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Trump Goes to Court Over Pennsylvania Absentee Count

As Pennsylvania votes continue to be tallied Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump’s campaign said it is taking legal action to challenge the state’s extension for receiving absentee ballots.

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — As Pennsylvania votes continue to be tallied Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump’s campaign said it is taking legal action to challenge the state’s extension for receiving absentee ballots.

“As the president has rightly said, the Supreme Court must resolve this crucial contested legal question, so President Trump’s campaign is moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s unlawful extension of the mail-in ballot receipt deadline,” deputy campaign manager Justin Clark said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

He added, “The law is on President Trump’s side: as the Eighth Circuit just said, to change the ballot receipt deadline is in fact a change of the time, place, and manner of the election—and only a state legislature or the United States Congress can do that under the Constitution.”

The Trump campaign also intends to file suit to stop all vote counting in Pennsylvania, after announcing the same plan in Michigan, citing concerns over transparency.

At the time of the announcement, the Trump team also claimed victory in Pennsylvania even though the state had counted only about 84% of its votes. The incomplete tallies showed Trump with 52% of the vote to Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s 46%, separated by a few hundred thousand ballots.

“We are declaring victory in Pennsylvania based on the math,” Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien said on a call Wednesday. “We are very confident we will declare a victory in Pennsylvania and the margin won’t be close.”

He said places like York, Blair and Butler counties – more rural areas expected to break for Trump – have yet to count a significant number of their ballots. 

Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released a statement in response, saying Trump was trying to undermine the election and condemning the campaign for filing a lawsuit to stop the counting.

“Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and make sure that everyone has their voice heard. Pennsylvania is going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters and continue to administer a free and fair election,” Wolf said. “Our election officials at the state and local level should be free to do their jobs without intimidation or attacks. These attempts to subvert the democratic process are disgraceful.”

The governor added, “In Philadelphia, officials are administering the election with the highest degree of transparency. There has been a livestream of the ballot-counting process available throughout the count, and all parties have canvass observers.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, also said there was nothing to worry about.

“Volunteers and clerks from our communities are counting the votes,” he tweeted. “They will provide a fair, accurate count.”

Shortly after Trump announced his pending suits, Biden addressed the nation from Wilmington, Delaware, saying it is clear he would win in enough states to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the presidency.

“I am not here to declare that I have won. I am here to report that when the count is finished, I believe I will be the winner,” Biden said.

While acknowledging Pennsylvania’s tallying has yet to conclude, he said he felt good about his chances in the Keystone State.

“Virtually all the remaining ballots to be counted were cast by mail, and we are winning 78% of the votes by mail in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Seven hundred miles away from Philadelphia in Savannah, Georgia, 53 ballots prompted the Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party to file an enforcement action Wednesday evening.

A poll watcher with the Georgia GOP said in an affidavit he saw poll workers at the Chatham County Board of Elections not ensure a proper chain of custody of 53 ballots. He was unable to relocate them after a supervisor told him they were set aside for individual processing but were placed with opened ballots.

The Trump campaign and the GOP said they did not know if those ballots were absentee votes that arrived after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Election Day. According to the filing, Georgia election law dictates late-arriving ballots must be kept separate and would eventually be destroyed unopened.

The action asks the Superior Court of Chatham County to order only the Chatham County Board of Elections to account for late-arriving ballots, keeping them separate. 

While Justin Clark, senior counsel for the Trump campaign, said in a statement the petition seeks to uphold the law even if, as the suit said, there might have been some confusion because of an earlier lawsuit over the deadline for an absentee ballot to arrive for counting.

"Georgia’s law is very clear: to legally count, mail ballots must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day,” Clark said. “That’s still the law, even after Democrats sued earlier this year to extend the deadline and delay Election Day.”

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