It became clear in the morning after the election that the winner might be decided after a long battle involving lawsuits and other demands by both presidential campaigns.
While former Vice President Joe Biden took wins in two crucial swing states, President Trump’s team has demanded a recount in Wisconsin and filed lawsuit in Michigan to stop ballots from being counted.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Fox News’ decision desk put Biden at 264 electoral votes, meaning that any change could be critical in determining who wins the presidency.
Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has launched a “fight fund” designed to ensure votes are properly counted.
“To make sure every vote is counted, we’re setting up the largest election protection effort ever assembled,” Biden tweeted. “Because Donald Trump doesn’t get to decide the outcome of this election — the American people do.”
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon also sent an email to supporters, urging them to participate.
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Dillon said the work “could stretch on for weeks” and said it “will fund election protection efforts for Joe Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot.”
“If he makes good on this threat, our legal team is standing by,” Dillon said. “And they will prevail.” A person familiar with the campaign’s thinking told Fox News that it made this move to be ready to fight all of the Trump campaign’s “meritless legal challenges and shenanigans.”
Pennsylvania, another hotly-contested state, also faces a lawsuit from the Trump campaign, with the president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani descending with Trump’s legal team onto Philadelphia and citing claims of “massive cheating.”
Pennsylvania and North Carolina had last-minute Supreme Court decisions that allowed each to extend the deadline for when officials received ballots. That could mean that official tallies for those states won’t be known until Friday for Pennsylvania and Nov. 12 for North Carolina. The campaign is suing to overturn the 4-4 decision allowing Pennsylvania to maintain its ballot extension.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said his team has “confidence” in Pennsylvania and looking at numbers, even with a “conservative estimate,” it believes the president could win by at least 40,000 votes — even if Philadelphia votes for Democratic nominee Biden in large numbers. As of writing this, Fox News projected that Trump would win by five points, with ballots still being tallied in Philadelphia County.
A Biden campaign official said they are also confident in Pennsylvania and expect the results — specifically with Philadelphia’s large vote-by-mail results — to be announced later Wednesday or early Thursday. In a speech Wednesday, Biden refused to declare victory. Instead, he said voting counts showed that he is blazing a trail to the White House.
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Trump told his followers on Twitter that his campaign was claiming victories in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia, adding that Michigan, which Fox News projected would be won by Biden, was in play if “there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported.” Earlier in the day, Trump suggested wrongdoing in a series of tweets about the election, and Twitter placed warnings on some of them.
In Michigan, the Trump campaign is also seeking a delay in counting ballots, arguing that it was denied access to “numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law.”
“We have filed suit today in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted,” Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “We also demand to review those ballots which were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access. President Trump is committed to ensuring that all legal votes are counted in Michigan and everywhere else.”
It’s unclear where those legal challenges will end up, underscoring the intensely complicated nature of the results.
In the Pennsylvania GOP’s petition to the Supreme Court seeking review, the party stated that when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled to change how the state would be handling its election, it presented a risk of confusing voters. That argument is known as the Purcell principle, because it comes from 2006’s Purcell v. Gonzalez.
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Justice Brett Kavanaugh used Purcell in a concurring opinion when the Supreme Court decided to restore a South Carolina witness requirement for absentee ballots. Kavanaugh cited precedent that federal courts generally “should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election.”
Trump campaign manager Justin Clark accused Democrats of “scheming” to “disenfranchise and dilute” Republican votes.
He added that “the United States Constitution is clear on this issue: the legislature sets the time, place, and manner of elections in America, not state courts or executive officials.”
Clark pointed to an Eighth Circuit court decision in Minnesota, which ruled mail-in ballots in the state must be in by Election Day or they will not be counted. The 2-1 panel ruling had said counting ballots up to seven days after Nov. 3, as Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, stood “in direct contradiction to Minnesota election law governing presidential elections.”
Clark said the campaign was taking two additional legal actions in Pennsylvania, suing to stop elections officials from what they characterize as “hiding the ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers.”
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The Biden campaign cried hypocrisy.
“When Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by roughly the same amount of votes that Joe Biden just did, or won Michigan with fewer votes than Joe Biden is winning it now, he bragged about a ‘landslide,’ and called recount efforts ‘sad,'” Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told Fox News. “What 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.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Jacqui Heinrich, Adam Shaw, Ronn Blitzer, and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.