Trump Won’t Succeed in Stopping Votes From Being Counted

But he could still delegitimize the democratic process.

Trump supporters rally, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, outside the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. Matt York/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

The Trump campaign has filed a series of lawsuits since Election Day to stop the counting of votes or challenge counting procedures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Nevada. The goal is to prevent ballots from being counted in states where Trump’s lead is slipping away, like Pennsylvania, or to throw out enough Democratic votes to put him ahead in others, like Michigan.

But these are hail-Mary lawsuits that are unlikely to succeed or make a meaningful difference in the vote count.

In Georgia, for example, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Chatham County claiming that 53 mail ballots arrived after Election Day and should be thrown out, based on the testimony of a GOP poll watcher. But election officials said the ballots arrived before the deadline, and the lawsuit was quickly dismissed on Thursday.

Similarly, Trump went to court in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, to claim that voters should not be given a chance to fix problems with their mail ballots. But a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush was skeptical of those claims. “I do not understand how the integrity of the election was affected,” said Judge Timothy Savage. And only 93 votes fall into that category, a number very unlikely to affect the outcome of the election in Pennsylvania, where Biden is expected to be leading by 100,000 votes or more after the outstanding votes are tallied.

In Michigan, which has already been called for Joe Biden, the Trump campaign wants to stop the counting of votes because Republican poll watchers were not allowed to monitor the collection of mail ballots from drop boxes. Those ballots were collected by trained election officials and there is no evidence of improprieties. On Thursday afternoon, a Michigan judge denied Trump’s motion to stop counting ballots.

Even if a few of these lawsuits succeed, they’re unlikely to change the results of the election.

The Trump campaign won a lawsuit in Philadelphia on Thursday allowing GOP poll watchers to monitor ballot counting from six feet away—but that won’t stop the counting of votes or change the results. 

In addition, the Trump campaign intervened in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court challenging a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to accept mail ballots that arrive three days after the election as long as they were sent by Election Day. But Republicans already unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court twice before the election to block these ballots, and even if the court invalidates late-arriving ballots, it wouldn’t alter the counting of ballots that arrived by Election Day, which are expected to put Joe Biden over the top.

Instead, the real purpose of the lawsuits is to sow chaos and confusion, Biden campaign counsel Bob Bauer argued on Thursday. “The vote count is not going to stop,” he said. “This is part of a broader misinformation campaign.”

Indeed, Trump is using the lawsuits to amplify his false claims about how ballots are counted, which are encouraging his supporters to resort to intimidating actions, like angry crowds chanting “stop the count” in Detroit or attempting to disrupt the counting of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona.

That raises the scary prospect that even if Trump loses these cases in court, as seems likely, he will still succeed in his larger goal of delegitimizing the election, which may make it harder for Trump and his supporters to accept a peaceful transfer of power. 

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate