President Trump said Thursday morning that he wants to stop counting votes, which would disenfranchise millions of Americans who have cast legitimate ballots in the presidential election.
“Stop the count,” Trump tweeted at two different times Thursday morning. Even as he did so, Democrat Joe Biden led in enough states that if the vote counting were immediately halted — which it will not be — Biden would be declared the next president.
Votes are still being counted in all 50 states, in fact, because that is how the process works, including ballots from overseas — a large amount of which were cast by members of the military. But there are four states that have yet to be fully decided, leaving the result of the presidential contest still unclear.
As of Thursday morning, Biden had a narrow lead in Nevada and Arizona, while Trump had the edge in Pennsylvania and Georgia. The count in all four states is proceeding slowly.
If the vote count were stopped in Nevada and Arizona, Biden would be declared the winner of 270 Electoral College votes and would be the president-elect. Even if Trump held on to Pennsylvania and Georgia, where his lead is slipping, he would fall short of the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.
A slow count was expected in Pennsylvania, because the state legislature there ignored a chorus of warnings from Republicans and Democrats alike that mail ballots should be opened a week or two before Election Day so they could be counted quickly. But Pennsylvania Republicans used this issue as a bargaining chip in a political negotiation, and nothing was done in the weeks before the election to avoid a delay in counting votes.
Trump and the GOP also knew far in advance of Election Day that Pennsylvania’s vote count would swing toward Biden as mail ballots were tabulated. Trump made numerous baseless claims over the summer about mail voting being vulnerable to cheating, and by the fall polling showed that Democrats were far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans.
In Pennsylvania, the polling was predictive, with Democratic voters casting nearly 1.7 million mail and absentee ballots, and Republicans casting just over 600,000. Voters with no affiliation cast another 207,000 mail or absentee ballots.
And as expected, Biden is closing in on Trump in Pennsylvania as mail ballots are counted. About two-thirds of the votes were tabulated as of Thursday morning. Trump led Biden by about 130,000 votes, with over 600,000 mail ballots left to be counted.
Trump has tried to conflate mail ballots that are being counted after Election Day with mail ballots that arrived after Election Day. He made the false and incorrect claim on Twitter that “any vote that came in after Election Day will not be counted.”
There is litigation in Pennsylvania over mail ballots that arrived after 8 p.m. on Election Day. As of now, any ballot with a postmark before Nov. 3 at 8 p.m., or without a postmark, can be counted if it arrives by 5 p.m. this Friday. Republicans are challenging that in court, and that’s the one lawsuit they’ve filed among many that could end up back at the Supreme Court.
But the important context is that the number of mail ballots that arrived after 8 p.m. on Tuesday appears to be less than 100,000 out of 2.6 million. There were over 2.5 million that arrived by Election Day, and as of midday on Thursday the state had received a total of 2,600,691 mail ballots, though that number is likely to go up by at least a small amount.
Many of those 2.5 million mail ballots that were in by Nov. 3 arrived many days before Election Day, and could have been counted by Election Day if the Republican-controlled legislature had allowed clerks to open and process those ballots so they could be counted quickly. This is how mail ballots are handled in 46 states.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said Thursday morning that “Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and no amount of intimidation will stop our dedicated election officials in our municipalities.”
“We must reject efforts to intimidate election workers and prevent votes from being counted. The planned attacks on our elections this morning are undemocratic and all elected officials must denounce them. Pennsylvania will be prepared to protect our election workers and our votes,” Wolf said.
Rick Hasen, a national expert on voting and the author of “Election Meltdown,” wrote Thursday that “the viral, false claims of an election being stolen by Democrats would be used by Trump and his supporters to undermine a Biden presidency and to further undermine voter confidence among the Trump base in the legitimacy of the election process, something I have been warning about in Election Meltdown and elsewhere for some time.”
“It is dangerous stuff to play with in a democracy, which depends upon losers accepting the results of an election as legitimate and agreeing to fight another day,” Hasen wrote.
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Yahoo News, Julio Cortez/AP
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