- 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)
Sen. Smith Leads Effort to “Protect Access to Abortion Care Where it is Still Legal”
The Senator also told Rogue Rocket she supports major reforms to the Supreme Court.
Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act
As conservative states move to limit abortion following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Mn.) is working to ensure access to the procedure is protected wherever it is still possible.
“What I’m working on right now is to try to protect access to abortion care where it is still legal in this country after the Supreme Court basically eviscerated this 50-year freedom,” Smith told Rogue Rocket while discussing a bill she recently introduced to safeguard access to medication abortion.
The legislation, dubbed the Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act, would codify existing Food and Drug Administration guidelines on medication abortion pills to ensure people in states where abortion remains legal can always access them through telehealth and certified pharmacies, including mail-order pharmacies.
“What my bill would do is it would say in states where abortion is still legal, you should be able to get access to medication abortion — which is safe and is effective in the first ten weeks of pregnancy, it’s been around for over 20 years,” said Smith, who previously served as the Vice President for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota.
“You don’t need to go into the doctor to get access to it. You can do a telehealth visit and it can be mailed to your home,” she continued. “Or potentially, if you live in a place where abortion has been banned, you could go someplace — go to Minnesota, for example — where abortion is legal and get access to it there. This is a way of trying to add another layer of protection for women, people who are grappling with the loss of this fundamental freedom and control over their own body.”
“You have providers who have dedicated their lives to making sure that women have access to the health care that they need. You have states that are passing laws that criminalize doctors, criminalize women for accessing abortion care in their states. I think we have to be real, that we need to try to protect both providers and women.”
Smith Questions Legitimacy of Supreme Court
Smith also said the decision to overturn Roe undermines the Supreme Court’s legitimacy because the decision represents the views of “an extreme minority that is enforcing its will” on a majority of Americans who, as polls have consistently shown, broadly support abortion protections.
The reversal, she said, is the result of Republicans’ “concerted effort” to pack the Supreme Court with conservative justices.
“Republican senators and Republican presidents have put on the Supreme Court individuals that they knew that they could trust to overturn Roe,” the senator stated. “I think it calls into question the legitimacy of the court […] I think on a whole range of other issues where we see, you know, what looks to a lot of us like a Supreme Court that is putting its own opinions into court precedent rather than following precedent and the law.”
Smith went on to say she supports expanding the Supreme Court and argued there are also many other ways to address the issue of legitimacy.
“Americans are seeing that the […] legitimacy of the court is deeply damaged. The question is, what do we do about it? How do we restore trust in the court?” Smith asserted. “Restoring balance to the court by adding justices is one important step, and I support that. There are other things that we could do.”
“The Supreme Court doesn’t abide by any clear responsibility to reveal who is paying for trips of Supreme Court justices or who’s behind the amicus briefs,” she added. “So there’s a level of financial transparency that doesn’t exist on the court like it does in other parts of government.”
The senator concluded by calling for action at the federal, state, and individual levels and urging Americans to take the issue to the polls this fall.
“I think that it is just important to understand that the Supreme Court has spoken, but the Supreme Court does not get the last word,” she said.
“There is action that citizens can take, actions that I can take as a legislator, action that governors and attorney generals and state legislatures can take. And in a democracy — and we live in a democracy — we have to bring the power of people’s views on this forward in all the ways that we can, including at the ballot box.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Reuters) (The New York Times)
Supreme Court Rules High School Football Coach Can Pray on Field
All of our rights are “hanging in the balance,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissenting opinion.
Court’s Conservatives Break With 60 Years of History
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a former high school football coach who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.
Joseph Kennedy, who was hired at Bremerton High School in Washington State in 2008, kneeled at the 50-yard line after games for years and prayed. He was often joined by some of his players, as well as others from the opposing team.
In 2015, the school asked him not to pray if it interfered with his duties or involved students.
Shortly after, Kennedy was placed on paid administrative leave, and after a school official recommended that his contract not be renewed for the 2016 season he did not reapply for the position.
Kennedy sued the school, eventually appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
The justices voted 6 to 3, with the liberal justices dissenting.
“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic — whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” he added.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion.
“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” she said.
“In doing so, the court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing states to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”
The defense in the case argued that the public nature of Kennedy’s prayers put pressure on students to join him, and that he was acting in his capacity as a public employee, not a private citizen.
Kennedy’s lawyers contended that such an all-encompassing definition of his job duties denied him his right to self-expression on school grounds.
“This is just so awesome,” Kennedy said in a statement following the decision. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys … I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”
Religious Liberty or Separation of Church and State?
Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the government cannot organize or promote prayer in public schools, and it has since generally abided by that jurisprudence.
But the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has been increasingly protective of religious expression, especially after the confirmation of three conservative Trump-appointed judges.
Reactions to the ruling were mostly split between liberals who saw the separation of church and state being dissolved and conservatives who hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the Bremerton school district, said in a statement that the ruling “gutted decades of established law that protected students’ religious freedom.”
“If Coach Kennedy were named Coach Akbar and he had brought a prayer blanket to the 50 yard line to pray after a game,” one Twitter user said, “I’ve got a 401(k) that says this illegitimate, Christofascist SCOTUS rules 6-3 against him.”
“The people defending former Coach Kennedy’s right to kneel on the field after the game to pray – are the ones condemning Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel on the field to protest police brutality against Black Americans,” another user wrote.
Others, like Republican Congressmember Ronny Jackson and former Secretary of State for the Trump administration Mike Pompeo, celebrated the ruling for protecting religious freedom and upholding what they called the right to pray.
“I am excited to build on this victory and continue securing our inalienable right to religious freedom,” Pompeo wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)
Rep. Schiff Urges DOJ to Investigate Trump for Election Crimes: “There’s Enough Evidence”
“When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate,” the congressman said.
Schiff Says DOJ Should Launch Inquiry
Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Ca.) told Rogue Rocket that he believes there is “certainly […] enough evidence for the Justice Department to open an investigation” into possible election crimes committed by former President Donald Trump.
Schiff, who took the lead in questioning witnesses testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, said that it will be up to the DOJ to determine whether “they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal activity, but added that an investigation must first be launched.
“Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen,” the congressman said, noting that a federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and his allies “likely” engaged in multiple federal criminal acts. “When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate.”
“One of the concerns I have is it’s a year and a half since these events. And while […] there’s an investigation going on in Fulton County by the district attorney, I don’t see a federal grand jury convened in Atlanta looking into this, and I think it’s fair to ask why,” Schiff continued, referencing the ongoing inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in Georgia.
“Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t wait for Congress to go first. They pursue evidence and they have the subpoena power. They’re often much more agile than the Congress. And I think it’s important that it not just be the lower-level people who broke into the Capitol that day and committed those acts of violence who are under the microscope,” he continued. “I think anyone who engaged in criminal activity trying to overturn the election where there’s evidence that they may have engaged in criminal acts should be investigated.”
Schiff Takes Aim at DOJ’s Handling of Committee Subpoenas
Schiff also expressed frustration with how the DOJ has handled referrals the committee has made for former Trump officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the panel.
“We have referred four people for criminal prosecution who have obstructed our investigation. The Justice Department has only moved forward with two of them,” he stated. “That’s not as powerful an incentive as we would like. The law requires the Justice Department to present these cases to the grand jury when we refer them, and by only referring half of them, it sends a very mixed message about whether congressional subpoenas need to be complied with.”
As far as why the congressman thought the DOJ has chosen to operate in this manner in regards to the Jan. 6 panel’s investigation, he said he believes “the leadership of the department is being very cautious.”
“I think that they want to make sure that the department avoids controversy if possible, doesn’t do anything that could even be perceived as being political,” Schiff continued. “And while I appreciate that sentiment […] at the same time, the rule of law has to be applied equally to everyone. If you’re so averse, […] it means that you’re giving effectively a pass or immunity to people who may have broken the law. That, too, is a political decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision.”
On the Note of Democracy
Schiff emphasized the importance of the American people working together to protect democracy in the fallout of the insurrection.
“I really think it’s going to require a national movement of people to step up to preserve our democracy. This is not something that I think Congress can do alone. We’re going to try to protect those institutions, but Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail,” he asserted. “It’s difficult to get through a Senate where Mitch McConnell can filibuster things.”
“We don’t have the luxury of despair when it comes to what we’re seeing around us. We have the obligation to do what generations did before us, and that is defend our democracy,” the congressman continued. “We had to go to war in World War II to defend our democracy from the threat of fascism. You know, we’re not called upon to make those kinds of sacrifices. We see the bravery of people in Ukraine putting their lives on the line to defend their country, their sovereignty, their democracy. Thank God we’re not asked to do that.”
“So what we have to do is, by comparison, so much easier. But it does require us to step up, to be involved, to rally around local elections officials who are doing their jobs, who are facing death threats, and to protect them and to push back against efforts around the country to pass laws to make it easier for big liars to overturn future elections.”
“We are not passengers in all of this, unable to affect the course of our country. We can, you know, grab the rudder and steer this country in the direction that we want.”