Election

Election roundup: Georgia confirms Biden victory, finds no widespread fraud after audit

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(CNN) — Georgia has finished its statewide audit of the razor-thin presidential race and President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump, according to a news release from the Secretary of State’s office.

Biden beat Trump by 12,284 votes, according to the final results from the audit. This is a slight drop for Biden compared to the pre-audit results.

Officials have said repeatedly that the audit confirmed there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the election.

Georgia is required under state law to certify its election results by Friday.

There is no state where the sting of Trump’s loss has been more acutely felt than in the red state of Georgia.

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The suburban revolt against Trump in the suburbs surrounding Atlanta, paired with huge turnout among Black voters, powered Biden’s gains in the state, building on years of intensive Democratic organizing to register voters. The state is now the center of the political universe, because the two US Senate runoff elections will determine which political party controls the Senate.

The President has continued to tweet debunked disinformation about voting software used in the state and objected to the recount as “fake” by tweeting false claims about the state’s signature-matching process.

During the weeklong recount, officials in four counties found new batches of votes that weren’t counted on Election Day or weren’t properly transmitted to the Secretary of State for tallying.

In all, more than 5,800 uncounted votes were uncovered, netting nearly 1,400 new votes for Trump, who falsely said the discoveries were proof of wrongdoing. State officials stressed that these were accidents caused by human error and not indicative of fraud or vote-rigging.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has come under fire from both Trump and the state’s sitting GOP senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who called on him to resign after falsely accusing him of failing to “deliver honest and transparent elections.”

Raffensperger told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that the state has “not seen widespread voter fraud.” When asked about the attacks from Trump and members of his own party, he defended his credentials as a “lifelong Republican” and “conservative Christian Republican.”

“I’m going to make sure we count every legal, lawful vote and we’re not going to count any illegal votes,” Raffensperger said. “My record will stand on itself. We have done a great job.”

Trump courts Michigan GOP leaders in bid to overturn election he lost

(CNN) — President Donald Trump has invited Republican state lawmakers from Michigan to the White House on Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the President and his legal team are mounting an effort to overturn the results of the election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump also called two Republican canvass board members from Wayne County, to Tuesday to offer his support, the person said, after they went back and forth on voting to certify the election results from the state’s largest county, which includes Detroit. The board members filed affidavits Wednesday seeking to “rescind” their votes to certify the election result.

Trump extended the invitation on Thursday morning to the Michigan lawmakers by calling the state senate’s Republican majority leader, the person familiar said.

Certification is usually a formality, but Trump is trying to block or delay the process in key states as part of a long-shot effort to overturn his election defeat through the Electoral College. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other allies have suggested that GOP state legislatures in battleground states Biden won should try to use a delay in certification to appoint their own slate of electors and ignore the states’ popular votes for Biden.

Asked about Trump’s outreach to Michigan officials, Biden said Thursday it was “going to be another incident where he will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in America history.”

“It’s just outrageous what he’s doing,” he said.

It comes as Trump’s legal team’s options to challenge election results in states Trump lost are rapidly evaporating and as states move to certify their election results. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani held a 90-minute news conference Thursday where he and his team laid out dubious legal claims, aired debunked conspiracy theories and brought no specific, credible evidence of voter fraud.

“This is very dangerous for our democracy, as it is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters through political pressure from the President,” CNN election law expert Rick Hasen wrote in his website. “Even though it is extremely unlikely to work, it is profoundly antidemocratic and a violation of the rule of law. It’s inexcusable.”

Chris Krebs, the fired Department of Homeland Security official who had rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, tweeted that Giuliani’s press conference was “the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest.”

It’s not clear what Trump’s message to the Michigan GOP lawmakers will be. Both Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield have said that they will honor their state’s popular vote and not stray from the process of how electors in Michigan are selected. Biden currently has a 154,187 vote lead over Trump in the Great Lakes State.

On September 24, Shirkey led the Senate to pass a resolution assuring that electors vote for the candidate with the most votes that gets certified by election officials. “The Michigan Senate commits to the selection of electors to the Electoral College that will be faithful to voting for the candidate with the most votes for President in Michigan as certified by Michigan election officials,” the resolution read.

The campaign’s arguments in court have roundly failed, with lawsuits being dropped or dismissed in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

One source familiar with the President’s thinking told CNN that Trump has heard from a multitude of friends and business associates who have been urging him to at least let the transition begin, even if he doesn’t want to concede. He’s said they are “absolutely wrong,” the source said.

Calls to canvassers in Detroit area

In Wayne County, the two Republican members of the county Board of Canvassers received calls from Trump on Tuesday.

Monica Palmer, one of the board members, The Washington Post reported she received a roughly-two minute call from Trump, saying she felt no pressure to change her vote from him.

“I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Palmer told the Post. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.”

The GOP board members in Wayne County threw the normally typical election certification process into chaos on Tuesday when they initially voted against certifying the county’s results, leaving the board in a 2-2 deadlock.

After hours of public pressure and complaints that they were brazenly disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters from the majority-Black city of Detroit, the Republicans changed their votes and the certification passed unanimously.

But then Wednesday, Palmer and Republican board member William Hartmann sent sworn affidavits to the county’s attorney disavowing their previous votes to certify. But given that the deadline for county certification has already passed, it is unclear what legal remedy or legitimate argument these two Republican officials can make to formally rescind their votes and undo the certification.

“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote,” said Michigan Secretary of State spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer. “Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said on CNN Thursday that Trump’s calls to the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers were “improper.”

“I do think it’s certainly improper for any candidate on either side of the aisle to try to interfere with, which is a very proper but administrative function of the Board of Canvassers,” Benson said. “There’s no legal or factual basis to question their choice.”

Benson suggested that Trump’s call influenced the GOP board members. “I think we certainly saw a reversal of change of course,” she said.

Democratic Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch said on Thursday that the county certification date of November 17 is a definitive deadline and that board members’ votes cannot be changed after the fact. The GOP officials sent their affidavits to the county, but the action stops there. They have not filed any lawsuits to try to force the county to call a new meeting.

“There is no further action that can be taken in regards to the certification,” Kinloch told CNN. “They’re making a spectacle out of it because of the pressures that they’re getting.”

Asked by the Post if she had discussed the presidential vote count with Trump, Palmer said: “It’s hard for me to describe. There was a lot of adrenalin and stress going on. There were general comments about different states but we really didn’t discuss the details of the certification. … It was not pressure. It was genuine concern for my safety.”

CNN has reached out to Palmer and Hartmann about the calls.

Next steps in Michigan

The next step in Michigan is for the state’s Board of Canvassers to certify the election results, which is scheduled for next week. That board includes two Republicans and two Democrats, and the spouse of one of the Republican board members, Norm Shinkle, filed an affidavit supporting the Trump campaign’s Michigan lawsuit.

Benson said Thursday her office would perform a statewide risk-limiting audit as well as local performance audits of individual jurisdictions. These audits were planned ahead of time.

Benson mentioned specifically that her office would carry out a local performance audit in Wayne County, which was something the GOP canvassing board members called on her to do when they certified the results on Tuesday.The two Republicans who have since filed affidavits to rescind their votes claimed that Benson was wavering on her promise to complete an audit, but Benson’s announcement Thursday negates those concerns.

The Trump campaign dropped its lawsuit in Michigan alleging voting irregularities on Thursday, including the two affidavits from the GOP board members and misrepresenting that Wayne County’s election results had not been certified

Judges toss Republican lawsuits in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia

State judges in Arizona and Pennsylvania and a federal judge in Georgia rejected election-related lawsuits Thursday from Republicans and the Trump campaign.

The hat trick of losses were the latest round of defeats for the Trump campaign in its long-shot and increasingly far-fetched bid to block President-elect Joe Biden’s win before the Electoral College certifies him as the next president.

One of the judges, a Trump appointee in Georgia, called the attempt by Republican-allied lawyers to block election results “quite striking,” refusing their attempt to stop Biden’s win there.

In Arizona, a state judge declined to audit votes in the state and delay the finalization of results, saying the lawsuit couldn’t be retooled and brought again. And in Pennsylvania, a state judge ordered the counting of more than absentee 2,000 ballots the Trump campaign wanted to exclude.

The rulings came with only a few hours between them on Thursday.

Losses for the Trump campaign have piled up on other recent days, including when nine cases from the Trump campaign or his allies were either denied or pulled last Friday, and when Trump-supporting voters dropped four lawsuits pushing fraud claims earlier this week.

Despite pledges by Trump campaign attorneys — including Rudy Giuliani — to continue the fight, nearly no viable post-election cases remain for the Trump campaign that could deprive Biden of the electoral votes to become president. Legal analysts have widely said Trump’s bids in court to change the election results will all fail.

One federal lawsuit now spearheaded by Giuliani lingers in Pennsylvania, but the judge who is considering it expressed skepticism on Tuesday that the commonwealth’s presidential vote should be discarded.

Arizona

An Arizona state judge threw out the Arizona Republican Party’s lawsuit seeking a broader audit of votes cast on Election Day that county lawyers warned could have delayed the state’s certification of ballots.

In a brief order, Judge John Hannah dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice and denied the party’s request for an injunction to block Maricopa County, home of Phoenix and the most populous county in the state, from certifying its election results.

CNN projects that President-elect Joe Biden will win Arizona, leading by more than 10,000 votes with an estimated 99% of precincts reporting as of Thursday night and marking the second time a Democrat will carry Arizona in a presidential election in more than seven decades.

The Arizona GOP alleged that the Secretary of State’s manual violated state law because its hand count of a random sampling of ballots was conducted based on polling places, not precincts.

The order marks yet another lawsuit to be thrown out by the courts as Republicans look to challenge the election’s results in battleground based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud and election malfeasance. Last week, lawyers for the Trump campaign dropped a lawsuit seeking a review of all ballots cast on Election Day after finding that the margin of victory for the presidential contest in Arizona could not be overcome.

More than half of all counties in Arizona have conducted post-election audits and found either no discrepancies or microscopic issues that don’t affect the outcome, according to reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.

Audits in Arizona’s four largest counties, which comprised 86% of all votes for president in the state, turned up no evidence of the systematic voter fraud that President Donald Trump has complained about. There were no irregularities found in Maricopa County. Officials in Pima County, home to Tucson, audited a random sample of 4,239 votes in the presidential race and only found a two-vote discrepancy.

Geoff Burgan, the Biden campaign’s Arizona communications director, called the lawsuit “frivolous and rightfully dismissed.”

“Arizona’s election was well-run and transparent, and far-right fringes of the Arizona Republican Party should stop trying to undermine Arizonans’ faith in free and fair elections,” Burgan added.

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward slammed the order on Thursday and renewed her call for an audit. “I stand by my call for a full hand-count audit of our state’s election results,” Ward said in a statement, though she did not explicitly confirm that the party would appeal.

An attorney for the county, Joseph LaRue, said in court that county’s deadline for certifying ballots is Monday and a delay, could impact the state’s ability to meet the Electoral College deadline. The state certification deadline is November 30. The Electoral College votes on December 14.

Hannah also said Arizona’s Secretary of State could seek the reimbursement of legal fees.

Pennsylvania

A state judge in Pennsylvania rejected an attempt by the Trump campaign to throw out more than 2,000 absentee ballots for technical reasons.

The Trump campaign has made several attempts to throw out absentee ballots in Pennsylvania courts, and Judge Robert Baldi of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday ruled that throwing out the absentee ballots would disenfranchise voters.

The case was not among those where the Trump campaign has alleged fraud. Instead, the campaign had argued the state should enforce rules about when absentee ballots should or should not be counted, taking issue with 2,177 ballots in Bucks County that were in an unsealed privacy envelope or lacked handwritten dates, names or addresses on their outer envelopes.

Those ballots will be counted, Baldi ordered.

The Trump campaign has lost several similar bids attacking small numbers of absentee ballots in two other counties.

Baldi, in his opinion on Thursday, made clear fraud was not an issue.

“It must be noted that the parties specifically stipulated in their comprehensive stipulation of facts that there exists no evidence of any fraud, misconduct, or any impropriety with respect to the challenged ballots. There is nothing in the record and nothing alleged that would lead to the conclusion that any of the challenged ballots were submitted by someone not qualified or entitled to vote in this election,” he wrote. “At no time did Petitioners present evidence or argument to the contrary.”

Georgia

A federal judge in Georgia rejected an election lawsuit brought by a Republican elector, Lin Wood, who had alleged in court constitutional violations, perceived fraud in the presidential election and sought to block the certification of election results.

“There’s no doubt an individual’s right to vote is sacrosanct,” Judge Steven Grimberg in the Northern District of Georgia said Thursday evening. But, that “does not mean individual voters have the right to dictate” how votes are cast or decided to be counted.

“It’s not for the courts to meddle with” processes set by the states, he added.

Wood’s attorney indicated earlier on Thursday that he may want to try for a second round before the judge, representing the Trump campaign as it seeks to block a Biden win. But Grimberg’s ruling on Thursday, spoken from the bench, shuts down new rounds of lawsuits in multiple ways.

Grimberg decided that the elector in Georgia didn’t have the ability to show he could bring a case, didn’t have an avenue in court under the law and had sued far too late to affect the election.

“I didn’t hear any justification for why the plaintiff delayed bringing this claim until two weeks after this election and on the cusp of these election results being certified,” Grimberg, a Trump appointee, said. Absentee ballot counting in Georgia, which Republicans were challenging in the lawsuit, started months ago, he noted.

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