By Sean Boynton
Thursday November 5, 2020
Chester County, Pa. election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 general election in the United States at West Chester University, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in West Chester, Pa. MATT SLOCUM / AP PHOTO
U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign has turned to the courts in multiple states in an attempt to stop vote counting and invalidate ballots yet to be counted, as the presidential election remains too close to call.
Trump’s path to the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure a second term has narrowed considerably after Democrat Joe Biden picked up some key states — one of which is being targeted by Trump’s lawyers and local Republicans.
The Trump campaign is also requesting a recount in Wisconsin, while the U.S. Postal Service is embroiled in its own legal battle.Here are the lawsuits and challenges that have been filed so far, which are set to play out over the coming days and possibly weeks.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Trump campaign asked a judge to halt ballot counting in Pennsylvania, claiming that Republicans had been unlawfully denied access to observe the process. No fraudulent or illegal activity has been reported in the state.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday called the suit “wrong” and promised all votes will be counted. Election officials said they will segregate properly postmarked ballots that arrived after Election Day.
Meanwhile, Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision from the state’s highest court that allowed election officials to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrived through Friday. Trump’s campaign filed a motion to intervene in the case Wednesday.
The Supreme Court’s conservative justices said last week there was not enough time to decide the merits of the case before Election Day but indicated they might revisit it afterwards.
Republican officials on Tuesday sued election officials in Montgomery County, which borders Philadelphia, accusing them of illegally counting mail-in ballots early and giving voters who submitted defective ballots a chance to re-vote.
As of Wednesday night and with 89 per cent of the vote counted, Trump is leading Biden in the state by three points with 50.9 per cent of counted ballots, according to the Associated Press.
Trump’s campaign said on Wednesday it had filed a lawsuit in Michigan to stop state officials from counting ballots.
The campaign said the case in the Michigan Court of Claims seeks to halt counting until it has an election inspector at each absentee voter counting board. The campaign also wanted to review ballots which were opened and counted before an inspector from its campaign was present.
The lawsuit accuses Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, of undermining the “constitutional right of all Michigan voters … to participate in fair and lawful elections.”
Benson called the lawsuit “frivolous” Wednesday afternoon, adding that all valid ballots cast in the state had been tabulated ahead of schedule in an “efficient, transparent, secure and methodical” way.
“Anyone who tells you otherwise is unhappy about the result,” she said.
Michigan was declared for Biden Wednesday evening by the Associated Press, which has him leading at 50.3 per cent compared to Trump’s 48.14 per cent. Only one per cent of ballots have yet to be counted, according to state officials.
The Trump campaign on Wednesday evening filed a lawsuit in state court in Chatham County, Georgia.
Unlike the Pennsylvania and Michigan actions, that lawsuit it not asking a judge to halt ballot counting. Instead, the campaign said it received information that late-arriving ballots were improperly mingled with valid ballots, and asked a judge to enter an order making sure late-arriving ballots were separated so they would not be counted.
Campaign officials said they were considering peppering a dozen other counties around the state with similar claims around absentee ballots.
The Associated Press says Trump is leading in Georgia by less than one percentage point, with 98 per cent of all ballots counted.
The Trump campaign says it will request a recount of all ballots in the state of Wisconsin after Biden was declared the winner of the state earlier Wednesday.
Campaign manager Bill Stepien cited “irregularities in several Wisconsin counties,” without providing specifics.
Under state law, a candidate is allowed to request a recount anytime the margin between two candidates is less than one percent if the campaign agrees to pay all fees.
According to the Associated Press, Biden won Wisconsin by 0.6 per cent with nearly all ballots counted.
The Nevada Supreme Court has given the Trump campaign and state Republicans until Monday to complete written filings in a case that attempted to stop mail-in ballot counting in Las Vegas.
The state’s high court is being asked to strike down a lower court’s rejection of the GOP’s effort to stop the counting in Clark County, where around 400,000 absentee ballots have been returned and accepted as valid, according to state election data.
The county, which includes Las Vegas, is a Democratic stronghold in an otherwise GOP-leaning state.
Trump campaign officials say they want transparency, while state Democrats say Republicans are trying to undermine the election.
Biden is leading in Nevada by less than one per cent, according to the Associated Press, with 75 per cent of all ballots counted. State election officials say they will release more results Thursday morning.
U.S. Postal Service litigation
A U.S. judge on Wednesday said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy must answer questions about why the U.S. Postal Service failed to complete a court-ordered sweep for undelivered ballots in about a dozen states before a Tuesday afternoon deadline.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is overseeing a lawsuit by Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates who have been demanding the postal service deliver mail-in ballots in time to be counted in the election.
The USPS on Wednesday disclosed it had found just 13 undelivered ballots in Pennsylvania after it completed required sweeps of mail processing facilities late Tuesday in about a dozen states.
In a court filing Wednesday, the Postal Service said “the lack of a destination or finalization scan does not mean that the ballots were not delivered.”
What the Biden camp is saying
Biden said Wednesday the count should continue in all states, adding, “No one’s going to take our democracy away from us — not now, not ever.”
His running mate Kamala Harris has echoed Biden’s comments and called for all ballots to be counted before a winner is declared.
Campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said legal challenges were not the behaviour of a winning campaign.
“What makes these charades especially pathetic is that while Trump is demanding recounts in places he has already lost, he’s simultaneously engaged in fruitless attempts to halt the counting of votes in other states in which he’s on the road to defeat,” Bates said in a statement.
At least 103 million people voted early, either by mail or in-person, representing 74 per cent of the total votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.
Every election, results reported on election night are unofficial and the counting of ballots extends past Election Day. Mail ballots normally take more time to verify and count. This year, because of the large numbers of mail ballots and a close race, results were expected to take longer.