Appeals court rules in favor of Trump campaign on Ohio voter intimidation

Story highlights

  • The court's order provided no reasoning for its decision
  • Democrats have filed pre-emptive lawsuits in several states

Washington (CNN)A federal appeals court on Sunday, in a win for the Trump campaign, blocked a broad district court order concerning allegations of voter intimidation against the campaign and Ohio Republicans.

A three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Ohio Democratic Party had not "demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits" in its attempt to show that the Trump campaign and the Ohio Republican Party had engaged in efforts to prevent minority voters from voting during the election.
    The court's order provided no reasoning for its decision and was issued by three judges who were nominated by Republican presidents. Judge Richard Allen Griffin and John M. Rogers were appointed by George W. Bush, and Judge Alice M. Batchelder by George H.W. Bush.
    After the ruling, Marc Elias, the lead lawyer for the Democrats, suggested he could appeal. Elias tweeted "more to come" and said that the appeals court order was issued "without full rsesponse and virtually no analysis."
    "We are stunned that a court would rule without even allowing one of the parties to file a memo explaining their case, but that is exactly what the 6th Circuit has done in this decision. We are exploring our options to reverse this unfortunate ruling," said Kirstin Alvanitakis, Communications Director, Ohio Democratic Party.
    Democrats could appeal the order either to a large panel of the 6th Circuit, or to the Supreme Court.
    Democrats have filed similar lawsuits in Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania, and so far Republicans have won three of those cases, although the Pennsylvania case has not yet been heard.
    Sunday's order reverses an order filed yesterday by Judge James Gwin of the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. He mostly sided with Democrats against Trump and Roger Stone's group "Stop the Steal" and issued a temporary restraining order. The order also applied to the Clinton campaign.
    The Trump campaign Saturday morning appealed the ruling to the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
    Gwin's ruling, the campaign said, "literally imposes a comprehensive election code the court will apparently continue to invent on the fly."
    In Arizona, a federal judge late Friday rejected a similar request from Democrats for a restraining order.
    Among actions prohibited under Gwin's order: "Hindering or delaying a voter or prospective voter from reaching or leaving the polling place," participating in "unauthorized 'poll watching'" activities, including "challenging or questioning voters or prospective voters about their eligibility to vote, or training, organizing, or directing others to do the same" and "interrogating, admonishing, interfering with, or verbally harassing voters or prospective voters."
    Campaigns and individuals are also barred from questioning voters "under the guise of the purported 'exit polling' or 'citizen journalist' operations organized and encouraged by Defendants Stone and Stop the Steal."
    Gwin's order applies to Hillary Clinton's campaign as well.
    The Trump campaign denies it is participating in any illegal activity.
    "Intimidating voters is illegal, and the campaign does not remotely condone such conduct," Trump campaign lawyer Chad A. Readler of Jones Day wrote in a 15-page legal filing in Ohio earlier this week.
    "This case is one of four coordinated attacks across the country that are clearly long-planned efforts to sow chaos in the Defendants' political efforts, while garnering maximum publicity for Plaintiff's unsubstantiated, inflammatory claims on the eve of the Presidential Election," Readler added.
    Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said the legal action is necessary to limit any questionable activity that prevents voters from casting their ballots.
    "The concern has been if people were to act upon what Trump and what Roger Stone have been encouraging people to do that you'd have true intimidation and harassment that might scare voters off," Pepper said after the hearing. "I don't want voters to be at all worried about voting on Election Day."
    "We think Democrats and Republicans have every right to hand out leaflets at polls and everything else but what we don't want is harassment or intimidation and the judge is obviously trying to balance that," Pepper added.
    Gwin rejected a request for a restraining order against the state Republican Party.

    Rejected in Arizona

    In a similar lawsuit to the one in Ohio, Judge John J. Tuchi rejected Democrats' request for a restraining order against Trump and Stone in Arizona.
    "[W]hatever the shortcomings of the Trump Campaign's statements on this issue might be, simply arguing there is voter fraud and urging people to watch out for it is not, without more, sufficient to justify the extraordinary relief that an injunction constitutes," Tuchi wrote.
    "VICTORY-Ariz Fed Court dismisses phony lawsuit 2 prevent EXIT POLL by @StoptheSteal.org 2 "You have no case" he says to Dem thugs," Stone tweeted.