US election: Trump's vote count lawsuits fail in court but rouse his base

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The flood of lawsuits unleashed by US President Donald Trump over vote counts in battleground states struggled to gain traction on Thursday (Nov 5), with two cases thrown out and other rulings in his favour failing to alter the race’s trajectory toward Joe Biden.

But observers said his campaign is finding ways to rile up supporters to believe this election is being stolen.

A Michigan judge rejected the campaign’s request to halt the count of mail-in ballots, ruling the claims were pointless because the tally was almost over in a state where Biden has already been declared the winner.

In Georgia, a judge dismissed another suit, saying there was no evidence to back the Trump campaign’s claims. A federal judge denied within hours its emergency request to halt the ballot count in Pennsylvania.

The President’s team did notch some victories on Thursday, when an appeals court ordered election officials in Philadelphia to allow campaign observers to get physically closer as they monitored the ballot-counting process.

Another Pennsylvania judge ordered state election officials to segregate certain ballots while she considered the campaign’s claims that the state illegally extended the deadline for absentee voters to provide proof of identification.

But none of the suits have managed to deliver anything close to Trump’s demands to “Stop the Vote!” or invalidate ballots he claims without evidence were illegally cast.

Late-counted mail-in votes inexorably shifted Wisconsin and Michigan away from the President on Wednesday and appeared to be doing so in Georgia and Pennsylvania on Thursday.

A Trump campaign spokesman didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

‘Shady and illegal’

“The RNC is doing everything in our power to ensure that these kind of issues are resolved and the letter of the law is followed,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Thursday evening.

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“We will not stand idly by as Democrats use shady and illegal tactics to tip the scales in their favour and against the will of the American people.” But some election experts say actually winning in court may not be the campaign’s goal.

“These lawsuits don’t have a chance of making a difference to the outcome of the election,” said Wendy Weiser, who heads a democracy programme at New York University’s Brennan Centre for Justice and isn’t involved in the election.

“They are manufacturing, both through their lawsuits and other action, a way of riling up supporters to believe this election is being stolen.”

Edward Foley, the director of an election-law programme at Ohio State University, said it was possible Trump was “trying to create a public feeling of confusion and distrust that could feed into a political strategy.”

Outside the courtroom, the campaign’s allegations have translated into protesters, gathering outside buildings in Detroit and Phoenix where poll workers counted votes, echoing through bullhorns Trump’s claims of a massive voter fraud conspiracy, sometimes while carrying firearms.

‘No evidence’

But judges have had a different reaction. In the suit it filed Wednesday in Georgia’s Chatham County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Savannah, the Trump campaign claimed that a Republican poll watcher saw dozens of invalid late-arriving ballots were mingled with on-time ballots and asked for those votes to be separated. But the judge didn’t buy it.

“The court finds there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7pm on Election Day, thereby making those ballots invalid,” Judge James Bass said in dismissing the case less than a day after it was filed.

Trump has long claimed that he could only lose the election if it were stolen from him, and he has cast mail-in ballots as the avenue for massive voter fraud. His campaign brought several suits before the election trying to limit the use of such ballots but lost almost all of them for the same reason Bass highlighted: a lack of evidence.

But those efforts also fed the President’s public narrative that mail-in voting would lead to a rigged election.

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And the Trump campaign is now pushing it further. The campaign on Thursday morning held a press conference in which officials pledged to sue in federal court in Las Vegas to challenge about 10,000 mail-in ballots that were allegedly cast illegally by people living out-of-state.

In a rambling speech from the White House Thursday night, the President repeated his claims of a stolen election yet again and said he expected the courts to determine the winner.

His claims were “going to end up perhaps at the highest court in the land,” Trump said. “We will see.”

For live updates and results, follow our US election live coverage.

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