US President Donald Trump speaks about the first results of the 2020 US presidential election in the east room of the White House in Washington, USA, on November 4, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump’s campaign on Wednesday said it had filed lawsuits to stop ballot counting in Michigan and Pennsylvania as the campaign called for improved access to monitor the counting process at numerous locations in these battlefield states.
The states have a combined stake of 36 electoral college voters.
The Trump campaign said its lawsuit in Michigan requires that the campaign “review” the ballots … “which were opened and counted while we had no meaningful access.”
In Pennsylvania, the campaign announced that it would intervene in an existing Supreme Court case relating to the state’s extension of the deadline for receiving ballots.
Regardless, the campaign is filing two legal steps: one to stop what the campaign called “hiding” Democratic officials for “counting and processing ballots from our Republican election observers,” and the other to try to reverse an order to extend the deadline for absenteeism and mail-in voters in order to provide missing proof of identification.
When the actions were announced, Trump’s inner circle prematurely and falsely tried to claim victory for the president in Pennsylvania, although the count there remained incomplete.
The announcements come as the incumbent Republican faces an extremely close race against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as two other battlefields, Georgia and Nevada.
At the time the lawsuits were announced, NBC News reported that Biden led Trump with 49.5% of the votes cast in Michigan, compared with 48.8% for Trump, which is less than 38,000 votes ahead.
A total of 94% of the state’s ballot papers had been counted so far. In Michigan there are 16 votes for the electoral college.
In Pennsylvania, where 20 electoral college votes are at stake, Trump was in the lead with 3,099,477 votes, or 52.3%, compared with 2,745,468 votes, or 46.4% for Biden. A total of 83% of the expected votes were cast in Pennsylvania, which does not expect a final result for days.
NBC News has the current electoral college vote at 237 for Biden and 214 for Trump. To win the presidency, a candidate must get at least 270 votes from the electoral college.
The suits were announced after Trump suggested, without evidence, that Michigan had “found” ballot papers denying a victory to John James, the Republican candidate for the Michigan Senate race.
“With the votes in Michigan still counting, the president’s race in the state remains extremely close, as we’ve always known it to be,” said Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager.
“President Trump’s campaign was not given meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of the ballot papers and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law,” Stepien said.
“We filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Court of Claims today to stop counting until meaningful access is granted. We also request a review of the ballots that were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access,” said Stepien.
“President Trump is campaigning for all legal votes in Michigan and everywhere else to be counted.”
Biden’s campaign spokesman Andrew Bates replied, “When Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by roughly the same number of votes as Joe Biden, or Michigan won with fewer votes than Joe Biden is now, he bragged about a landslide, ‘and called recounting efforts’ sad’.” “
“What makes these charades particularly pathetic is that while Trump demands recounts in places he has already lost, he is simultaneously making unsuccessful attempts to stop the count in other states where he is on the path to defeat” said Bates.
“This is not the behavior of a successful campaign. Plain and simple, Donald Trump lost Wisconsin, he lost Michigan and he lost the presidency. In other words, ‘It is what it is.'”
Jordan Acker, a Michigan attorney and Democratic election observer who watched the constituency at the TCF Center in Detroit, mocked Trump campaign claims that there was insufficient access to counting stations.
“It’s honestly ridiculous,” Acker told CNBC in an interview.
He said when he got to the center around 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday, there were Republican poll workers in the counting room.
“There’s a Republican at every table,” said Acker.
“The people counting these ballots are incredibly professional, they do whatever they’re supposed to,” he said.
Acker said the lawsuit was an act of “desperation” by Republicans.
“They’re trying to keep it close enough that they have a way to do a recount,” Acker said.
He predicted that Biden Michigan would win, just as the Biden campaign said it would.
A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel responded to the lawsuit: “Michigan’s elections were conducted transparently, with access to both political parties and the public, and a solid system of checks and balances used to ensure that all ballots were cast are counted fairly and accurately. “
“At this point in time, our department has not yet been notified of this lawsuit by the Court of Claims. If we are served, we will look into it and act accordingly,” said spokesman Ryan Jarvi. “Michigan will always protect the right of all voters to have their ballots counted.”
Michigan State Secretary Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday the state will finish counting ballots by Thursday morning.
Benson said Michigan is focused on “counting every single ballot”.
– Additional reporting from Kevin Breuninger