Republicans back Trump’s right to challenge Biden victory

By Steve Holland and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will push ahead on Tuesday with longshot legal challenges to his election loss, as Republican U.S. lawmakers and state officials defended his right to do so.

Pennsylvania Republican state lawmakers called for an audit of results in the state that on Saturday enabled Democrat Joe Biden to secure the more than 270 votes in the Electoral College he needed to win the presidency.

Biden, the president-elect due to take office on Jan. 20, 2021, also leads Trump in the popular vote by more than 4.6 million votes, according to the latest count of ballots.

Trump has made baseless claims that fraud was marring the results. The count has been delayed by a surge in mail-in ballots prompted by voters’ desire to avoid infection from the coronavirus pandemic.

Judges have tossed out lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia, and experts say Trump’s legal efforts have little chance of changing the election result.

The leading Republican in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Monday carefully backed Trump, saying that he was “100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities,” without citing any evidence.

McConnell’s comments represent the thinking of most Senate Republicans for now, said a senior Senate Republican aide. “The position is tenable until it isn’t and might last for a week or two before it becomes untenable,” the aide said.

The dispute has slowed Biden’s preparations for governing.

A Trump appointee who heads the office charged with recognizing election results has yet to do so, preventing the Biden transition team from moving into federal government office space or accessing funds to hire staff.

The General Services Administrator Emily Murphy, appointed by Trump in 2017, has yet to determine that “a winner is clear,” a spokeswoman said. Biden’s team is considering legal action.

BARR MOVE PROMPTS RESIGNATION

U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Monday told federal prosecutors to “pursue substantial allegations” of irregularities of voting and the counting of ballots.

He also told them that “fanciful or far-fetched claims” should not be a basis for investigation. His letter did not indicate the Justice Department had uncovered voting irregularities affecting the outcome of the election.

Richard Pilger, who for years has served as director of the Election Crimes Branch in the Justice Department, said in an internal email he was resigning from his post after he read “the new policy and its ramifications”.

The previous Justice Department policy, designed to avoid interjecting the federal government into election campaigns, had discouraged overt investigations “until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded.”

Biden’s campaign said Barr was fueling Trump’s far-fetched allegations of fraud.

“Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another,” said Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden.

A bipartisan group of six former U.S. Justice Department officials blasted Barr’s move.

“The voters decide the winner in an election, not the President, and not the Attorney General,” wrote the group, which includes Don Ayer, a deputy attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush.

“We have seen absolutely no evidence of anything that should get in the way of certification of the results, which is something the states handle, not the federal government.”

REPUBLICANS REMAIN LOYAL

Although a few Republicans have urged Trump to concede, the president still had the support of prominent party leaders who had yet to congratulate Biden.

Trump’s campaign on Monday filed a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania officials from certifying Biden’s victory in the battleground state, where the Democrat’s lead grew to more than 45,000 votes, or nearly 0.7 percentage points, with 98% of ballots counted on Tuesday morning.

It alleged the state’s mail-in voting system violated the U.S. Constitution by creating “an illegal two-tiered voting system” where voting in person was subject to more oversight than voting by mail.

“The Trump campaign’s latest filing is another attempt to throw out legal votes,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said on Twitter.

Pennsylvania state Representative Dawn Keefer led a group of Republican state lawmakers on Tuesday in calling for a bipartisan investigation with subpoena powers to see if the “election was conducted fairly and lawfully.”

Asked about any evidence of fraud, Keefer told reporters, “We’ve just gotten a lot of allegations,” adding that “they’re too in the weeds” for her to know more without investigating.

Biden will give a speech on Tuesday defending the Affordable Care Act, the landmark healthcare law popularly known as Obamacare, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration to invalidate it.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Richard Cowan, Jan Wolfe, Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Simon Lewis in Wilmington, Delaware; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Scott Malone, Angus MacSwan, Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller

Trump lawsuits unlikely to impact outcome of U.S. election, experts say

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump called in his lawyers to shore up his dimming re-election prospects, but legal experts said the flurry of lawsuits had little chance of changing the outcome but might cast doubt on the process.

As Trump’s paths to victory narrowed, his campaign on Thursday was ramping up legal challenges and said it was planning to file its latest case in Nevada.

On Wednesday, the campaign sued in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia and asked to join a pending case at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Experts said the litigation serves to drag out the vote count and postpone major media from declaring Biden the victor, which would have dire political implications for Trump.

“The current legal maneuvering is mainly a way for the Trump campaign to try to extend the ball game in the long-shot hope that some serious anomaly will emerge,” said Robert Yablon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. “As of now, we haven’t seen any indication of systematic irregularities in the vote count.”

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement Wednesday the lawsuits were aimed at ensuring legal votes were counted.

“The lawsuits are meritless,” said Bob Bauer, who is part of Biden’s legal team. “They’re intended to give the Trump campaign the opportunity to argue the vote count should stop. It is not going to stop.”

Ultimately, for the lawsuits to have an impact, the race would have to hang on the outcome of one or two states separated by a few thousand votes, according to experts.

In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump asked courts to temporarily halt the vote counts because the campaign’s observers were allegedly denied access to the counting process.

The Michigan case was dismissed on Thursday but a Pennsylvania court ordered that Trump campaign observers be granted better access to counting process in Philadelphia.

At the Supreme Court, the campaign is seeking to invalidate mail-in votes in Pennsylvania that are postmarked by Election Day but arrive by the end of Friday.

In Georgia, the Trump campaign asked a judge to require Chatham County to separate late-arriving ballots to ensure they were not counted, but the case was dismissed on Thursday.

“There is no consistent strategy there,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She said the campaign was “throwing theories at a wall to see if anything sticks for long enough to muck up the waters.”

Edward Foley, who specializes in election law at the Moritz College of Law, said the cases might have merit but only affected a small number of ballots and procedural issues.

“But merit in that sense is very different from having the kind of consequence that Bush v. Gore did in 2000,” said Foley.

In that case, the Supreme Court reversed a ruling by Florida’s top court that had ordered a manual recount and prompted Democrat Al Gore to concede the election to Republican George W. Bush.

The 2000 election improbably close, with a margin of 537 votes in Florida deciding the outcome.

The campaign is still challenging late arriving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, which according to media reports numbered in the hundreds so far, likely too few to have a meaningful impact.

In addition, it appears increasingly likely Biden can win the race even if he loses the state.

Danielle Lang, who advocates for voting rights at Campaign Legal Center, said Trump has a long history of attempting to whip up mistrust in our electoral system.

“Allegations of ‘irregularities’ — backed up by lawsuits, even frivolous ones — could potentially serve that narrative,” she said.

Experts said the lawsuits and claims of fraud might be aimed at softening the sting of being bounced from office by calling the process into question.

“The litigation looks more like an effort to allow Trump to continue rhetorically attempting to delegitimize an electoral loss,” said Joshua Geltzer, a professor at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy & Protection.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis)

Factbox: U.S. presidential election moves to the courts

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – With the U.S. presidential election between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden too close to call, the Trump campaign and Republicans turned to the courts to try to invalidate votes in Pennsylvania and block Michigan officials from counting ballots.

For the lawsuits to have any impact on the outcome, the election would have to come down to one or two states and hang on the outcome of a few thousand votes, which seemed unlikely, legal experts said.

Below is a list of the cases that will play out in the coming days and possibly weeks:

PENNSYLVANIA COURT BATTLES

The Trump campaign sued Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and county election officials to limit the time election officers have to contact mail-in voters to correct defects on their ballots.

The Commonwealth Court will hear the case on Friday.

A similar case in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by Republican officials against election officials from Montgomery County got a skeptical reception from the federal judge.

The Republican officials on Thursday withdrew their request for an injunction.

The Trump campaign is also fighting Philadelphia election officials over observing vote counting in the city and was granted better access to the proceedings. An appeal is pending in the state’s supreme court.

Republicans in the state have also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision from the state’s highest court that allowed election officials to count mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday’s Election Day that are delivered through Friday.

On Wednesday, Trump’s campaign filed a motion to intervene in the case.

U.S. Supreme Court justices said last week there was not enough time to decide the merits of the case before Election Day but indicated they might revisit it afterwards.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by fellow conservatives Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, said in a written opinion that there is a “strong likelihood” the Pennsylvania court’s decision violated the U.S. Constitution.

Pennsylvania election officials said they will segregate properly postmarked ballots that arrived after Election Day.

With about 92% of the vote counted, Trump led Biden in Pennsylvania with 50.2% of the vote to 48.5%, according to Edison Research.

MICHIGAN BALLOT-COUNTING FIGHT

Trump’s campaign on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Michigan to stop state officials from counting ballots until it has an election inspector at each absentee-voter counting board. The campaign also wanted to review ballots that were opened and counted before an inspector from its campaign was present.

On Thursday, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed the case.

Biden was projected to win the state with 50.6% of the vote, with 99% of the expected vote in, according to Edison Research.

GEORGIA BALLOT FIGHT

The Trump campaign on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in state court in Chatham County that alleged late-arriving ballots were improperly mingled with valid ballots, and asked a judge to order late-arriving ballots be separated and not be counted.

The case was dismissed on Thursday.

Trump leads Biden 49.5% to 49.2% with 98% of Georgia’s expected votes counted, according to Edison Research.

NEVADA

Trump campaign officials said they planned to file a lawsuit in the state after alleging without evidence that thousands of improper votes were cast by dead people and by voters who were no longer residents of populous Clark County.

Biden leads Trump in Nevada 49.4% to 48.5% with 89% of the expected vote counted, according to Edison Research.

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE LITIGATION

A U.S. judge on Wednesday said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy must answer questions about why the U.S. Postal Service failed to complete a court-ordered sweep for undelivered ballots in about a dozen states before a Tuesday afternoon deadline.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is overseeing a lawsuit by Vote Forward, the NAACP, and Latino community advocates who have been demanding the postal service deliver mail-in ballots in time to be counted in the election.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Sonya Hepinstall)

Trump supporters protest outside Arizona vote center

By Mimi Dwyer

PHOENIX (Reuters) – A crowd of Donald Trump supporters, some armed with rifles and handguns, gathered outside an election center in Arizona on Wednesday night after unsubstantiated rumors that votes for the Republican president were deliberately not being counted.

Chanting “Stop the steal!,” and “Count my vote,” the mostly unmasked protesters stood in front of the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix, as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden held a razor thin lead in the critical battleground state. Some news outlets have called Arizona for Biden, but Trump’s campaign says it is still in play.

A victory for Biden in Arizona would give the Democrat 11 electoral votes, a major boost in his bid to win the White House, while severely narrowing Trump’s path to re-election, in a state the Republican won in 2016.

On Election night Fox News and the Associated Press called Arizona for Biden, even though only just over 70% of the vote had been counted, a move that infuriated Trump and his aides.

Some of the roughly 200 protesters, who were faced by a line of armed county sheriffs, chanted “Shame on Fox!”. Some said they came out after a tweet from Mike Cernovich, a right-wing activist.

Chris Michael, 40, from Gilbert, Arizona, said he came to make sure all votes are counted. He said he wants assurances that the counting was done “ethically and legally.”

Rumors spread on Facebook Tuesday night that some Maricopa votes were not being counted because voters used Sharpie pens to mark their ballots. Local election officials insisted that was not true.

With the count still under way in several key states, Trump has accused the Democrats of trying to steal the election without evidence and filed lawsuits in several states related to vote-counting.

A similar scene played out on Wednesday afternoon in downtown Detroit, where city election officials blocked about 30 people, mostly Republicans, from entering a vote-counting hall amid unfounded claims that the vote count was fraudulent.

Trump has filed a lawsuit in Michigan to stop vote-counting that the secretary of state called “frivolous.”

The protests echoed the “Brooks Brother riot” during the 2000 recount in Florida that ultimately handed the presidency to Republican George W. Bush. A crowd of blazer-clad Republican protesters stormed a building where a hand recount was underway in a heavily Democratic district, forcing poll workers to stop counting ballots.

The protest is now viewed as a significant event in keeping Bush’s slender vote advantage in Florida intact. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately stopped the Florida recount, handing Bush the presidency and defeat to Democrat Al Gore.

(Reporting by Mimi Dwyer in Phoenix; writing by Tim Reid; Editing by Heather Timmons and Richard Pullin)

Trump campaign loses legal fights in Georgia and Michigan, vows Nevada lawsuit

By Tom Hals and Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s campaign lost court rulings in the closely-contested states of Georgia and Michigan on Thursday, even as it vowed to bring a new lawsuit challenging what it called voting irregularities in Nevada.

In the Georgia case, the campaign alleged 53 late-arriving ballots were mixed with on-time ballots. In Michigan, it had sought to stop votes from being counted and obtain greater access to the tabulation process.

State judges tossed out both the suits on Thursday.

Judge James Bass, a superior court judge in Georgia, said there was “no evidence” that the ballots in question were invalid.

In the Michigan case, Judge Cynthia Stephens said: “I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”

Trump allies alleged that there had been voting irregularities in Nevada’s populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on the Michigan and Georgia rulings.

Votes are still being counted in all three states, among a handful of battleground states that could decide the presidency. Democratic challenger Joe Biden has a narrow lead in Nevada, Trump a narrow lead in Georgia, and Biden has been projected to win in Michigan.

At a news conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and other Trump campaign surrogates, including former administration official Richard Grenell, gave no evidence to support their allegations of irregularities and did not answer questions from reporters.

“We believe that there are dead voters that have been counted. We are also confident that there are thousands of people whose votes have been counted that have moved out of Clark County during the pandemic,” Laxalt said.

He said a lawsuit would be filed in federal court to ask the judge to “stop the counting of improper votes.”

Joe Gloria, an election official in Clark County, told reporters there was no evidence of improper ballots being processed.

Bob Bauer, a senior advisor to Biden’s campaign, called the various Trump lawsuits a “meritless” distraction and said the strategy was designed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

“This is part of a broader misinformation campaign that involves some political theater,” he said.

“They’re intended to give the Trump campaign the opportunity to argue the vote count should stop. It is not going to stop,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Election legal experts have said Trump’s legal strategy is unlikely to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the election.

Trump has repeatedly said that he expects the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices he appointed, to have a key role.

But it is unlikely the court would have the final word in any decisive way and any challenge would have to make its way through the usual court process, legal experts say.

In Pennsylvania, where Trump is narrowly leading but Biden is making gains, the Trump campaign and other Republicans have already filed various legal challenges.

An appeals court in Pennsylvania on Thursday ordered that Trump campaign officials be allowed to more closely observe ballot processing in Philadelphia, which led to a brief delay in the count.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, Tom Hals, Karen Freifeld, Julia Harte, Jan Wolfe, Daphne Psaledakis and Lawrence Hurley; Writing by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Peter Graff, Sonya Hepinstall and Noeleen Walder)

Factbox: Rules for recounts in presidential battleground states

By Disha Raychaudhuri

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign has called for a recount in Wisconsin, filed lawsuits to stop vote counting in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and asked a judge in Georgia to order late-arriving ballots to be separated and secured so that they cannot be counted.

Below is a roundup of recount laws in some battleground states:

GEORGIA

Automatic recount: No

Recount law: A candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage point.

Deadline: A recount must be requested within two business days after results have been certified.

Who pays: State law does not specify who is responsible for recount costs.

MICHIGAN

Automatic recount: Yes

Recount law: A recount is required if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 2,000 votes.

Deadline: Request for a recount should be made within 48 hours of the vote canvass.

Who pays: The candidate requesting the recount.

NEVADA

Automatic recount: No

Recount law: A candidate who has been defeated can request a recount, regardless of the margin of victory.

Deadline: A recount must be requested within three business days after the state’s vote canvass.

Who pays: The candidate asking for the recount.

PENNSYLVANIA

Automatic recount: Yes

Recount law: A recount is automatic if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage point. Two other avenues for requesting recounts include requiring at least three voter signatures that attest to an error in the vote tally, and going to state court to file petitions alleging fraud and error.

Deadline: By 5 p.m. on the second Thursday following the election, for automatic recounts. If a recount is requested, the deadline is five days after the election.

Who pays: The candidate requesting the recount.

WISCONSIN

Automatic recount: No

Recount law: A full or partial recount can be requested if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 1 percentage point.

Deadline: For presidential elections, the request must be made by 5 p.m. on the first business day after the state’s vote canvass.

Who pays: The candidate requesting the recount, if the margin is more than 0.25 percentage point of the total vote.

(Reporting by Disha Raychaudhuri; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)

U.S. Supreme Court may not have final say in presidential election, despite Trump threat

By Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – While President Donald Trump has promised to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a presidential race that is still too close to call, the nation’s top judicial body may not be the final arbiter in this election, legal experts said.

Election law experts said it is doubtful that courts would entertain a bid by Trump to stop the counting of ballots that were received before or on Election Day, or that any dispute a court might handle would change the trajectory of the race in closely fought states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

With vote-counting still underway in many states in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Trump made an appearance at the White House and declared victory against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop,” he said.

The Republican president did not provide any evidence to back up his claim of fraud or detail what litigation he would pursue at the Supreme Court.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the election still hung in the balance. A handful of closely contested states could decide the outcome in the coming hours or days, as a large number of mail-in ballots cast amid the coronavirus pandemic appears to have drawn out the process.

However, legal experts said that while there could be objections to particular ballots or voting and counting procedures, it was unclear if such disputes would determine the final outcome.

Ned Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University, said on Twitter that 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.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have amassed armies of lawyers ready to go to the mat in a close race. Biden’s team includes Marc Elias, a top election attorney at the firm Perkins Coie, and former Solicitors General Donald Verrilli and Walter Dellinger. Trump’s lawyers include Matt Morgan, the president’s campaign general counsel, Supreme Court litigator William Consovoy, and Justin Clark, senior counsel to the campaign.

Benjamin Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer, said on CNN that any attempt to toss out legally cast votes would likely “be viewed by any court including the Supreme Court as just a massive disenfranchisement that would be frowned upon.” Ginsberg represented George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000 when the Supreme Court ended a recount in Bush’s favor against Democrat Al Gore.

Trump attorney Jenna Ellis on Wednesday defended Trump’s bid to challenge the vote count and evaluate his legal options. “If we have to go through these legal challenges, that’s not unprecedented,” Ellis told Fox Business Network in an interview. “He wants to make sure that the election is not stolen.”

Bringing a case to federal court immediately was one possibility, she added, without giving further details. “We have all legal options on the table.”

The case closest to being resolved by the Supreme Court is an appeal currently pending before the justices in which Republicans are challenging a September ruling by Pennsylvania’s top court allowing mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and received up to three days later to be counted.

The Supreme Court previously declined to fast-track an appeal by Republicans. But three conservative justices left open the possibility of taking up the case again after Election Day.

Even if the court were to take up the case and rule for Republicans, it may not determine the final vote in Pennsylvania, as the case only concerns mail-in ballots received after Nov. 3.

In a separate Pennsylvania case filed in federal court in Philadelphia, Republicans have accused officials in suburban Montgomery County of illegally counting mail-in ballots early and also giving voters who submitted defective ballots a chance to re-vote.

If Biden secures 270 electoral votes without needing Pennsylvania, the likelihood of a legal fight in that state diminishes in any case, legal experts said.

And any challenge would also need to make its way through the usual court hierarchy.

“I think the Court would summarily turn away any effort by the President or his campaign to short-circuit the ordinary legal process,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

“Even Bush v. Gore went through the Florida state courts first.”

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York, Lawrence Hurley in Washington, Karen Freifeld in New York and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Rosalba O’Brien)

Uncertain U.S. election outcome opens way for protests

By Michael Martina and Heather Timmons

DETROIT (Reuters) – After months of protests about racism and police brutality, the United States is now likely to see street demonstrations over the cliffhanger presidential election, after President Donald Trump falsely claimed victory and called for voting to stop.

About 100 people gathered for an interfaith event before a planned march through downtown Detroit, in the battleground state of Michigan, on Wednesday morning to demand a full vote count and what they called a peaceful transition of power.

The protest flyer called people to action to stop Trump from “stealing the election.”

Democrat-leaning activists were planning “protect the vote” rallies around Michigan on Wednesday afternoon, including one in front of the state capitol in Lansing.

“The message is that Michigan is fighting back and every vote must be counted,” said Kenny Williams Jr., a spokesman for Detroit Action, one of the groups organizing the Detroit event. “We understand that Republicans will likely try every trick in the book to win this election. But we are making our voices heard in saying that every vote must be counted.”

The excruciatingly close election hung in the balance, with a handful of closely contested states set to decide the outcome in the coming hours or days.

Trump falsely claimed victory in the early hours of the morning and made unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud in an extraordinary attack on the electoral process.

Michigan is still counting tens of thousands of ballots and expects to have an unofficial tally by the end of the day, the state’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, told reporters.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden is narrowly leading Republican Trump with about 96% of the votes tallied in Michigan, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Trump’s remarks were the sort of call that protest organizers had planned for. The “Protect the Results” coalition of over 130 groups, from Planned Parenthood to Republicans for the Rule of Law, has said it had about 500 protests organized around the country.

“There were two criteria that were out there: One is Trump officially trying to block the counting of votes and other was falsely declaring that he won, and he did both last night,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that supports left-wing Democrats running for office.

Fears of violence on Tuesday did not materialize as Americans turned out by the millions to vote. There were only a handful of incidents reported on an otherwise tranquil Election Day.

The concerns about possible unrest were heightened after a summer of protests, some of which turned violent, against racial injustice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

(Reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit and Heather Timmons in Washington; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Frank McGurty; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Factbox: Seven states that are deciding the U.S. presidential election

(Reuters) – The U.S. presidential election will be decided in seven states where votes are still being counted that could swing the outcome to either Republican President Donald Trump or his challenger Joe Biden.

Biden held a lead in four of the states that together award 43 Electoral College votes, which could just allow the Democrat to reach the 270 votes he would need to win, while Trump led in three that hold 51 Electoral College votes, which would push his total to 265.

Here’s a state-by-state look:

ARIZONA

Electoral votes: 11

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: This one appears to be in the Biden column, but only two of the six news organizations that Reuters is following have called Arizona for Biden, and Edison Research has not yet done so. All absentee ballots had to arrive by the close of polls on Election Day. Ballots could be scanned and tabulated starting 14 days before Tuesday.

GEORGIA

Electoral votes: 16

Rating: Leaned Republican ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization had yet to call the presidential contest. Trump has a lead but Biden could make up ground in the uncounted votes around Atlanta. Absentee ballots had to be received by clerks by the close of polls on Election Day. Ballots could be opened and scanned on receipt, but they could not be tallied until after the polls closed on Tuesday. Officials in Fulton County, home to Atlanta and a tenth of all Georgians, warned on Tuesday that its vote count would not be finalized until Wednesday.

PENNSYLVANIA

Electoral votes: 20

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization had yet to call the presidential contest in Pennsylvania. Trump appeared to have a substantial lead but many of the outstanding mail-in ballots yet to be counted were from strongly Democratic areas. Absentee ballot counting began at 7 a.m. on Election Day. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling by Pennsylvania’s top court that officials in the state could accept mail-in ballots three days after Tuesday’s election, so long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

WISCONSIN

Electoral votes: 10

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: Two of the six news organizations that Reuters is following have called Wisconsin for Biden, and a third has called Biden the apparent winner, pending a potential recount. Edison Research has not yet called the race. Biden held a thin lead within the margin that would allow the Trump campaign to call for a recount. The state’s election officials could not count mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 26. Ballots could not be counted until polls opened on Tuesday.

MICHIGAN

Electoral votes: 16

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization has yet to call a winner in the presidential contest in Michigan, though Biden held a small lead. Absentee ballots had to arrive at clerks’ offices by the close of polls on Election Day. Some densely populated jurisdictions in the state, such as Detroit, began sorting absentee ballots on Monday, but the vast majority did not. Clerks could begin scanning and counting absentee ballots at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Wednesday the state would have a clearer picture by the end of the day.

NORTH CAROLINA

Electoral votes: 15

Rating: Leaned Republican ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization has yet called a winner in the presidential election, though Trump held a lead. Edison and three news organizations have called the governor’s race for incumbent Roy Cooper, a Democrat.

North Carolina absentee ballots could be scanned weeks in advance, but results could not be tallied before Election Day. In a defeat for Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to block the state’s plan to tally ballots that are postmarked by Tuesday and arrive by Nov. 12.

NEVADA

Electoral votes: 6

Rating: Leaned Democratic ahead of the vote

Vote counting: No organization has yet to determine a winner in the presidential election. Biden held a razor-thin lead but final results could be delayed until later in the week. Absentee ballots could be processed upon receipt starting 14 days before the election, but results are not released until election night. Mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted so long as they arrive within seven days after the election.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Julia Harte, Rich McKay, Brendan O’Brien, Jarrett Renshaw and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Scott Malone and Angus MacSwan)

With one day left, Trump and Biden search for last-minute support in key states

By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt

OPA-LOCKA, Fla./WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump hunts for support in four battleground states on Monday while Democratic rival Joe Biden focuses on Pennsylvania and Ohio during the final day of campaigning in their race for the White House.

The Republican Trump trails Biden in national opinion polls ahead of Tuesday’s Election Day. But the race in swing states is seen as close enough that Trump could still piece together the 270 votes needed to prevail in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.

Trump, aiming to avoid becoming the first incumbent president to lose re-election since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992, will hold five rallies on Monday in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

He won those states in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Clinton, but polls show Biden is threatening to recapture all four for Democrats.

In a year that has seen much of American life upended by the coronavirus pandemic, early voting has surged to levels never before seen in U.S. elections. A record-setting 94 million early votes have been cast either in-person or by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project, representing about 40% of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote.

Trump will wrap up his campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same place he concluded his 2016 presidential run with a post-midnight rally on Election Day.

Biden, running mate Kamala Harris and their spouses will spend most of Monday in Pennsylvania, splitting up to hit all four corners of a state that has become vital to the former vice president’s hopes.

Biden will rally union members and African-American voters in the Pittsburgh area before being joined for an evening drive-in rally in Pittsburgh by singer Lady Gaga.

He also will make a detour to bordering Ohio, spending time on his final campaign day in a state that was once considered a lock for Trump, who won it in 2016, but where polls now show a close contest.

Former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president for eight years, will hold a get-out-the-vote rally in Atlanta on Monday before closing out the campaign in the evening with a rally in Miami.

Biden has wrapped up the campaign on the offensive, traveling almost exclusively to states that Trump won in 2016 and criticizing the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has dominated the race.

Biden accuses Trump of giving up on fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs. Polls show Americans trust Biden more than Trump to fight the virus.

During a frantic five-state swing on Sunday, Trump – who was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last December and acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate in February – claimed he had momentum.

He promised an economic revival and imminent delivery of a vaccine to fight the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, has said the first doses of an effective coronavirus vaccine will likely become available to some high-risk Americans in late December or early January.

Trump, who has often disagreed with Fauci publicly, suggested early on Monday he might fire him as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after the election.

A ‘TERRIBLE THING’

Trump again questioned the integrity of the U.S. election, saying a vote count that stretched past Election Day would be a “terrible thing” and suggesting his lawyers might get involved.

Americans have already cast nearly 60 million mail-in ballots that could take days or weeks to be counted in some states – meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Tuesday night.

“I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election,” Trump told reporters. Some states, including battlegrounds Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, do not start processing mail-in votes until Election Day, slowing the process.

Trump has repeatedly said without evidence that mail-in votes are prone to fraud, although election experts say that is rare in U.S. elections. Mail voting is a long-standing feature of American elections, and about one in four ballots was cast that way in 2016.

Democrats have pushed mail-in voting as a safe way to cast a ballot in the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump and Republicans are counting on a big Election Day in-person turnout.

Both campaigns have created armies of lawyers in preparation for post-election litigation battles.

“We’re going in the night of – as soon as the election is over – we’re going in with our lawyers,” Trump told reporters without offering further explanation.

The attorneys general of Michigan and Pennsylvania, both Democrats, challenged Trump’s rhetoric on Twitter.

“The election ends when all the votes are counted. Not when the polls close,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote.

In a sign of how volatile the election could be, buildings for blocks around the White House were boarded up over the weekend. Federal authorities planned to extend the perimeter fencing around the White House to by several blocks, encompassing the same area fenced out during this summer’s protests against racism and police brutality, according to U.S. media.

To help ensure mail-in ballots are delivered in a timely fashion, a U.S. judge on Sunday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to remind senior managers they must follow its “extraordinary measures” policy and use its Express Mail Network to expedite ballots.

A federal judge in Texas on Monday will consider a Republican request to throw out about 127,000 votes already cast at drive-through voting sites in the Democratic-leaning Houston area.

The FBI, meanwhile, is investigating an incident in Texas when a pro-Trump convoy of vehicles surrounded a tour bus carrying Biden campaign staff. The caravan, which Trump praised, prompted the Biden campaign to cancel at least two of its Texas events, as Democrats accused the president of encouraging supporters to engage in acts of intimidation.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in Opa-Locka, Florida, and Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington, Delaware; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)