U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about early results from the 2020 U.S. presidential election in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 4, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump‘s campaign said Wednesday that it filed suits to halt the counting of ballots in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as the campaign demanded increased access to observe the tallying process at numerous locations in those battleground states.
The states have a combined 36 Electoral College votes at stake, more than double the 17 electoral votes that Democratic nominee Joe Biden needed as of Wednsday evening to clinch victory in the White House race.
The Trump campaign said that its Michigan lawsuit demands that the campaign be allowed to “review those ballots” … “which were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access.”
The lawsuit came before NBC News projected Biden, a former vice president, as the winner of Michigan’s presidential vote.
In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign said that it is moving to intervene in an existing Supreme Court case related to that state’s extension of its mail-in ballot receipt deadline.
Separately in the Keystone State, the campaign is filing two legal actions: one aimed at stopping what the campaign called the “hiding” by Democratic officials of “ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers” and another that seeks to undo an order extending the deadline for absentee and mail-in voters to provide missing proof of identification.
As the actions were announced, Trump’s inner circle tried to prematurely and falsely claim victory for the president in Pennsylvania even as the count remained incomplete there.
Later Wednesday, the Trump campaign said it had filed suit in Georgia seeking to require all counties there to ballots that arrive after the voting deadline from other, “legally cast ballots.”
The campaign said the suit was spurred by a Republican poll observer witnessed 53 late-arriving absentee ballots “illegally added to a stack of on-time absentee ballots in Chatham County.
As in Pennsylvania, Trump’s lead against Biden is narrowing in a count of ballots in Georgia, where an updated tally on Wednesday night showed the president ahead of the challenger by less than 50,000 votes, a margin of about 1 percent of all ballots counted.
Georgia has 16 Electoral College votes at stake.
Trump is also trailing Biden in Nevada and Arizona. If Biden wins both those states, he would have 270 Electoral College voters, enough to secure a national win.
In Pennsylvania, where 20 Electoral College votes are at stake, Trump was leading, with 3,099,477 votes, or 52.3%, compared with 2,745,468 votes, or 46.4%, for Biden. A total of 83% of the expected votes had been tallied in Pennsylvania, which does not expect to have a final result for days.
NBC News has the current Electoral College tally as 253 for Biden and 214 for Trump.
The suits were announced as Trump suggested, without any evidence, that Michigan had “found” ballots to deny a victory to John James, the Republican nominee for the Senate race in Michigan.
“As votes in Michigan continue to be counted, the presidential race in the state remains extremely tight as we always knew it would be,” said Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager.
“President Trump’s campaign has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law,” Stepien said.
“We have filed suit today in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted. We also demand to review those ballots which were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access,” Stepien said.
“President Trump is committed to ensuring that all legal votes are counted in Michigan and everywhere else.”
Biden’s campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in response, “When Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by roughly the same amount of votes that Joe Biden just did, or won Michigan with fewer votes than Joe Biden is winning it now, he bragged about a ‘landslide,’ and called recount efforts ‘sad.'”
“What makes these charades especially pathetic is that while Trump is demanding recounts in places he has already lost, he’s simultaneously engaged in fruitless attempts to halt the counting of votes in other states in which he’s on the road to defeat,” Bates said.
“This is not the behavior of a winning campaign. Plain and simple, Donald Trump has lost Wisconsin, he is losing Michigan, and he is losing the presidency. Put another way, ‘It is what it is.'”
Jordan Acker, a Michigan lawyer and Democratic poll observer who has been watching the vote counting at the TCF Center in Detroit, scoffed at the Trump campaign’s claims of insufficient access to the tally sites.
“It’s quite frankly ridiculous,” Acker told CNBC in an interview.
He said that when he arrived at the center at about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, there were Republican vote challengers in the counting room.
“There’s a Republican at every table,” Acker said.
“The people who are counting these ballots are incredibly professional. They’re doing everything they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Acker said the lawsuit is an act of “desperation” by Republicans.
“They’re trying to keep it close enough so they have a route to a recount,” Acker said.
He predicted that Biden will win Michigan, just as the Biden campaign has said.
A spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in response to the lawsuit, “Michigan’s elections have been conducted transparently, with access provided for both political parties and the public, and using a robust system of checks and balances to ensure that all ballots are counted fairly and accurately.”
“At this time our department has not been notified by the Court of Claims about this lawsuit and when we are served, we will review it and respond accordingly,” said the spokesman, Ryan Jarvi. “Michigan will always continue to protect the rights of all voters to have their ballots counted.”
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson earlier Wednesday said the state will finish counting ballots by Thursday morning.
Benson said Michigan is focused “on counting every single ballot.”
— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.