It has been more than two weeks since the presidential election and nearly the same amount of time since former Vice President Joe Biden was definitively declared the winner. President Donald Trump has still not conceded. With no presidential transition underway, some are beginning to question how long this period of political limbo will continue. How far can Trump legally go in refusing to concede his position? What will evicting the president look like?
State-by-State Legal Challenges
According to ABC News, the Trump campaign filed lawsuits in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
November 4th, the day after election day, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Chatham County, Georgia. The suit asked the state of Georgia to compile and account for all ballots received after the 7 p.m. deadline on election night, November 3rd. A judge dismissed the suit citing a lack of evidence.
On November 4th, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Wayne County, Michigan. The suit sought to stop the vote count until observers could get closer to counters. These lawsuits were dismissed a few days later due to a lack of evidence.
On November 10th, Trump and his legal team again battled over certification in Michigan. This time, the campaign sought to completely void Wayne County’s results after 100 poll workers attested to fraud. However, many of these claims were debunked by state officials. As such, delaying certification remains unlikely, according to ABC News.
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) filed a lawsuit in Arizona on November 5th over the use of sharpies on ballots in Maricopa County. The lawsuit came after a woman said she filled out her vote with a sharpie, but the vote counting machine was unable to read it. The lawsuit is ongoing.
On November 5th, the Trump campaign also filed a lawsuit in Nevada claiming that there were over 3,000 instances of ineligible voters casting ballots. The Trump legal team filed a request to manually check and verify all ballots in Clark County. But District Court Judge James Gordon threw the suit out the next day citing a lack of evidence.
Most litigation from the Trump campaign is based in Pennsylvania. The campaign alleges that observers were not close enough to vote counters in order to validate the process as legitimate. On November 5th, a judge gave permission to have observers stand closer to counters as they tallied the remaining votes.
According to The Guardian, the Trump campaign dropped part of their lawsuit in Pennsylvania on November 16th. Trump’s legal team dropped the allegation that 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots were illegally processed without observers watching.
Down for the Count
Most of the lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign have so far been unsuccessful.
Although no legal action is currently underway in the state, Trump is calling for a recount in Wisconsin. Biden’s margin of victory was slim at 20,000 votes (just a .6 advantage in percentage points). However, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a full recount would cost the Trump campaign nearly $8 million.
Considering which states the Trump campaign wants a recount in will be a point of strategy in the coming weeks.
Ultimately, even if Trump were able to somehow flip either Wisconsin or Pennsylvania to red, he would still be well below the 270 electoral votes required to maintain the presidency.
In fact, Trump would need to flip Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to win a second term; a feat that seems extremely unlikely, let alone affordable.
The Hill reports that Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, issued a recount in the state following Biden’s narrow margin of victory. However, it is unlikely the state will flip back to red considering Biden’s 14,000 vote lead.
Currently, the lawsuits in Nevada are still pending. Notably, Nevada was also the subject of controversy in 2016 when Senator Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., alleged voter fraud during the Democratic Primaries.
According to Rolling Stone, Sanders led the state in delegate slots (2,124 to Clinton’s 1,722). But only 1,662 delegates showed up for Sanders on convention day. Sanders lost the state to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 31 delegate slots. Sanders supporters argued the state rigged the election, disqualifying 64 of Sanders’ delegates while only disqualifying eight of Secretary Clinton’s.
Thus, Trump’s legal challenges in the state of Nevada do bear historical significance.
Will an Eviction Ensue for Trump?
Currently, it doesn’t appear that any litigation has a chance of delaying the process of transition. Results must be certified in each state before the electoral college votes on December 14th. Considering the speed at which Trump’s lawsuits have been thrown out, it’s unlikely any states will delay certification.
With Trump’s consistent refusal to concede, some are getting nervous as inauguration day on January 20th, 2021 approaches.
According to Yahoo News, two veterans sent an open letter to General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in August asking about military involvement should Trump refuse to physically leave the White House.
In the letter, the veterans said if Trump refuses to leave office, “the United States military must remove him by force, and you must give that order.”
However, the military usually stays out of domestic law enforcement matters. Such a move would likely fall on the Secret Service if put in such a position.
Although Trump is still the president, he only has so much power. Once the General Services Administration (GSA), a federal agency, certifies that Biden has won, there is nothing Trump can do to prevent transition. The GSA has not certified Biden as the winner yet. But it is likely to do so after the electoral college votes on December 14th.
In such an unprecedented situation, it is likely the American people will have to put their faith in government officials to uphold their constitutional oaths over a concession speech from Donald Trump.
By Thomas O’Connor