WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — As election officials tallied votes in the handful of states that will decide the outcome of the presidential election, President Donald Trump pursued a litigation strategy.
The Trump campaign has alleged voting fraud, filed lawsuits and called for at least one state recount as it attacked the integrity of the U.S. voting system.
The filings demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, and raised absentee ballot concerns, the campaign said.
The Trump campaign filed legal challenges in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Trump’s campaign also announced that it would ask for a recount in Wisconsin, a state The Associated Press called for Biden on Wednesday. Campaign manager Bill Stepien cited “irregularities in several Wisconsin counties,” without providing specifics. The flurry of court action did not seem obviously destined to affect the election’s outcome.
As of Thursday morning, Trump has 214 Electoral College votes to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s 264 as of the latest AP race call of Michigan for Biden. The states that have not been called by the Associated Press are Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Alaska and Georgia.
Vote counting, meanwhile, stretched into Thursday. In every election, results reported on election night are unofficial and ballot counting extends past Election Day. But this year, states were contending with an avalanche of mail ballots driven by fears of voting in person during a pandemic.
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.
Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer on Thursday called the Trump campaign’s lawsuits meritless.
“I want to emphasize that for their purposes these lawsuits don’t have to have merit. That’s not the purpose. … It is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process,” Bauer said, accusing the Trump campaign of “continually alleging irregularities, failures of the system and fraud without any basis.”
But Trump campaign officials accused Democrats of trying to steal the election, despite no evidence anything of the sort was taking place.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, in a call with reporters Thursday morning, said that “every night the president goes to bed with a lead” and every night new votes “are mysteriously found in a sack.”
Here is where the lawsuits, vote recount requests stand in states as of Thursday afternoon:
A federal judge dismissed the Trump campaign motion for injunction to stop counting ballots and allow poll watcher access because of an agreement between the parties. The order does not say what the agreement is, just that the judge dismissed the motion for the injunction because of agreement between the campaign and Philadelphia Board of Elections.
NewsNation reached out to the Philadelphia Board of Elections and the Trump campaign for a statement but neither has responded with additional details on the particulars of their agreement.
On Thursday, a state appellate court ordered a Philadelphia judge to ensure that party and candidate observers can get up close to election workers processing mail-in ballots in the city. The decision came after the Trump campaign complained Tuesday that its observer could not get close enough to election workers to see the writing on the mail-in ballot envelopes, to ensure that the envelope contains a signature and an eligible voter’s name and address. Ballots without that kind of information could be challenged or disqualified.
The president’s lawyers have also asked to intervene in a pending Republican appeal to the Supreme Court over the 3-day extension for the receipt and counting of mailed ballots ordered by Pennsylvania’s top court. Democrats in the state told the justices Thursday that they should put off granting the request because they “may well not need to hear and decide” the matter if Pennsylvania is not critical to the outcome or the late-arriving ballots wouldn’t make a difference.
The lawsuits the Trump campaign filed in Michigan and Pennsylvania on Wednesday called for a temporary halt in the counting until it is given “meaningful” access in numerous locations and allowed to review ballots that already have been opened and processed.
The AP’s Michigan call for Biden came after the suit was filed.
The Michigan lawsuit claims Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers.
Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon. She said Benson was the wrong person to sue because she doesn’t control the logistics of local ballot counting, even if she is the state’s chief election officer.
The Trump campaign held a news conference Thursday where it announced it plans to file a lawsuit to stop the improper counting of ballots across Nevada. The campaign said it has received reports of Clark County, Nevada counting votes from dead people as well as votes from non-county residents.
Clark County officials said Thursday that they are unaware of any improper ballots being processed. Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria said Thursday at a press conference: “Our goal here in Clark County is not to count fast. We want to make sure that we’re being accurate.”
The Trump campaign and state Republican party quit the state court bid to stop the count of mail ballots in Clark County. A state Supreme Court filing said a settlement also involving Democrats, the county and Nevada secretary of state required election officials to allow “additional observation access” at a ballot processing facility in Las Vegas. The campaign moved onto another lawsuit later in the day.
The Trump campaign then filed a new federal lawsuit late Thursday in Nevada, alleging that ineligible votes were cast in the Las Vegas area.
A complaint filed after-hours in U.S. District Court resurrected an effort the campaign abandoned just hours earlier in Nevada state court — a court order to stop the Clark County Registrar of Voters from using an optical scanning machine to process ballots and validate voter signatures.
State Attorney General Aaron Ford called it “a Hail Mary” and “another opportunity to undermine the confidence in this election” while ballots are still being counted.
Ford noted a federal judge dismissed in September an effort to block the state law that let mailed ballots go out to each of Nevada’s more than 1.7 million active registered voters.
The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee asked an Arizona judge to let them join a lawsuit that alleges vote tabulation equipment in metro Phoenix was unable to record a voter’s ballot because she completed it with a county-issued Sharpie pen.
In what’s come to be known as #Sharpiegate, social media posts suggest that election officials in Maricopa County provided voters with Sharpie pens, which interfered with ballots being recorded, specifically those for President Donald Trump.
Arizona election officials say that voting with a Sharpie would have no impact on the votes being recorded by tabulation machines, and if there was an issue, there is a process that would keep the ballots from being canceled out.
The Trump campaign and RNC argue that anecdotal accounts of potential tabulation errors resulting from Sharpies demands further review and that they should be allowed to participate in the lawsuit because it will likely affect their interests in the tabulation of votes.
The lawsuit seeks a court order for all Maricopa County voters whose ballots were rejected as a result of using a Sharpie to be given a chance to fix their ballots. It also asks for such voters to be able to be present while election officials count their ballots.
The Arizona Democratic Party earlier asked to join the lawsuit, arguing that Democratic voters could be disenfranchised if the woman who filed the lawsuit was able to challenge a voter’s intent in making ballot choices without knowing the applicable standards.
A judge is holding a hearing Thursday in Phoenix in the lawsuit by Phoenix-area voter Laurie Aguilera, who also alleged ink from the marker bled through the back side of her ballot and that poll workers refused her request for a new ballot.
The Trump campaign’s lawsuit filed in Chatham County essentially asked a judge to ensure the state laws are being followed on absentee ballots. Campaign officials said they were considering peppering a dozen other counties around the state with similar suits.
Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass dismissed the lawsuit Thursday morning. County elections officials testified that all 53 ballots had been received on time.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report