- Georgia’s secretary of state said there will be a statewide recount because of the razor-thin margin between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Former Vice President Joe Biden.
- Biden took the lead in Georgia and Pennsylvania early Friday as he pushes closer to the 270 electoral votes he needs to claim victory.
- Trump has already announced his desire for a recount in Wisconsin, though the 20,000 vote deficit between Trump and Biden will be difficult to overcome.
- Few recounts in the last 50 years have led to changes in the winners. In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Arizona — key states in this year’s race — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
A Tight Race in Georgia
Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden took a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia early Friday, putting Biden closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidential race. However, Georgia’s secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) told reporters later that morning that the state would head to a recount because of just how close the margin between them is proving to be.
“Right now Georgia remains too close to call. Out of approximately 5 million votes cast we’ll have a margin of a few thousand,” Raffensperger said. “With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia.”
“Interest in our election obviously goes far beyond Georgia’s borders. The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country.”
Candidates must be within half a percentage point of each other to trigger a recount in the state, and as of the morning, Biden had pulled ahead by just over 1,500 votes.
“Everything’s going to have to be investigated to protect the integrity of the vote,” Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia’s Voting System Implementation Manager, told reporters that same morning.“We are literally looking at a margin of less than a large high school.”
Still, officials noted that there are 4,169 mail ballots that need to be counted, with the majority of those coming in Gwinnett County, in Atlanta’s suburbs. On top of that, the state has until Friday to receive overseas and active military ballots that were postmarked by Election Day, and voters have until then to fix any mistakes on absentee ballots that were marked as deficient. There are also some outstanding provisional ballots, according to Politico.
Sterling emphasized that the count would be thorough and transparent, pushing back against false claims from the president and his base about ongoing fraud. “We’re not seeing any widespread irregularities,” he said.
A formal recount challenge will likely not be made until later in November as results continue to trickle in. Such a request must be made within two days of results being certified. As of now, the state certification process is set to be finalized by Nov. 20.
Winning Georgia’s 16 electoral votes will be an important feat for Biden. Trump won Georgia by 5.7 percentage points in 2016, and Republican presidential candidates have carried Georgia in every election since 1992, when Democrat Bill Clinton was victorious there.
What Recount Rules Look Like in Other Key States
Thin margins like that in Georgia could open up the possibility of recounts in other states as well. In fact, the Trump campaign has already signaled that it would request a recount in Wisconsin, where Trump trails behind Biden by around 20,000 votes. Many news outlets have already Biden the apparent winner.
In Wisconsin, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than 1%. The request must be made no later than 5 p.m. on the first business day after the state has received final results from the state’s counties.
If that recount is at all similar to past Wisconsin recounts, experts and even other Republicans admit that the vote deficit will be tough to overcome.
When Wisconsin conducted a statewide recount in 2016, after Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 20,000 votes, the recount netted Trump 131 votes.
Another key state in the race for president is Pennsylvania, where Biden is leading by over 12,000 votes. Over 124,000 mail-in ballots have yet to be counted.
If Biden wins Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, he doesn’t need any of the other states he’s leading in to reach 270. Trump, on the other hand, cannot find a route to 270 electoral votes without Georgia and Pennsylvania.
As far as recounts laws go, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is required to order a recount if the winning margin is 0.5% or less. The recount would need to be ordered by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 and completed by Nov. 24.
A recount can also be triggered in each county if requested by three voters, according to the Washington Post.
Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina have yet to be projected. Trump is ahead in both North Carolina and Alaska, with most expecting that to remain the case. Though, it is worth noting that North Carolina will accept mail-in ballots that arrive through Nov. 12, and the race is not likely to be called until then.
Alaska may be one of the last to be called as well because officials there won’t even begin counting mail ballots, or early in-person ballots cast after Oct. 29, for another week.
Meanwhile, Biden holds a lead in Nevada by around 22,000 votes. There, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit alleging that votes have been cast by deceased people and nonresidents. Election officials in Nevada have denied those claims.
It is unclear when vote count totals will be high enough to award the state’s six electoral votes since the state is still counting and will accept mail-in ballots received through November 10, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
If either candidate wants a recount there, Nevada will not launch it automatically. Instead, the state allows defeated candidates in any election to request a recount, no matter the margins. The deadline to request a recount is no later than three business days after the canvass of the vote. The candidate requesting a recount must also be willing to put down a deposit to cover the estimated cost of the recount.
That deposit will only be returned if the candidate requesting the recount ends up winning the race after it.
Biden has also maintained a lead in Arizona over the last few days, with Fox News and the Associated Press already declaring him the winner there. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters have made baseless voter fraud claims there as well, encouraging the state to keep counting votes in hopes that their candidate can pull out a win.
Those calls are a sharp contrast to those from Trump supporters in Michigan, who called for counting to stop after seeing Biden’s lead grow with mail-in ballots.
It should be noted that all the ballots being counted are valid ballots and any decision to not count them would be both unprecedented and undemocratic.
In Arizona, state law requires a recount when the margin between the top two candidates is equal to or less than one-tenth of 1% of the total number of votes cast. However, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) told ABC News on Thursday morning that she did not anticipate that a recount would be necessary.
“Our recount margins are very narrow,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to get to that territory.”
Biden is currently leading with over 43,000 votes.
Most news organizations have already declared Biden the winner since Wednesday, with a roughly 150,000-vote lead.
Michigan state law requires a recount be conducted automatically if the margin between two candidates is 2,000 votes or less.
A candidate can also petition for a recount if he or she alleges fraud or a mistake and “would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.” The petition must be filed within 48 hours of the count’s completion.
A judge in the state has already dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit which alleged their election inspectors did not have proper access to observe the counts in Michigan. The judge argued it was basically moot because most of the ballots have already been counted.
Could a Recount Flip a Key Battleground? Probably Not
Though many expect Trump to seek some recounts as his paths to victory disappear, experts argue that recounts likely won’t make a difference in a statewide election. According to NBC News, few recounts in the last 50 years have led to changes in the winners.
In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona — key states in this year’s race — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Politico) (The Washington Post)
Trump Threatens To Veto Yearly Defense Spending Bill if Congress Doesn’t Throw Out Protections for Social Media Companies
- On Tuesday, President Trump threatened to veto the $740 billion annual defense spending bill if Congress does not repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
- Section 230, which became law in 1996, gives social media companies the ability to moderate posts on their platforms without liability. It also shields them from lawsuits for what people post on those platforms.
- Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that the section should be revised but for different reasons.
- It is unlikely that Congress will completely repeal the law and bend to Trump’s threat.
- If Trump does veto the defense bill, that could potentially be overridden by Congress. If it’s not, the process for proposing and passing the bill would begin anew in January and would possibly not be passed until President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Trump Threatens to Veto Defense Spending
President Donald Trump stepped up his attack on big tech companies Tuesday night in a novel way: by threatening to veto the country’s annual defense spending bill, which Congress is scrambling to pass before it goes on break for the holidays.
In a pair of tweets, Trump railed against Section 230, which gives social media companies the ability to moderate posts on their platforms without liability.
“Our Country can never be safe & secure if we allow it to stand,” he said after calling the statute a threat to national security and election integrity.
“Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill when sent to the very beautiful Resolute desk. Take back America NOW. Thank you!”
Section 230 allows companies like Twitter, without repercussion, to remove tweets that include false information and to mark other tweets if they are misleading — something it’s been actively doing against Trump’s tweets since May. In recent weeks, Twitter has flagged a flurry of Trump’s tweets pertaining to unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud.
This isn’t the first time Trump has criticized Section 230. After he was first flagged in May, he signed an executive order instructing federal regulators to look into how to roll back parts of the section. With that, he argued Section 230 allows social media companies to engage in “anti-conservative bias.”
Trump’s attempt to repeal Section 230 hinges on what provision is contained in the final version of the NDAA, which totals roughly $740 billion this year. It’s an annual bill that shapes Pentagon policy by directing how funds are appropriated. That includes pay raises, troop levels, new weapons, and even how to compete with other world powers like China and Russia. Notably, this year’s defense bill includes a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops.
Congress has been working to finalize the bill this week. That’s because the House will break on Dec. 11 and the Senate on Dec. 18 for the holidays. With such a short time span before the new Congress comes in on Jan, 3, there is a rush to pass the bill. If this Congress doesn’t, the whole process will have to start over from scratch in January.
For the last 59 years, the NDAA has passed through Congress on a bipartisan basis.
Earlier this year, Trump had once already threatened to veto the NDAA if Congress voted to rename Army posts named after Confederate generals.
Will Section 230 Be Repealed or Amended?
Trump’s threats are not likely to fully repeal Section 230.
“It’s a fucking joke,” a senior House staffer told Politico. “This is a complex debate that has no business as an eleventh-hour airdrop.”
Several Republican members of Congress have also openly criticized Trump for the ultimatum and its timing.
Still, that doesn’t mean a reform to the section entirely out of the question.
In September, the Justice Department submitted legislation to Congress that would erode protections granted by Section 230. Like Trump, it also argued that tech companies have engaged in an “anti-conservative bias.” In fact, such an argument has become increasingly common among Republicans.
In October, the Federal Communications Commission said it would re-examine and clarify the meaning of Section 230, a move that could potentially change the protections the statute currently gives tech companies. Because of that, the agency was criticized by some as being a puppet of the Trump administration.
It’s not just Republicans who’ve criticized Section 230. Democrats also have problems with it, particularly because they say it still allows for harmful content to be spread online. For example, they’ve argued that platforms like Facebook haven’t done enough to crack down on election disinformation and hate speech.
According to The Washington Post, Republicans in recent days have suggested a trade that would involve bipartisan reforms to Section 230 in exchange for renaming the military bases named after Confederates. Reportedly, Democrats have largely dismissed that idea.
In fact, many Democrats have said they want to wait to discuss reforms to Section 230 until the next Congress begins.
What Happens If Trump Vetoes the NDAA?
If Congress doesn’t issue a total repeal of Section 230 (as expected), there could be several outcomes.
Trump could back down from his threat to sign the veto. Some analysts even expect him to back down, though others have been more skeptical about that claim. In its nearly six decades, the NDAA has never been vetoed by a president.
Congress could also override Trump’s veto. As it stands right now, each chamber has passed their own versions of the bill with enough bipartisan support to do just that. Still, it’s unclear if those margins will hold up once a final bill is negotiated between the chambers.
For reference, Congress hasn’t been able to override any of Trump’s eight vetoes during his time in office. On top of that, many Republicans would likely question whether to side with Trump or the Pentagon.
Finally, Trump could successfully veto the NDAA. If that happens, as noted earlier, the next Congress would then have to start the process over and likely wait until President-elect Joe Biden is in office to pass it.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Senators Unveil $908 Billion Stimulus Proposal
- After months of stalled negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators put forward a new stimulus package proposal.
- The plan, which the senators said was intended to be a framework for legislation both parties could agree to, includes an additional $300 a week in expanded unemployment benefits and $25 billion for housing assistance, among other actions.
- Those two provisions are essential for continuing assistance to Americans struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, as both federal unemployment benefits and the federal eviction moratorium are set to expire at the end of the month.
- If Congress does not act, upwards of 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits by Dec. 26 and an estimated 19 million will risk losing their homes during the height of the pandemic in the coming months.
New Stimulus Plan
A bipartisan group of senators announced a new $908 billion stimulus proposal Wednesday, marking both the first time talks have restarted since the election and arguably the most concrete step towards a coronavirus relief bill that Congress has taken in months.
With negotiations on the much-needed stimulus package stalled this summer and again ahead of the election, the roughly half a dozen senators behind the new plan have been working for weeks to break the stalemate with a deal that seeks to find a middle ground on key issues.
In their announcement, the Republican and Democratic lawmakers framed the proposal as a template for the kind of legislation that both sides could pass before the new year.
Among other things, the working plan includes: $160 billion for state and local governments, $288 billion for loans to small businesses, $180 billion for unemployment insurance — which reportedly would come out to an additional $300 a week in expanded benefits — and $25 billion in housing assistance.
Those last two provisions are arguably the most important for the American people because there is a huge cliff at the end of the month when key unemployment benefits and major federal eviction protections are both set to run out. If Congress does not act, millions of Americans could lose absolutely essential lifelines at a time when many are already struggling financially.
On Dec. 26, both the federal programs that provide benefits for freelancers and allow unemployed workers to collect an extra 13 weeks of benefits are set to expire, leaving the vast majority of the 20 million Americans who were collecting benefits as of October (the most recent data available) with few stopgaps.
According to a recent study from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, 12 million of those workers will lose those benefits entirely when that deadline hits — and that is in addition to the roughly 4.4. million who will have already exhausted that aid before then.
Many people collecting unemployment insurance are still hurting. A report released Monday by the watchdog Government Accountability Office found the Department of Labor has been both under and overcounting the number of people collecting unemployment benefits and giving out less federal benefits than it should.
The report also stated that failure to extend these federal benefits will harm those people even more, and risk sending some households below the poverty line.
To that point, many struggling unemployed Americans who may have had trouble paying their rent are also at risk of losing their homes during the height of the pandemic when the federal eviction moratorium ends on Dec. 31.
The existing moratorium was imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September after the federal ban on evictions passed under the CARES Act expired at the end of July and Congress failed to renew it.
Technically, the CDC could act again to extend it without Congress, but that would still leave some major holes.
First and foremost, the federal ban does not apply to all American renters, and while many cities and states imposed their own eviction bans and provided other forms of renter relief, many of those protections have already expired or will soon.
In fact, a new study by The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) estimates that as many as 6.7 million renter households — or roughly 19 million people — risk being evicted in the coming months.
While an extension of the ban would definitely be a good thing, without any additional relief for renters, it would essentially kick the underlying issue down the road. The CDC moratorium just makes it so renters can’t be evicted if they do not pay rent while the policy is in place — but it does not mean they do not have to pay rent at all.
Once the ban is lifted, not only do renters have to start paying again, they also have to pay back all the rent they missed as well as any late fees they may have built up if their landlords decided not to waive them. If they do not pay their debts, they can be evicted.
In other words: many people will owe months and months of rent they cannot pay. Even if the CDC extends the moratorium so they will not have to pay in January, the CDC cannot legally allocate money for rent relief — at a federal level, that has to be done through Congress.
Cities and states could continue to help their efforts to help out with similar programs, but the NLIHC estimates that $100 billion in emergency rental assistance is needed to avoid an eviction crisis, and with local governments already running of money because of the pandemic, they likely will not be able to do much without more money from another stimulus
Future of Coronavirus Relief
However, the future of any stimulus bill before these deadlines hit still remains unclear. While the proposal announced today was drafted by senators from both parties, it is still uncertain if leadership will sign on.
For months the people at the very top have failed to compromise and refused to budge from their drastically different proposals.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) has pushed for a much more comprehensive $2.2 trillion package. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted on a much smaller $500 billion bill that would not include money to state and local governments or another round of stimulus checks but would include sweeping liability protections for businesses so they could not be sued if an employee or customer got COVID because of their lack of safety precautions.
Those issues have been major points of contention between the two parties, and even when they agree on what should be included in the bill, they disagree on funding levels — with Democrats pushing for more and Republicans for less.
Notably, both Pelosi and McConnell have expressed optimism about coming to an agreement in recent days.
“I’m optimistic that we will have bipartisanship to put something together to go forward because I do believe that many of our colleagues understand what’s happening in their districts and want to make a difference,” Pelosi told reporters right before the Thanksgiving recess.
While speaking on the Senate floor just yesterday, McConnell also echoed those remarks, saying “there’s no reason” Congress could not approve a “major” stimulus bill. However, he also blamed Democrats for refusing to compromise, saying they should consider smaller provisions.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.) responded by lobbing essentially the same accusations at McConnell, saying he had only advanced a Republican wish list rather than negotiating with Democrats, and arguing that “both sides must give.”
Clearly, there are still some major, lingering issues the parties need to resolve, but the clock is ticking. In addition to the key deadlines at the end of the month, Congress also must pass a spending bill to fund the government by Dec. 11 or risk a shutdown.
While currently separate from any proposed stimulus bill, some experts and congressional aides are pinning their hopes of COVID relief measures being rolled into the $1.4 trillion annual government budget.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNBC) (CNN)
Wisconsin Recount, Requested by Trump, Gives Biden Another 87 Votes
- The recount of votes in Wisconsin’s two largest counties ended Sunday, solidifying Joe Biden’s lead in the state by around 20,600 votes and also giving him an additional 87 votes.
- The recount, which cost around $3 million, was both requested and paid for by Donald Trump’s campaign.
- Before the final totals were even announced, Trump said he would be taking legal action in the state, though that is yet to be seen.
- The news comes amid a series of sweeping legal losses for Trump, who continued to push unproven and debunked claims about voter fraud over the holiday weekend.
Wisconsin Recount Ends
A recanvass of ballots in Wisconsin’s two largest counties concluded Sunday, firmly solidifying former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead in the state.
In fact, the new tally even gave Biden another 87 votes in the $3 million recount requested and paid for by President Donald Trump.
The Trump campaign asked for ballots to be re-tallied in the two Democratic strongholds, Milwaukee and Dane Counties, which are home to Milwaukee and Madison respectively. The request came after the Wisconsin Election Commission estimated it would cost nearly $8 million to recanvass the whole state.
The two recounts changed very little from the initial count, maintaining Biden’s statewide lead of around 20,600 votes. In Milwaukee County, both Biden and Trump’s totals increased very slightly from the original count, though Biden still won by a hefty majority of 317,527 votes to Trump’s 134,482.
Meanwhile, in Dane County, both candidates actually saw minor decreases in their totals, with Biden losing 91 votes and Trump losing 46. While that is a net gain of 45 votes for Trump, he still ended up losing the county pretty handily with just 78,754 votes to Biden’s 260,094.
Those numbers are by no means surprising. Instead, they solidify some important elements of recounts: that they usually only change the final tally by just a few dozen votes, and that they almost never change the original outcome of an election.
These facts remain true despite the president’s repeated insinuations that recanvassing ballots will change the outcome of the election in his favor.
The finalization of the recounted ballots also marks another big loss for Trump, who has seen a series of sweeping upsets in the multitude of legal cases his campaign and allies have filed. In fact, according to Democratic voting-rights lawyer Marc Elias, as of Saturday, Trump’s legal strategy had given him a 1-39 loss record in various state and federal courts across the country.
Notably, the vast majority of those lawsuits do not even make any kind of allegations that voter fraud or other irregularities occurred as the president continues to claim.
On top of that, as more states continue to certify their results, Trump’s legal opportunities continue to dwindle.
Once a state has certified its election, it makes it much harder for any new legal challenges to be brought, and with the Wisconsin Elections Commission scheduled to meet Tuesday, the state is expected to fully certify its election for Biden very soon.
Despite that, Trump said on Saturday, before the recount totals were even announced, that he would continue to fight the results in Wisconsin.
“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday,” he wrote. “We have found many illegal votes. Stay tuned!”
Fox News Business Interview
No such lawsuit has materialized, and with the clock ticking, it is unclear what such a challenge would even look like. Trump has not provided any evidence of voter fraud or illegal votes being counted in either Wisconsin’s first tally or the recount, which were live-streamed in both counties and where officials reported zero irregularities.
Regardless, Trump still has continued to spout endless conspiracies and baseless claims about fraud all over the country, claiming in numerous tweets over the weekend that were flagged by Twitter as misinformation that the election was rigged.
On Sunday, in the first interview he has given since the election was called for Biden, the president went on Fox News Business where he repeated his unproven allegations, and even accused the FBI and the Department of Justice of rigging the election.
The president did, however, appear to acknowledge that his own legal team and other experts have said many of his lawsuits will not stand, and that it is unlikely any of his cases will go to the Supreme Court, though he faulted the legal system for these factors.
“You mean as president of the United States, I don’t have standing?” he asked. “What kind of court system is this? And the judges stay away from it.”
Notably, Trump did not answer questions as to when he would end his legal challenges, but during a press conference Thursday, he did say he would leave the White House if Biden won the Electoral College.
His comments marked the closest the president has come to saying he will accept the results of the election, at least in practice. Still, he added that “a lot of things” would happen between now and the Electoral College on Dec. 14 that could change the results of the election.