Syria’s Assad hails vote, derided by opponents, as re-defining revolution

BEIRUT (Reuters) -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Friday that those who voted in Wednesday’s presidential election have brought back the true meaning of revolution after it was tarnished by “mercenaries”.

“You have saved its reputation and relaunched it,” Assad said in a televised speech one day after he was announced as the winner with 95% of the vote.

The government sees the election, dismissed by the opposition and the West as a farce, as a statement that Syria is functioning normally despite a decade-old civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people – about half the population – from their homes.

The win delivers Assad, 55, seven more years in power and lengthens his family’s rule to nearly six decades. His father, Hafez al-Assad, led Syria for 30 years until his death in 2000.

“You have redefined nationalism and that also means automatically redefining treason,” Assad said.

Assad’s years as president have been defined by the war that began in 2011 with peaceful protests before spiraling into a multi-sided conflict that has fractured the Middle Eastern country and drawn in foreign friends and enemies.

With the help of Russia and Iran, Assad has crushed the insurgency against him and regained control over 70% of territory but Syria is not at peace.

Turkey controls territory in the northwest where many of the four million people who fled Assad’s bombing see Ankara as their protector. The United States also has a small military presence in the northeast that underpins Kurdish forces in a region where major oilfields are located and much of the country’s wheat is grown.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States criticized Assad ahead of the election saying the vote would not be free or fair. Turkey, an Assad adversary, has also said the election was illegitimate.

China, Russia and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement congratulated him.

Assad on Thursday dismissed the criticism, saying that his enemies had “blindness of reason.”

(Reporting By Alaa Swilam and Maha El Dahan; editing by Grant McCool)

Explainer-What happens when the U.S. Electoral College meets on Monday?

WHAT IS HAPPENING ON MONDAY?

The winner of the U.S. presidential election is determined not by the popular vote but through a system called the Electoral College, which is mandated in the Constitution and allots “electoral votes” to states and the District of Columbia based on their congressional representation.

Before the election, state-level leaders of the two major parties selected people to serve as “electors.”

Technically, Americans are casting votes for those slates of electors, not the candidates themselves.

Those individuals are typically party loyalists who have pledged to support the candidate who got the most votes in their state.

There are 538 electoral votes, meaning 270 are needed to win the election.

Most electors are not household names, but the electors this year include Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former candidate for governor in that state.

Electors meet at a time and place selected by their state’s legislature. Nevada is meeting virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most states will livestream the ceremonies.

Electors will sign certificates showing their votes, which are sent to government officials including Vice President Mike Pence. Those certificates are paired with ones signed by governors showing the popular vote tallies, which have already been certified by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Electoral votes will be officially tallied by a newly seated Congress on Jan. 6, in a special joint session that Pence will preside over.

At that point, the election is officially decided.

CAN ELECTORS DEFY THE POPULAR VOTE?

Yes, but that is a rare occurrence.

In 2016, seven of the 538 electors cast ballots for someone other than their state’s popular vote winner, an unusually high number.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws intended to control rogue electors, or “faithless electors.” Some provide a financial penalty for a rogue vote, while others call for the vote to be canceled and the elector replaced.

COULD CONGRESS REFUSE TO ACCEPT BIDEN’S ELECTORAL VOTES?

It is theoretically possible, but such a move is extremely unlikely to work because Democrats control the House of Representatives.

A U.S. law called the Electoral Count Act allows individual members of the House and Senate to challenge the results during the Jan. 6 special session — a rarely used procedure.

Any objection to a state’s results must be backed by at least one House member and one senator.

The two chambers would then separate to debate the objections before voting on whether to reject the state’s results.

An objection must pass in both chambers by a simple majority.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)

Trump declines to say if he still has confidence in Attorney General Barr

By Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday declined to say whether he still had confidence in U.S. Attorney General William Barr after the Department of Justice chief this week said there was no sign of major fraud in last month’s presidential election.

Barr told the Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday the department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. But Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said Barr had not searched for any evidence.

“Well he hasn’t done anything. So, he hasn’t looked,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “They haven’t looked very hard, which is a disappointment to be honest with you, because it’s massive fraud.”

Trump’s legal team has accused Barr of failing to conduct a proper inquiry or audit voting machines, a task that does not fall to the Justice Department during an election.

Barr told the AP there had been confusion over the department’s role in U.S. elections, and that civil lawsuits like those being pursued by Trump’s campaign were the appropriate legal venue.

Asked if he still had confidence in Barr, Trump said: “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now. They should be looking at all of this fraud. This is not civil, he thought it was civil. This is not civil, this is criminal stuff. This is very bad criminal stuff.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the president’s remarks.

“We found far more votes than we need in almost all of these states. And I think I can say in all of these states, far more votes than we need to win every one of them,” Trump said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Trump campaign challenges election results in Wisconsin Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump campaign said it filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging Wisconsin’s results in the 2020 presidential election in the state’s Supreme Court, the latest in a series of legal challenges to the Nov. 3 election.

“Today’s suit includes four cases with clear evidence of unlawfulness, such as illegally altering absentee ballot envelopes, counting ballots that had no required application, overlooking unlawful claims of indefinite confinement, and holding illegal voting events called Democracy in the Park,” the campaign said in a statement.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Franklin Paul)

Pence urges Georgia Republicans to turn out in final Senate battleground

By Jeff Mason

CANTON, Ga. (Reuters) – Vice President Mike Pence charged into the final battle for control of the U.S. Senate on Friday, urging Republican voters in Georgia to come out in force for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in two hotly contested Jan. 5 runoff elections.

With state officials poised to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory over President Donald Trump, Pence joined a bus tour through suburban Republican strongholds north of Atlanta, with stops at two “Defend the Majority” rallies.

“Georgia, I got back on the bus today because we need you to stay in the fight,” Pence told hundreds of cheering supporters at an outdoor event in Canton. “Stay in the fight until we send David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back to a Republican majority.”

Democrats hope that challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will emerge victorious in the tight contests to give them a Senate majority that can push Biden’s agenda through Congress next year.

“Vote, Georgia!” Pence said, pausing to tell the crowd the exact time and place where early in-person voting will begin in their community on Dec. 14. “Be in line and vote!”

With Trump no longer on the ballot, Republicans and Democrats both face challenges getting large numbers of voters to the polls in January.

Pence, who the White House said will make repeated visits to Georgia ahead of the runoffs, traveled with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a cousin of the senator and a leading party figure who served as the first Republican governor of Georgia since the post-Civil War Reconstruction.

The vice president portrayed Perdue and Loeffler as integral parts of Trump’s agenda to cut taxes, reduce regulation, fund the military, secure the border and appoint conservative judges, including three U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Pence’s visit came at a time of infighting between Georgia Republicans.

Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator since 1996. But Republican confidence has been shaken by Biden’s narrow 49.5% to 49.2% lead over Trump, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in nearly three decades.

Loeffler and Perdue ruffled party feathers by calling jointly for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, as the state conducted a series of vote recounts focused on the presidential contest.

Loeffler also fought a bitter contest against Republican rival Doug Collins in the months leading up to the Nov. 3 election and may have alienated some Collins supporters.

Democrats, who netted only one Republican Senate seat nationwide in the election, need both Georgia seats to give them 50 of the Senate’s 100 seats, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote.

Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential election is also complicating matters for Republicans by making it hard to rally voters to hold the line against a Biden presidency. Pence did not mention Biden in his remarks, portraying Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi instead as political villains.

“Let’s show the world what Georgia’s all about, that the agenda of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi is not the agenda of the people of Georgia,” Pence said.

The vice president vowed that Trump would continue to contest the results of the presidential election, and drew periodic chants of “Stop the Steal!” and Four More Years!”

He steered clear of references to the intensifying coronavirus pandemic in addressing supporters, only some of whom wore masks with little social distancing.

Campaign donors and outside groups are pouring money and resources into the state for two-month runoff election campaigns that could see well over $100 million in overall spending.

Republicans have formed a fundraising network called the Georgia Battleground Fund led by scores of party celebrities including members of Congress, former governors and ambassadors. A source said the fund is seeking millions of dollars from donors in big states like Florida and Texas.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, an honorary fund co-chair, chipped in $1 million for the Georgia races during a Zoom call on Thursday with 60 other House members that raised $2.7 million overall in just 30 minutes, according to a person familiar with the event.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Georgia and David Morgan in Washington; additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Wilmington, Delaware; writing by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Sonya Hepinstall)

Georgia to re-count presidential election ballots by hand

By Jason Lange and Julia Harte

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Georgia will re-count all paper ballots cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election by hand, the state’s top election official said on Wednesday, a mammoth task that must be completed by Nov. 20.

Democrat Joe Biden secured more than the 270 Electoral College votes needed to gain the presidency on Saturday by winning Pennsylvania after four tense days of counting, delayed by a surge in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. Adding Georgia would only add to Biden’s margin of victory.

Republican President Donald Trump has refused to concede defeat and has said – without citing evidence – that the voting was marred by fraud.

The vote count in Georgia showed Biden ahead of Trump by just 14,101 votes out of some 5 million across the state. With the margin so small, a recount is needed, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference.

“You actually have to do a full hand-by-hand recount of all because the margin is so close,” Raffensperger said. “We want to start this before the week is up.”

“People will be working lots of overtime over the next coming weeks,” he said.

Officials will work in pairs, sorting stacks of ballots into piles and counting them under the watch of observers from both political parties, Raffensperger said. The piles will include ballots cast in person and by mail, he said.

“That’s how it’s going to be all the way through, and you’re going to tally it all up. It’s a big process,” he said.

The scale of the endeavor is such that if counting takes place round-the-clock, officials will have to count more than 23,000 ballots an hour in the nine days before the deadline for the results to be certified.

A study by the non-partisan group Fair Vote found that out of 31 statewide recounts between 2000 and 2019, the outcome changed in only three of them. More often, the winner won by a tiny bit more. On average, they shifted the outcome by 0.024%, Fair Vote found – a much smaller margin than Trump would need. Biden currently leads Trump in Georgia by 49.5% to 49.2%.

Georgia’s two U.S. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans, on Monday called on Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, to resign over his management of the election. They presented no evidence of fraud, however.

(Reporting by Jason Lange, Julia Harte and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)

Georgia state likely to go through recount in presidential election, secretary of state says

By Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Georgia’s secretary of state on Friday said he expects a recount due to the small margin for the presidential election in the battleground state, where Democrat Joe Biden has a small lead over Republican President Donald Trump.

The presidential candidates each had 49.4% of counted ballots, though Biden was ahead by 1,579 votes as of Friday morning with 4,169 left to count, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, Gabriel Sterling, said.

“With a margin that small, there will be a recount,” Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, told reporters.

Officials said about 9,000 military and overseas ballots were still outstanding and could be accepted if they arrive on Friday and are postmarked on Tuesday or earlier.

There are two ways of seeking a recount in Georgia. A presidential candidate who loses by 0.5% of the vote or less can force a recount by sending a written request to the secretary of state, or a candidate can ask the secretary of state to conduct one by alleging a “discrepancy or error” in the vote tabulation. In that case, state law gives the secretary discretion about whether to conduct a recount.

Local election officials in Georgia also can conduct recounts in their counties if they think there is a discrepancy in the results.

The Southern state switched to new touch-screen voting machines this year. After a voter makes their choices, the machine produces a marked paper ballot that’s fed into a scanner that counts the vote.

Absentee voters – hundreds of thousands this year – filled out the same ballots, which also were fed into the scanners. If the scanner cannot read the ballot, a bipartisan group of election officials reviews it to determine whether or how it should be counted.

A recount essentially repeats that process, and in the past has not made big changes in the results.

Because of that, a recount is considered unlikely to have a big effect on the state’s vote totals.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Daphne Psaledakis and Brad Heath; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

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)

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)

U.S. Postal Service warns of ‘significant risk’ of late ballots

By Andy Sullivan and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ahead of a presidential election that could see up to half of U.S. voters cast their ballots by mail, the U.S. Postal Service is warning some states that they need to provide more time for those votes to be counted.

The Postal Service has told at least three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington — there is “significant risk” voters will not have enough time to complete their ballots and return them on time under current state laws, which allow them to request ballots just days before the election.

The letters highlight the possibility that a meaningful number of mail votes in the Nov. 3 presidential election might go uncounted if they are returned too late.

“State and local election officials must understand and take into account our operational standards and recommended timelines,” Postal Service spokeswoman Martha Johnson said. She did not respond to a question about how many states in total got warning letters.

Election officials have scrambled to prepare for a deluge of mail ballots as Americans avoid public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted many states to make it easier to vote by mail.

The Postal Service itself has gotten pulled into a political fight, with Republican President Donald Trump on Thursday saying he objected to providing funds for the struggling service or mail voting as part of a coronavirus relief package.

Trump, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls, has railed against widespread mail voting, saying without evidence that it could lead to fraud.

Biden and other top Democrats have accused Trump of trying to discourage mail voting because he believes doing so would boost his re-election chances.

Election experts say mail voting is as secure as any other method.

TOO LITTLE TIME?

The Postal Service has warned some states that allowing voters to request ballots less than a week before the election does not leave enough time to print up the ballot, mail it to the voter and have it returned.

“There is significant risk that the voter will not have sufficient time to complete and mail the completed ballot back to election officials in time for it to arrive by the state’s return deadline,” Postal Service General Counsel Thomas Marshall wrote in a July 29 letter to Michigan’s top election official seen by Reuters.

Half of the states allow voters to request an absentee ballot within seven days of an election. The Postal Service recommends that mail ballots should be completed and in the mail back to election offices by that point, according to Marshall’s letter.

Ohio, Michigan and several other states with tight deadlines have so far not pushed them back.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of state asked the state Supreme Court to allow ballots to be counted if they are received up to three days after the Nov. 3 election, rather than on Election Day.

Marshall also encouraged election officials to use its first-class mail service to ensure prompt delivery, rather than the cheaper and slower bulk-mail rate.

In past elections the Postal Service has given priority to all political and election mail, no matter the postage rate, according to workers and the service’s internal watchdog.

“If this letter aims to backtrack on that collaboration or the promise of prioritization of election mail, that would be very concerning,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of State, which oversees elections.

Roughly 0.25% of mail ballots were rejected in 2016 because they arrived too late, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Problems with mail ballots have marred many primary elections this year. Voters in Georgia reported not getting requested mail ballots, while in New York a judge ordered election officials to count thousands of ballots they had rejected for missing that state’s deadline.

The issue has taken on added urgency in recent weeks, as cost-cutting measures put in place by Trump’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, have led to widespread mail delays.

“They’re not moving as fast as they normally would, and I think we know that,” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said at a news conference on Wednesday. He urged voters to complete their ballots as quickly as possible.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and David Shepardson; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)