President Donald Trump is quickly running out of options in his last-ditch effort to cling to power as key states move to certify their election results, officially confirming Joe Biden as the President-elect.
States certify their results after reviewing disputed ballots, conducting post-election audits and double-checking numbers for accuracy. Federal, state and local election officials from both political parties have said there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the 2020 election.
Aaron Van Langevelde, one of the two Republicans on the four-member canvassing board, joined with Democrats to vote for certification, ignoring arguments from the Republican National Committee and state GOP to delay, while the other Republican member abstained.
Georgia, which already certified the election on Friday and did a manual recount with state Republicans signing off on it, is doing another machine scan of the ballots at the Trump campaign’s request. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s Voting System Implementation Manager, said Monday that the recount would probably start sometime Tuesday, and “will probably wrap up sometime next week.”
Hours before requesting that recount, the Trump campaign was dealt a major blow in Pennsylvania – another state where Biden leads – when a federal judge dismissed their case in a sharply worded decision that prompted a GOP senator to come forward and say that enough was enough with Trump’s legal challenges. In another loss, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to block the counting of certain absentee ballots clearing the way for those ballots to be counted in multiple counties, including Philadelphia.
Multiple counties – among them Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh; Lehigh County, which includes Allentown, and Lancaster County – certified their election results Monday. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt told CNN’s Kate Bolduan he expects the county, Pennsylvania’s largest, to certify later in the day.
Recounts continue in two counties in Wisconsin, which CNN also projected for Biden, with counting ongoing until the December 1 certification deadline.
Arizona, a traditionally red state that Biden flipped, will certify its election results on November 30, while its Maricopa County, home to much election night hand wringing, has already certified its results.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days as key states hit their certification deadlines.
When Biden was declared the winner Friday after the hand-counting of about 5 million ballots, he had a margin of 12,670 votes or a 0.2% lead over Trump.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said during a news conference Friday. “As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we are presented today are correct.”
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Under Georgia law, the Trump campaign had two business days from Friday’s certification to request the recount, which will be taxpayer-funded.
The recount isn’t expected to change Biden’s lead over Trump, according to campaign law expert Jonathan Diaz, a CNN contributor.
“There’s no real point in them doing so, other than to continue to drag out this process and cause further delays,” Diaz said. “It is kind of nonsense,” he said of the recount request. “The war is over.”
Once results are certified, Trump’s options will be minimal as electoral votes are officially awarded.
Biden is currently leading in the Keystone State by more than 81,000 votes as most of the state’s 67 counties are expected to have meetings on Monday to certify their election results. Berks County – which includes Reading – does not intend to certify until Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.
This comes as a federal judge on Saturday fully rejected the Trump campaign’s bid to block election results via court order, calling their legal reasoning “Frankenstein’s monster” and their attempt to throw out millions of votes a violation of the Constitution. That decision is under appeal by the Trump campaign.
Following Saturday’s decision, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who’s not running for reelection in 2022, congratulated Biden on his presidential victory.
“With today’s decision by Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime conservative Republican whom I know to be a fair and unbiased jurist, to dismiss the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,” Toomey said in a statement.
He pointed to Georgia’s Friday certification of Biden’s win and what he said was Michigan lawmakers’ rejection of “the apparent attempt by President Trump to thwart the will of Michigan voters…” in his statement.
“These developments, together with the outcomes in the rest of the nation, confirm that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and will become the 46th President of the United States,” he added.
Several prominent state and nationally elected Republicans had defended the Trump campaign’s attempt in court.
The state Senate’s Republican caucus spoke up a week after Election Day, saying the handling of some absentee ballots that infringed on voters’ secrecy should invalidate the entire absentee vote in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Senate Republicans said they believed the handling of absentee ballots was a “disaster,” an assertion state officials and election security officials have roundly rejected.
And on Saturday afternoon – hours before Brann denied the Trump campaign’s case to disenfranchise millions of voters because of unfounded theories of fraud and two voters casting deficient ballots – Republican candidates in Pennsylvania and US Rep. Mike Kelly, who represents parts of northwestern Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit and separately filed a brief in the Trump campaign case attacking management of the election and the security of ballots that were being processed.
Meanwhile, there have been discussions with Trump about inviting Republican state legislators to the White House, two sources told CNN on Friday. However, Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania House GOP caucus, told CNN that no invitation has been extended.
The GOP-led state legislature has stated numerous times that they have no role in the selection of presidential electors and that the electors will go to the winner of the state’s popular vote.
“The law states that when the secretary of state certifies the election, the governor appoints the electors. That’s the law. And we will follow the law,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on November 19.
Pennsylvania is not expected to conduct a recount as the margin between the presidential candidates is greater than 0.5%, the threshold for avoiding automatically triggering the process. Unlike in Georgia, candidates in Pennsylvania can’t request a recount but voters can on their behalf. The request must be submitted within five days of the election. Currently there are no recount petitions pending in the state.
Michigan, where Biden holds a lead of more than 154,000 votes, certified its results on Monday. The board’s certification of election results is what triggers electors to be selected, which is what gets sent to the Electoral College.
One of the Republican board members, Norman Shinkle, abstained from voting to certify the election results, asking first for an audit or investigation into the vote in Wayne County.
At Monday’s meeting, the other Republican board member, Van Langevelde, voted to certify the election. Van Langevelde argued the board was required by law to certify, and that it did not have the power to investigate fraud before doing so.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey tweeted Sunday, “as I’ve repeatedly said, our election process MUST be free of intimidation and threats. Whether the Board of Canvassers certifies our results tomorrow or decides to take the full time allowed by law to perform their duties, it’s inappropriate for anyone to exert pressure on them.”
Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said that the sole purpose of the board is to “certify the election for whoever won the popular vote” and warned that if the board became deadlocked in a 2-2 tie that got held up in court, the state could face “a constitutional crisis.”
After their Friday meeting with Trump, both lawmakers said they had not seen any evidence of fraud in Michigan’s election and believed that the election should be certified for the winner of the popular vote.
“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan,” the Republican lawmakers said in a statement after the meeting. “The candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.”
The meeting came after Trump had called two Republican members of the Wayne County canvassing board Tuesday to offer his support after they went back and forth on voting to certify the election results from the state’s largest county, which includes Detroit.
In the Grand Canyon state, Biden currently holds a narrow margin of more than 10,000 votes, with the election results scheduled for certification on November 30.
Maricopa County, home to the state’s largest city of Phoenix, certified its election results on Friday, giving Biden a decisive 45,109 vote margin of victory in the county, leading the way in carrying the state for the President-elect.
The certification came just one day after a state judge threw out the Arizona Republican Party’s lawsuit seeking a broader audit of votes cast on Election Day that county lawyers warned could have delayed the state’s certification of ballots.
In a brief order, Judge John Hannah dismissed the lawsuit and denied the party’s request for an injunction to block Maricopa County from certifying its election results.
CNN projected Biden will win Arizona, marking the second time a Democratic presidential candidate will carry the state in more than seven decades.
Two counties in the Badger State, where Biden is leading by more than 20,000 votes, are in the middle of a partial presidential recount after the Trump campaign petitioned for one last week. The counties are scheduled to count every day until December 1 – which is the state certification deadline – except Thanksgiving, working through the weekends.
Trump’s campaign was unsuccessful on Friday in nullifying more than 60,000 ballots coming from the Democratic stronghold of Dane County, which includes the state capitol of Madison and is home to the University of Wisconsin.
In Milwaukee County, the Trump campaign asked that similar batches of absentee votes be set aside and that social distancing procedures be adjusted to allow observers to more closely watch. Milwaukee’s commission rejected some of the campaign’s objections and is still considering others.
The Trump campaign is trying to overcome Biden’s significant vote lead but past recounts haven’t led to swings in the state of that level of votes, with the 2016 recount in the presidential race increasing Trump’s margin by just 131 votes.
CNN’s Jessica Schneider, Kevin Bohn, Noah Broder, Morgan Rimmer, Andy Rose, Kara Scannell, Kaitlan Collins and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.