouri Times last month. “Is the purpose of an election just to elect your person, or is the purpose of an election truly for legal voters to vote for who they want?” 

Ashcroft also spoke at a rally inside the Missouri Capitol in support of Trump last month. Those who gathered in the rotunda questioned Biden’s victory and alleged election fraud. 

According to an analysis from NBC News, most lawsuits filed as a challenge to the presidential elections have been withdrawn or dismissed.

This story has been updated. It was originally published Dec. 9.