In Pennsylvania, a Stall Tactic Could Lift Trump to Victory

'New Yorker' lays out the possibility, which involves not certifying results by Dec. 8
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2020 1:20 PM CDT
In Pennsylvania, a Stall Tactic Could Lift Trump to Victory
John Hansberry, center, gathers ballots from an extraction machine during a media tour highlighting the preparations for the sorting and counting of mail-in ballots at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Philadelphia.   (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The voting situation in crucial Pennsylvania is in flux, and what's happening there provides another strong suggestion that Americans won't go to bed Tuesday night knowing who the next president will be. Under state law, Pennsylvania can't begin processing mail-in ballots until 7am on Election Day, and the Republican-controlled legislature is under pressure from the Trump campaign not to bend that rule, reports the New York Times. Previously, state election officials have said it might take until Friday or Saturday after the election to get mail ballots counted.

  • Expect big shift: Generally, votes cast on Election Day itself are expected to skew toward President Trump, and mail ballots toward Joe Biden. An analysis at FiveThirtyEight runs through the numbers and finds that Trump might well have a 16-point lead in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, only to see a 21-point swing in Biden's favor by the time all the mail ballots are counted days later.

  • Strategy: The Times reports the Trump campaign has a three-pronged effort in Pennsylvania, beginning with the above-mentioned pressure to make sure the state can't start processing mail ballots early. The other two pieces: Pushing lawsuits over the next five days to limit how late mail ballots can be accepted, and "intimidating Pennsylvanians trying to vote early," including by videotaping voters.
  • Stall tactic? In the New Yorker, Eliza Groswold writes that Trump has been "laying the groundwork" for questioning the legitimacy of Pennsylvania's results for a while now. If Biden is declared the state winner and Republicans contest, the case could end up at the Supreme Court. That would bode well for Trump given the court's new 6-3 conservative majority, "but Republicans don’t even have to win; all they have to do is stall," writes Griswold. "If the vote is not certified by December 8th, the Republican-controlled legislature could appoint electors, who would likely cast their votes for Trump."
  • Even later: At least two counties in the state (Cumberland and Erie) say they won't be able to start counting mail ballots even at 7am Tuesday, in order to focus on the Election Day rush, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Cumberland says it will wait until Wednesday, while Erie plans to start Tuesday night. In all, more than 2 million state voters have returned mail ballots so far, out of 3.1 million requests.
  • The stakes: Trump is thought to have very little chance of winning re-election if he loses Pennsylvania, and he is planning no fewer than three rallies there on Saturday. The Morning Call has details on those. Biden has a 5-point lead in state polls, though the final 2016 polls in Pennsylvania were off by about 4 points in Trump's favor.
(More Election 2020 stories.)

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