At one point citing The Lord of the Rings, two unusual lawsuits filed in Texas seek to invalidate the results of the federal election. They call for every vote in the election, which President Joe Biden won, to be voided. Every member of Congress is out, too.
Legal experts say they stand no chance.
Filed by attorneys Paul Davis and Kellye SoRelle, the lawsuits claim changes in the election procedures implemented across the country violated the 2002 Help America Vote Act. The two originally filed it on behalf of the conservative groups Latinos for Trump, Blacks for Trump and others. Since then, they've parted ways and are pursuing separate lawsuits. Davis said they're essentially the same. SoRelle didn't respond to a request for comment.
Failure to abide by the Help America Vote Act “deprived every single U.S. citizen … in the 2020 election,” the suits claim. It demands that the federal courts take over the government until a new Congress
The Help America Vote Act was enacted to address allegations of “fraud in the 2000” election. It set forth minimum requirements that the lawsuit claims weren’t upheld during the 2020 elections. The requirements stipulate duties regarding mail-in ballots, registration of voters by mail, highly detailed voter identification processes and others that the lawsuit claims weren’t met.
According to the original complaint, federal and state officials engaged in “selective enforcement” to fraudulently certify the election as valid. They failed to meet these requirements using “unlawful states rights claims,” the original suit claims.
“The evidence that will come forth in the course of this lawsuit will establish an intentional concert of conduct between federal, state and local government officials and various partisan enterprises that should be considered a boot to the throat of every American who believes that the Constitution of the United States guarantees every citizen the right to a government elected by the people,” the lawsuit read.
Legal and elections expertsa say these efforts don't have legs. For example, Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, told Salon the basis for the complaints is illogical and misunderstands the Help America Vote Act as well as the relationship between the U.S. Constitution, federal law and state election laws.
The lawyers’ names may ring a bell.
Davis was the attorney who lost his job after he posted videos of himself on Instagram at the Capitol during the insurrection on Jan. 6.
As Congress ratified the electoral vote Jan. 6, Davis stood outside. "We’re all trying to get into the Capitol to stop this,” he said in one of the video clips. Davis wasn't arrested because authorities said there wasn't evidence he committed an overt act of violence. He’s maintained that he was peacefully protesting that day. Davis calls his suit "the people's lawsuit."
“I am confident that we have the evidence we need to prove our case. Whether the courts will do the right thing, that’s anyone’s guess,” Davis told the Observer.
SoRelle, a Texas attorney, made the news when she posted a video in November that purported to show voter fraud in Detroit. It claimed someone was bringing ballots in after counting was stopped in Michigan. They were proven to just be a film crew leaving a counting center. She’s also listed as the general counsel for the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government militia that allegedly participated in the Capitol riot.
Their suits name high profile individuals, such as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg alongside all current members of the 117th Congress as well as every state governor and the complete list of secretaries of state.
The only plaintiff whose full name is included in the original suit is Joshua Macias, co-founder of the group Vets for Trump. Macias was also at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and faces a court motion to revoke his bail from a previous arrest. That arrest occurred in November after he and a friend brought a semiautomatic rifle and a samurai sword to a ballot processing center in Philadelphia.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, told Salon, “This legal effort to declare Congress illegitimate will be laughed out of court and could lead to sanctions for the lawyer bringing such a claim.”
As if the claims weren't bizarre enough, a motion attached to the original lawsuit cited The Lord of the Rings in its request to have the entire U.S. government, except the judicial branch, placed into "stewardship." Stewards figure prominently in the elf-filled land of Middle Earth. “Gondor has no king,” the lawsuit states.
Davis said people have blown The Lord of the Rings reference out of proportion. "The media made such a big deal about that and acted liked I cited [the movie] as a legal authority, presumably to distract from the merits of the case," he said. "It was one line used as an analogy. Lawyers frequently make analogies to literature and pop culture."
Just in case the judges had trouble making sense of this analogy, which would be tragic since the rest of the lawsuit is gibberish, a footnote with an explanation is provided:
'During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as "Aragorn," occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.'
(Editor's note: Here's hoping for his sake that Davis' grasp of election law is better than his grip on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic work. In the meantime, he might want to keep an eye out for nerdy guys in elf costumes looking to bean him with inhalers. "Abandoned" the throne. The nerve.)
America’s equivalent to the stewards of Gondor are Trump’s cabinet members. Sticking with that analogy, they would run the country until Trump’s return. It's a happy fate for Gondor, not so much for American democracy.
(Editor's Note 2: Of course, other analogies to The Lord of the Rings also work. Mike Pence = Nazgûl, amiright?)
(Editor's Note 3: I AM NOT A GEEK.)
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