Trump’s Challenge to the 2020 Vote: A State-By-State Guide

November 11, 2020by Bob Van Voris and Mark Niquette, Bloomberg News
Rallygoers deliver the "Count Every Vote" message in the wake of the presidential election results on November 7, 2020, in Detroit. (Scott Legato/MoveOn/Getty Images/TNS)

President Donald Trump’s challenge to the 2020 election results runs through six battleground states, five of which he won in 2016. This time around, Democrat Joe Biden has five-digit vote leads in all six states with some counting continuing, including three where he leads by more than 35,000 votes in each.

In order to reverse the results of last week’s vote and get the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, Trump would need to move at least three of those states into this column. He’s trying to achieve this through some combination of lawsuits and recounts that he hopes can flip the results. Experts say that would be a long shot in any one of the states and a virtual impossibility in several of them.

Here’s where Trump’s efforts stand in each of those six states:

PENNSYLVANIA (20 electoral votes)

Biden has been projected the winner. Lead on Tuesday afternoon (votes reported): 47,613 (98%)

Legal challenges: Pennsylvania, the biggest prize among the battleground states with close vote tallies, has been a particular focus of suits seeking to challenge Biden’s win. The Trump campaign asked a Pennsylvania federal court to block certification of the state’s election results, contending it wasn’t given adequate access to observe the vote-counting process in Democratic-leaning counties. Trump and Republicans have also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate mail-in ballots that arrived as long as three days after Election Day but were mailed before the election. The campaign and other Republicans have made similar and additional claims in a number of lawsuits targeting county election boards in the state.

Recount potential: Biden’s lead is currently above the 0.5% margin that would trigger an automatic recount.

Political landscape: Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, both Democrats, have sparred with Republican state legislative leaders over the rules governing the election and the tortuous way in which the count unfolded. Some GOP senators and conservative commentators have suggested the Republican-controlled state legislature should ignore the vote count and send a slate of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College, but state Republican leaders have so far denied that’s an option.

Bottom line: Getting the late-arriving ballots tossed wouldn’t be enough to swing Pennsylvania to Trump. The state says fewer than 10,000 votes fit that bill, and they’re not included in the current count led by Biden. Trump would need to get an unprecedented number of votes invalidated to change the outcome, but most legal experts say that’s extremely unlikely given the lack of evidence of voter fraud that his campaign has put forward.

GEORGIA (16 electoral votes)

Biden’s lead (votes reported): 12,293 (>98%)

Legal challenges: One suit was filed in state court in Chatham County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Savannah, alleging invalid late-arriving votes were being mingled with valid ballots. It was dismissed almost immediately for lack of evidence.

Recount potential: Georgia doesn’t have automatic recounts, but the secretary of state has said one will be conducted. But most experts say the margin is large enough that the result is unlikely to change. The Trump campaign has put Republican Representative Doug Collins, a close ally of the president, in charge of overseeing the recount for them.

Political landscape: Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and both U.S. senators are all Republicans. But Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both face run-off elections in early January, have called on Raffensperger to resign over the vote count that turned against Trump. He has refused.

Bottom line: Trump’s hopes rest on the recount, but those hopes are very slim.

MICHIGAN (16 electoral votes)

Biden has been projected the winner. Lead (votes reported): 148,645 (>98%)

Legal challenges: Two Republican poll challengers sued claiming voter fraud during ballot-counting in Detroit and asking for an order blocking certification of the election results in the city. The Trump campaign also sued, unsuccessfully, to try to block the vote count, claiming “severely troubling irregularities” at the TCF Center ballot processing location in Detroit.

Recount potential: Biden’s lead is far beyond the 2,000-vote margin for an automatic recount in Michigan. The Trump campaign may request a recount at its expense.

Political landscape: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are Democrats, while both the state House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.

Bottom line: A court order blocking certification of Detroit’s results could conceivably swing the outcome but is very, very unlikely. The vote margin is almost certainly too large for a recount to change.

ARIZONA (11 electoral votes)

Biden has been projected the winner by the Associated Press and Fox News but not by other major television networks. Lead (votes reported): 14,746 (98%)

Legal challenges: The Trump campaign claimed in a suit that “up to thousands” of voters in Maricopa County, the state’s largest population center, were disenfranchised because poll workers directed them to override a ballot rejection by pressing a green button on the voting machine that actually disqualified their votes. According to the AP, a lawyer for the county said the number of votes that might be affected by such disqualification is probably about 200.

Recount potential: In Arizona an automatic recount is triggered by the lesser of one-tenth of 1% of the number of votes cast for both candidates, or a margin of 200 votes or less.

Political landscape: Gov. Doug Ducey is a Republican, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is a Democrat, and both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by Republicans.

Bottom line: About 57,000 ballots remain to be counted. Though Arizona is very close, there are currently no apparent options for the president to alter the race.

NEVADA (6 electoral votes)

Biden has been projected the winner. Lead (votes reported): 36,274 (97%)

Legal challenges: One lawsuit filed by two Republican congressional candidates claiming that the election in Clark County, a heavily Democratic area that includes Las Vegas, was “plagued by irregularities” was dismissed after the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence. The Trump campaign said it would sue over 10,000 votes that were illegally cast by people no longer residing in the state, but it’s unclear how many of those votes are actually illegal. The Wall Street Journal has reported that many of the votes at issue were actually cast by members of the U.S. military serving overseas.

Recount potential: There are no automatic recounts in Nevada, though the Trump campaign can request one.

Political landscape: Gov. Steve Sisolak is a Democrat and the legislature is controlled by Democrats, but Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske is a Republican.

Bottom line: Trump lost this state in 2016 but hoped to flip it this time. The number of votes Republicans say they may contest is smaller than Biden’s margin of victory, and a recount is extremely unlikely to change the results.

WISCONSIN (10 electoral votes)

Biden has been projected the winner. Lead (votes reported): 20,539 (>98%)

Legal challenges: There have been no significant lawsuits filed in the state.

Recount potential: Wisconsin doesn’t have automatic recounts but allows requested recounts when the margin is under 1%, as it is here. The Trump campaign has said it will request a recount, which it will have to pay for.

Political landscape: Gov. Tony Evers is a Democrat, and the legislature is controlled by Republicans, but elections are run by a state elections commission with a nonpartisan staff.

Bottom line: It’s very unlikely a recount will alter Biden’s margin.


(c)2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC


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