It has come to my attention that there were many US states, being led by Texas, that are suing multiple key battleground states such as Michigan and Georgia for the way that they conduct their elections. I don't know the full details but it does seem like a way to make Trump get 270 electoral votes because if you flip those states into Trump's column they add up to 290 votes for Trump.

How is this legal for a state to do this? And has this ever happened before, especially on this scale? This is not a partisan question. How is a US state allowed to sue others in order to try to change the outcome of an election?

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    1) Using "bogus" may be seen to discredit regardless of the reason for choosing the word. 2) The complaint is based on allegations of fraud in "voting by mail", not "in-person voting". 3) This question is better suited to Law SE. See, What standing does one state have to determine if another state(s)' implementation of their own constitution violates the federal constitution?.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 16:01
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    One thing to note is that it's not precisely accurate to say that other states have joined the Texas effort. Their Republican attorneys general jointly signed a document asking the Supreme Court to consider the case, not necessarily representing any other political support from their state. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 16:08
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    IMNAL, however my reading of the claims by Texas does not address fraud at all, rather that the four states conducted their elections in a manner that Texas didn't like.
    – BobE
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 18:40
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    SCOTUS answered your question: Motion to file denied, 7-2 (Alito and Thomas dissenting)
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 0:07
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    @Sjoerd: Note that Alito and Thomas would simply have heard the suit, without any indication as to how they would have ruled.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 3:00

3 Answers 3


The suit isn't really about fraud. They are arguing that the four defendant states violated their own constitutions and the US Constitution with how they changed their election laws. The suit argues that all four changed their election laws via executive edict or court ruling, not via the state legislature like the US Constitution requires.

The suit argues that they have standing to sue because these unconstitutional changes may decide who the Vice President will be, and since the VP settles ties in the Senate and the Senate represents the States, then Texas has been injured.

States do have the right to sue each other, how else would they settle their differences? Usually the stakes aren't this high, but it does happen.

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    "...all four changed their election laws via executive edict or court ruling, not via the state legislature..." - So Texas is arguing that the state legislature was not aware of this court ruling/edict that changed the election laws? Or it was, and did nothing?
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 4:08
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    @BruceWayne I don't know all the specifics. I know a suit in PA alleging that the state constitution would require election law changes to be implemented via ballot measure, which did not happen. That suit was dismissed before the election for not having standing since no injury had happened yet. They brought it again, and it was dismissed again because there was no possible remedy. Can't sue before it happens, can't sue after it happens. Doesn't seem super fair to me.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 6:04
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    @BruceWayne Oh, almost forgot. If SCOTUS rules in favor of Texas, nothing is stopping the plaintiff state's legislatures from sending Biden electors anyways. All ruling in Texas's favor would do would be to disallow any unconstitutional ballots. It wouldn't demand PA's legislature to send Trump's electors.
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 6:30
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    @Ryan_L do you have any details of the no injury rejection before the election? I'm unable to find anything for pre-election law suits rejected for no-injury, possibly due to the sheer number of post-election ones rejected for a wide variety of reasons.
    – Jontia
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 15:23
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    @Jontia Assuming Ryan_L is talking about Kelly v. Boockvar, the claim that the suit was dismissed before the election is incorrect. The Kelly plaintiffs never brought a suit before the election; instead, they assert that they were prevented from suing before the election under precedent from Kauffman v. Osser. Whether Kauffman actually applies in this case, or whether standing could be found under a different standard (since Pennsylvania is more lenient in finding standing than federal courts) is a different question.
    – awksp
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 20:00

Obviously they are allowed to sue. Nobody can stop anyone from suing anyone else. The problem is what happens when they are in court. For the Pennsylvania lawsuit, the judge's reasoning to throw the case out was widely published in a 33 page document, that appeared even in the "newspapers" like the Daily Mail.

The hurdles to overcome to have their case actually heard and not straight rejected are these: First, they must have standing. Which means, THESE STATES must have been damaged in some way. It's hard to argue how Texas is damaged by something that Pennsylvania does which doesn't affect Texans. In Pennsylvania, they failed on that.

Second, they must ask for relief that the court can grant. The Pennsylvania court said: Even if you suffered damage, and even if you can prove it, I can't just throw out the votes of a few million voters. No way. Ask for something else that I can give you. So they failed there, no court is going to throw out votes of millions of people who were told that they were legitimately voting.

Third, in order for their case to be heard, they must give plausible reasons why the court should believe there might be wrongdoing. They don't have to give proof, that's what they need to do when the court case is heard, but they must give plausible reasons. Accusations, or saying that wrongdoing is possible, that's not enough. For example, if you state that you saw your neighbour walking out of your garden with a basket full of cherries that is probably plausible grounds to believe he stole them, enough for your theft case to be heard, but not evidence. In Pennsylvania and everywhere else, the Republicans failed in that area. They never gave more than accusations, never any plausible grounds why the judge should expect wrongdoing.

All together: These states have every right to sue, but will most likely not be able to get their case heard.

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    Or a better example might be the Pennsylvania legislator who tried to sue in the Supreme Court, and got a one-line rejection: buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/… I also wonder if the Supreme Court enforces penalties for filing frivolous lawsuits?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 3:56
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    @jamesqf SCOTUS has its own bar, so it can simply deny anyone that ticks it off from being able to argue cases before it as they want. Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 4:09
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    One slight correction here. They should most likely not be able to get their case heard - but an important fact is the makeup of the Supreme Court, where 3 of the 9 judges were appointed by Donald Trump. Trump has strongly implied that he now expects a quid pro quo from those judges, especially from Amy Coney Barratt, his most recent appointee. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court judges will base their decision on upholding the US Constitution and laws, or on loyalty to the person who appointed them.
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 12:47
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    Turns out someone did ask that question in Law.se: law.stackexchange.com/questions/59111/…
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 15:11
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    @Mark: Originalists in theory. In practice, originalists on the Supreme Court have been known to ignore both original understanding and original intent when it conflicts with their desired ends; it's a way of claiming an objective neutrality that just happens to largely align with specific political beliefs, and when the political beliefs conflict, originalism frequently gets thrown out the window. Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 3:33

Well, with 20/20 hindsight, Texas didn't have standing, according to SCOTUS' decision:

The State of Texas's motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution. Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot.

Of some note, Alito and Thomas dissented on the[ir] principle that all original jurisdiction cases need to be heard [in their view]:

Statement of Justice Alito, with whom Justice Thomas joins: In my view, we do not have discretion to deny the filing of a bill of complaint in a case that falls within our original jurisdiction. See Arizona v. California, 589 U. S. ___ (Feb. 24, 2020) (Thomas, J., dissenting). I would therefore grant the motion to file the bill of complaint but would not grant other relief, and I express no view on any other issue.

(From some stats I've seen, some 50% of original jurisdiction claims are rejected in this first phase though; by 2018: "In the three decades since 1961, only 102 motions asking leave to commence original jurisdiction actions have been filed by or against a state [...] Of those motions in state-party cases, the Supreme Court has denied 50, nearly half".)

To add this seemingly important bit to Ryan's answer, those 4 states merely changing their laws is apparently not enough for an actual injury. The claim also has as its final bullet point in its lead:

The appearance of voting irregularities in the Defendant States that would be consistent with the unconstitutional relaxation of ballot-integrity protections in those States’ election laws.

Which is almost certainly why the suit contains all those statistical attempts to prove that absent those laws-changes/"irregularities", Trump+Pence would have won.

So, yeah, the suit argues that (1) state election law/regulations changes (essentially that made mail-in ballots easier in 2020) were unconstitutional and (2) Trump+Pence would have won in the absence of those changes, i.e. had laws been enforced the same as in 2016.

A bunch of AGs (and governors) from other states have now filed briefs in opposition to that. To quote from Montana's counterarguments:

Texas’s claims under the Electors Clause hinge on its theory that voting procedures in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia conflict with the enactments of those states’ respective legislatures. But state election laws vary considerably. Hence, even accepting Texas’s premise that a state-law objection to a voting procedure could yield a federal constitutional violation, the Electors Clause analysis necessarily differs from state to state. Likewise, the susceptibility of state voting procedures to fraud, as well as states’ historical experiences with fraud, may differ from state to state. It is impossible for such allegations to be properly adjudicated in a single Original Action involving four States, with no factual record or legal conclusions by any lower court, on a highly expedited time frame.

When litigants did bring state-by-state challenges before the election, those challenges proved unsuccessful. Montana’s experience is a prime example. [...]

Of course, the Supreme Court has to decide on these conflicting viewpoints.

N.B. There's already a fairly lengthy Wikipedia page on the case. I won't try summarize the various commentaries here, but interestingly perhaps, Alan Dershowitz (who had defended Trump during impeachment) opined that the Texas suit was "creative but unlikely to win".

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    Sadly, 2020 isn't in hindsight yet.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 2:41
  • @HotLicks Woefully underrated comment.
    – zedmelon
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 17:27
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    "Of some note" - Alito and Thomas have a long-standing stance where they feel SCOTUS can't block states from filing original jurisdiction cases. They think it's mandatory or accept cases. This SCOTUS ruling said "you can't even file, because you can't offer a reason to be heard." Alito specifically said he would have allowed them to file, and THEN would have voted to reject their case. So their partial dissent wasn't really about this case, specifically. Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 18:50

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