Trump’s comments about the transition were only the latest instance where he’s actively sought to sow doubt into the legitimacy of the election. But beyond Trump’s rhetoric, his campaign and Republicans at the state and local level are moving to make it more difficult for voters to cast a ballot, more difficult for states to count votes and more likely that tallies will be challenged in the courts — with a particular focus on mail-in voting, which is being dramatically scaled up this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I spent 38 years as a Republican lawyer going into precincts looking for evidence of fraud. There are, to be sure, isolated cases, but nothing like the widespread fraud that would somehow invalidate an election or cause anyone to doubt the peaceful transfer of power,” Ben Ginsberg, who helped litigate the 2000 election on George W. Bush’s behalf, told CNN’s John King on Thursday. “So what’s different about this is a president of the United States going right at one of the pillars of the democracy without the evidence that you have got to have to make that case.”
Trump has been falsely saying for months now that the influx of mail-in ballots as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are ripe for fraud. He suggested last week that the results of the election may never be accurately determined. And he suggested that the Supreme Court would determine the outcome of the election — after his nominee is potentially seated.
The President went a step even further Wednesday when asked if he would accept a peaceful transition of power, saying, “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill dismissed the notion that a peaceful transition won’t occur, but several embraced the idea that the courts would have to decide the election — an implicit suggestion that a dispute will arise questioning the results. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, who is facing his own reelection fight while shepherding Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, said he would accept the election results from “the court’s decision.”
“We will accept the court’s decision, Republican and Democrat, I promise you as a Republican if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Joe Biden, I will accept that result,” Graham said in a “Fox and Friends” interview. “No matter who challenges the results to have election, eventually the Supreme Court is likely to hear that challenge and when they rule, that is — that is the end of it.”
Republicans have pointed to Hillary Clinton’s August comments that Biden should not concede under any circumstances if the election is close. But Biden has said he will accept the results once all the votes are counted. “Sure, the full results. Count every vote,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper at an outdoor town hall.
Republicans say the legal positions they are taking to stop efforts to expand mail-in voting are intended to safeguard existing election laws from being changed so close to Election Day. Democrats argue that access to voting needs to be expanded due to the pandemic, and they say they’re pushing back against efforts to suppress the vote.
Questioning and investigating the vote
But in several states, Republicans are taking steps that could make it more likely the election results are disputed, both through lawsuits and efforts that could slow down the absentee vote count or question its legitimacy. One state party official in Pennsylvania suggested the state legislature could determine who won the election, rather than the state’s popular vote, if the voting results took too long to be tabulated.
There are lawsuits across the country dealing with voting access issues, covering everything from mail-in ballots to dropboxes to how voters can fix absentee ballots that are missing information. Those cases are a prelude to potential legal challenges after Election Day.
The Republican state party called the settlement a “blatant abuse” following the resignations, and the Trump campaign lauded the resignations, saying the Democratic lawsuit that sparked the settlement was part of efforts “to rig this election.”
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Daniel Forest, a Republican, sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Thursday asking DOJ to investigate the agreement between the board and the attorney general.