Election 2020

As Biden Inches Ahead, Trump Lays the Groundwork for a Challenge

Lawsuits by the Republican Party are criticized as specious.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

Election workers count ballots on Nov. 4 in Philadelphia.
Election workers count ballots on Nov. 4 in Philadelphia. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As former Vice President Joe Biden pulled ahead on Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. presidential election, winning the key battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan, President Donald Trump’s campaign filed a series of lawsuits setting the stage for a bitter showdown in the days and weeks to come. 

In Michigan, the campaign filed a lawsuit to halt the tallying of mail-in ballots, claiming members of the Trump campaign had not had sufficient access to observe the count. In the state’s largest city, Detroit, Republican vote challengers gathered outside of a convention center demanding to be let into the room where the vote count was taking place. Police were called in to push back the crowds clamoring to get in. 

In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign said it would seek a recount even before Biden was officially declared to be the winner. Biden flipped the state, with 49.6 percent of the vote to Trump’s 48.9 percent as of this writing. Candidates are entitled to request a recount if the margin of victory is less than 1 percent. While recounts can lead to a readjustment in the vote tally, they rarely lead to a change in the overall results, the Wall Street Journal reported

In Pennsylvania, which carries 20 Electoral College votes, the campaign is pursuing a multipronged legal strategy. It is suing to halt the vote count and asking the Supreme Court to join a case filed by the Pennsylvania Republican Party challenging a rule that allows votes to be counted up to three days after the election—so long as the postmark indicates they were mailed by Election Day. The campaign has also mounted a legal challenge over voter identification laws in the state. At a press conference held at the Philadelphia airport on Wednesday afternoon, the president’s son Eric Trump claimed, without evidence, that Democrats were “trying to cheat” in the state. 

The campaign has also filed a suit in Georgia, asking a judge to ensure that proper procedures were followed in the handling of absentee ballots.

Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday defended the president’s threat to challenge the results in court, saying: “In a close election you can anticipate in some of these states you’re going to end up in court,” he said, describing it as “the American way.” 

International election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe criticized Trump’s allegations of impropriety in the vote count. “Baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harm public trust in democratic institutions,” said German lawmaker Michael Georg Link, who led the delegation. 

Amy Mackinnon is a national security and intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @ak_mack

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