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Trump sues in 3 states, laying ground for contesting outcome

(AP) — President Donald Trump’s campaign filed lawsuits Wednesday in
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, laying the groundwork for contesting
battleground states as he slipped behind Democrat Joe Biden in the hunt
for the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

The new filings, joining existing Republican legal challenges in Pennsylvania and Nevada, demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, and raise absentee ballot concerns, the campaign said. However, at one Michigan location in question The Associated Press observed poll watchers from both sides monitoring on Wednesday.

The AP called Michigan for Democrat Joe Biden on Wednesday. Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia are undecided.

Trump campaign also is seeking to intervene in a Pennsylvania case at
the Supreme Court that deals with whether ballots received up to three
days after the election can be counted, deputy campaign manager Justin
Clark said.

The actions reveal an emerging legal strategy that the
president had signaled for weeks, namely that he would attack the
integrity of the voting process in states where the result could mean
his defeat.

His campaign also announced that it would ask for a
recount in Wisconsin, a state the AP called for Biden on Wednesday
afternoon. Campaign manager Bill Stepien cited “irregularities in
several Wisconsin counties,” without providing specifics.

said Wednesday the count should continue in all states, adding, “No
one’s going to take our democracy away from us — not now, not ever.”

Campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said legal challenges were not the behavior of a winning campaign.

makes these charades especially pathetic is that while Trump is
demanding recounts in places he has already lost, he’s simultaneously
engaged in fruitless attempts to halt the counting of votes in other
states in which he’s on the road to defeat,” Bates said in a statement.

officials continued to count votes across the country, the normal
process on the day following voting. Unlike in previous years, states
were contending with an avalanche of mail ballots driven by fears of
voting in person during a pandemic. At least 103 million people voted
early, either by mail or in-person, representing 74% of the total votes
cast in the 2016 presidential election.

Every election, results
reported on election night are unofficial and the counting of ballots
extends past Election Day. 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.

Trump campaign said it is calling for a temporary halt in the counting
in Michigan and Pennsylvania 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 president is ahead in Pennsylvania but his
margin is shrinking as more mailed ballots are counted.

There have
been no reports of fraud or any type of ballot concerns out of
Pennsylvania. The state had 3.1 million mail-in ballots that take time
to count and an order allows them to be received and counted up until
Friday if they are postmarked by Nov. 3.

Pennsylvania Attorney
General Josh Shapiro said in a CNN interview the lawsuit was “more a
political document than a legal document.”

“There is transparency
in this process. The counting has been going on. There are observers
observing this counting, and the counting will continue,” he said.

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. She’s accused of undermining the
“constitutional right of all Michigan voters…to participate in fair
and lawful elections.” Michigan Democrats said the suit was a longshot.

watchers from both sides were plentiful Wednesday at one major polling
place in question — the TCF Center in Detroit, The Associated Press
observed. They checked in at a table near the entrance to the convention
center’s Hall E and strolled among the tables where ballot processing
was taking place. In some cases, they arrived en masse and huddled
together for a group discussion before fanning out to the floor.
Uniformed Detroit police officers were on hand to make sure everyone was

Mark Brewer, a former state Democratic chairman who
said he was observing the Detroit vote counting as a volunteer lawyer,
said he had been at the TCF arena all day and had talked with others who
had been there the past couple of days. He said Republicans had not
been denied access.

“This is the best absentee ballot counting
operation that Detroit has ever had. They are counting ballots very
efficiently, despite the obstructing tactics of the Republicans.”

lawyers had already launched legal challenges involving absentee votes
in Pennsylvania and Nevada, contesting local decisions that could take
on national significance in the close election.

In one appeal to a
Pennsylvania appellate court, the Trump campaign complained that one of
its representatives was prevented from seeing the writing on mail-in
ballots that were being opened and processed in Philadelphia. A judge in
Philadelphia dismissed it, saying that poll observers are directed to
observe, not audit.

The Georgia lawsuit filed in Chatham County
essentially asks 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 claims
around absentee ballots.

Trump, addressing supporters at the
White House early Wednesday, talked about taking the undecided race to
the Supreme Court. Though it was unclear what he meant, his comments
evoked a reprise of the court’s intervention in the 2000 presidential
election that ended with a decision effectively handing the presidency
to George W. Bush.

But there are important differences from 2000
and they already were on display. In 2000, Republican-controlled Florida
was the critical state and Bush clung to a small lead. Democrat Al Gore
asked for a recount and the Supreme Court stopped it.

To some election law experts, calling for the Supreme Court to intervene now seemed premature, if not rash.

case would have to come to the court from a state in which the outcome
would determine the election’s winner, Richard Hasen, a University of
California, Irvine, law professor, wrote on the Election Law blog. The
difference between the candidates’ vote totals would have to be smaller
than the ballots at stake in the lawsuit

“As of this moment (though things can change) it does not appear that either condition will be met,” Hasen wrote.

State University election law professor Edward Foley wrote on Twitter
Wednesday: “The valid votes will be counted. (The Supreme Court) would
be involved only if there were votes of questionable validity that would
make a difference, which might not be the case. The rule of law will
determine the official winner of the popular vote in each state. Let the
rule of law work.”

Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer said if
Trump goes to the high court, “he will be in for one of the most
embarrassing defeats a president has ever suffered by the highest court
in the land.”

The justices could decide to step into the dispute
over the three-day extension for absentee ballots if they prove crucial
to the outcome in Pennsylvania.

Even a small number of contested votes could matter if a state determines the winner of the election and the gap between Trump and Biden is small.

Associated Press writers Ben Nadler in Atlanta, John Flesher in Traverse City, Mich., Mike Householder and Ed White in Detroit, Nomaan Merchant in Houston, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Calif., and David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.