U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp today rejected a bid by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign for a preliminary injunction to overturn Gov. Phil Murphys’ order of a general election conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots.
Shipp found that the Trump campaign and two other plaintiffs, the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey Republican State Committee, failed to establish a likelihood that they would succeed on the merits of their claim “because Federal Election Day statutes do not preempt the challenged regulations.”
“The court must not only consider the public’s interest in the election, but also the public’s interest in the crisis the precipitated New Jersey’s new election regulations: the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shipp wrote in his ruling. “Here, the risk is not just voters remaining away from the polls, but also voters traveling to the polls.
According to Shipp, it is “foreseeable that an injunction on the eve of the by-mail election could prompt such confusion or distrust that voters opt to avoid the mail system altogether and cast provisional ballots in person.”
“Such an outcome would defeat the purpose of the vote-by-mail election and needlessly force voters and poll workers into close proximity,” Shipp wrote.
The Trump campaign sued Murphy in August alleging that his executive order forcing a general election conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots was unconstitutional.
The Republican National Committee and the New Jersey Republican State Committee joined Trump in filing the legal action. The DCCC and the Atlantic County Democrats, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and the New Jersey NAACP joined the case as interested third parties.
Trump and the Republicans filed an order to show cause two weeks to determine why a federal judge should not stop New Jersey from early counting of general election ballots and permitting mail-in ballots with no postmark to be accepted up to 48 hours after Election Day.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) filed a motion on Friday to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Despite unprecedented conditions, New Jersey is committed to having fair and safe elections this November,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “We’re grateful that today a federal court recognized what we’ve said all along: New Jersey’s approach to this year’s election is lawful, and any arguments trying to undermine our election are simply misguided. We will continue to defend New Jersey’s elections rules against any court challenge.”
This story was updated at 6:03 PM with comment from Grewal.