Election-Litigation Data: 2018, 2020, 2022 State and Federal Court Filings

In recent years, litigation has routinely accompanied elections. To better understand developments in election litigation, we recently completed a survey of election-related lawsuits filed in state and federal courts in 2018, 2020, and 2022. Our full data set and methodology are available below.

Our findings suggest three notable takeaways.

First, the volume of election-related lawsuits remained high in 2022. By way of context, legal scholars including Richard Hasen and Derek Muller have observed the rise in election litigation in the past decade. But there was reason to wonder whether the heavily litigated, mid-pandemic 2020 presidential election litigation was anomalous. Our findings suggest that the election litigation in 2020 was not a one-off. High levels of litigation persisted in 2022; they did not return to 2018 levels.

Second, while federal courts and federal lawsuits typically receive more attention, the bulk of this litigation has occurred in state courts, especially in 2022.

Chart of State vs Federal Litigation Volume 2018-2022

Third, the kinds of cases state courts are hearing increasingly focus on the mechanics of how elections are run. To be sure, plaintiffs continue to bring suits challenging redistricting maps, ballot measures, and other more traditional election claims. But plaintiffs are bringing more suits focused on ballot signature and date requirements, rules governing poll watchers, dropboxes, and other granular aspects of managing an election.

For example, in 2022, plaintiffs in Wisconsin filed over a dozen challenges to rules governing voter registration, ballot address line requirements, and ballot spoiling, all in state court. Pennsylvania courts reviewed similar challenges. And courts in Arizona, Michigan, and Ohio heard cases concerning various rules and regulations governing poll watchers and election volunteers.

Chart of 2022 State Litigation

SDRI’s Miriam Seifter and Adam Sopko discuss preliminary findings from this survey in an essay for The Conversation and in a forthcoming contribution to the Illinois Law Review’s Symposium on Election Law.

The full data is viewable and available for download below. Click on the title to download.


Recommended Citation: Miriam Seifter & Adam Sopko, Election-Litigation Data: 2018, 2020, 2022 State and Federal Court Filings, State Democracy Rsch. Initiative (Mar. 21, 2023), https://statedemocracy.law.wisc.edu/research/2023/election-litigation-database-2018-2020-2022-state-and-federal-court-filings/