Not really, experts say, despite the president launching legal challenges in at least five key states in a bid to tip the scales in his favour.

Outgoing US President Trump at the White House on November 13, 2020.
Outgoing US President Trump at the White House on November 13, 2020. (Reuters)

It has been a week since the tumultuous US presidential race came to a close and major news networks projected its winner, veteran politician and Democratic candidate Joe Biden, to have taken the top job.

For President Donald Trump, however, the uphill battle to retain control of the White House is not yet over. His team has launched an arsenal of lawsuits, recounts and a barrage of baseless claims in a bid to keep the 74-year-old in power. 

Attorney General Bill Barr has also given federal prosecutors blanket authorisation to open investigations into voting irregularities, a move Jason Opal, a historian in US history and politics with the University of Michigan, called “highly irregular” in an email to TRT World

“The votes have not even been certified yet by the various states,” Opal said.

“Investigations can begin, but without any evidence they will go no further,” he continued. 

Here is a look at what the Trump team is doing to contest the results and whether it is working:

US President-elect Joe Biden on November 10, 2020 at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware.
US President-elect Joe Biden on November 10, 2020 at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images / AFP)

Lawsuits

The Trump campaign has opened a slew of lawsuits in several key battleground states, including Georgia, Nevada and Arizona, to contest the vote. 

This assortment of lawsuits includes seeking to allow observers to closely observe the counting, cease counting absentee ballots and even halt certification of state results. The list goes on

Judges are unconvinced and have thrown most cases out. So far, the Trump administration has notched one small win in the state of Pennsylvania, which was to have Republican officials observing ballot-counting from six feet away. While this may have slowed down the process, it had no impact on the final tally. 

The Trump campaign has now dropped its claim that 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots were illegally processed in Pennsylvania in the absence of its observers. The team still seeks to block the state from certifying a victory for Biden saying that Democratic voters were treated more favourably than Republican voters.

Other cases of litigation are continuing, but there is one ongoing case in Pennsylvania that the reds’ hopes are hinging on. 

Trump’s campaign attempted last week to join the case Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar pending before the Supreme Court, challenging a ruling from Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court that allowed state election officials to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day even if they were delivered as late as three days later.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar also ordered election officials to set those ballots – some 10,000 – aside in the event the Supreme Court ruled to remove them from the count. 

The Supreme Court justices had previously ruled there was not enough time to decide the case’s merits before Election Day but indicated they might revisit it afterwards 

“There was a hint that if something unusual happened that they might be willing to go back and have a look at it,” Emma Long, Senior lecturer at East Anglia University, told TRT World. 

The Supreme Court indicated that they could apply a legal doctrine called the independent state legislature that sets out that only state legislature can be used to lay down election rules without other actors like state courts, governors, or election officials having a say. 

Pennsylvania election officials have said those mail-in ballots were a tiny portion – 0.001 percent – of the overall vote and were already being separated.

Can it work? 

If the case were to succeed in the Supreme Court, it would still not fall within a margin that would impact the election. 

“The number of affected ballots would have to be huge to affect the outcome since Biden now leads in that state by some 50,000 votes,” Opal told TRT World

“The Trump administration would need to find compelling evidence – emails, letters, a cache of fake ballots – in several states, most likely Wisconsin, Georgia, or Pennsylvania – to seriously threaten the outcome.”

Then there is the fact that the number of contested ballots are well within the difference in votes between Biden and Trump. 

The Trump campaign says 3,000 people who voted were from out of state in Nevada but that will not affect the overall outcome in a state where Biden leads by over 36,000. 

Or an instance in Georgia where 53 electoral ballots were contested because it was believed to have come in late (a judge ruled it didn’t) where Biden is leading by more than 14,000 votes. 

Chester County election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 general election in the United States at West Chester University in Pennsylvania on November 4, 2020.
Chester County election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots for the 2020 general election in the United States at West Chester University in Pennsylvania on November 4, 2020. (AP)

Recounts 

Some states do automatic recounts when the margin between two candidates is within a certain threshold. The margin differs from state to state. 

In Georgia, for example, where Biden is leading Trump by 0.28 percentage points, there will be an automatic recount if the margin is within 0.5 per cent. 

Georgia will now do a full recount of the results by hand but experts say it is unlikely that there will be a large dent in the vote difference between Trump and Biden. 

In Wisconsin, Trump’s campaign has said it will go for a recount but all 72 counties must complete their canvassing of election results before it can do so. 

Trump lost Wisconsin by about 20,500 votes, based on unofficial results. That is about three-fifths of a point behind Biden, close enough for Trump to ask for a recount but not tight enough to make it free. If Trump wants a Wisconsin recount, he would literally have to pay for it.

Can it work? 

Their efforts to tip the scales in their favour are not expected to yield any fruitful outcome. Recounts do not really have a reputation for changing election outcomes – only three in the last two decades have changed the result and none for a presidential election. When they do change the outcome, it has been by a thin margin. 

“In recent decades, the largest number of votes changed during a recount was 1,247 (the 2,000 recount in Florida),” Opal said. 

“The margins in [these] states are far beyond that figure: nearly 150,000 in Michigan, and about 14,000 in Georgia.”

Also, every state also has a different threshold in the percentage of difference in votes between the winning candidate and the runner-up to constitute a recount.

For example, in Pennsylvania and Georgia, a recount is required if the margin is less than 0.5 percent of the votes cast, while Wisconsin's threshold is less than 1 percent.  

Here's a look at the different recount thresholds for key battleground states.
Here's a look at the different recount thresholds for key battleground states. (TRTWorld)

As much as Trump may like it to be the case, this year’s presidential election is not like the infamous final moments of the US presidential election at the turn of the century, when the fate of George Bush and Al Gore rested on a single state (Florida).

This year, the difference lies in several states. 

What else can the Trump administration do? 

Not much else unless they have a game-changing amount of strong evidence. 

“Significantly more evidence of actual fraud would be needed to get it to the Supreme Court,” said Long. 

“Short of major revelations of irregularities and voting problems in several states, there is nothing that the administration or the Republicans can – or should – do to change the outcome,” Opal said. 

Even Federal election security officials have called the vote the “most secure in American history”.

“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too,” a statement by the officials said. 

But even with Trump’s little success in the courtroom, that has not stopped him from undermining the voting system to a loyal base that listens to him. The president recently attempted to cast doubt on Dominion voting systems, an election technology firm that he claims “deleted” large numbers of his votes or “switched” them to count for Biden. His team has spread unconfirmed reports and rumours on social media and television claiming widespread fraud with no evidence. 

In any case, all states have until December 8 to resolve any disputes and the electoral college will meet on December 17 to finalise the outcome. 

“The US Congress will certify these results on 6 January in advance of the 20 January inauguration," said Opal.

“Mr Trump will surely keep up the claim that the vote was stolen, but at noon on 20 January, his powers end, per the 1947 Presidential Succession Act.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies