President Donald Trump’s challenge to the 2020 election results runs through six battleground states, five of which he won in 2016. This time, major media outlets have declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner in all of them with five-digit vote leads. With some counting continuing, Biden’s margins in the six states range from barely 10,000 in Arizona to almost 160,000 in Michigan.
In order to reverse last week’s results and get the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, Trump would need to move at least three of those states into his column. He’s trying to achieve this through some combination of lawsuits and recounts that he hopes can flip the results. Experts say that would be a long shot in any one of the states and a virtual impossibility in several of them.
And, so far, none of those gambits are working. Several of the suits filed by the Trump campaign and its allies have been dismissed or withdrawn, and the ones that are still before the courts don’t appear to challenge enough votes to affect the race. Meanwhile, Georgia’s hand recount is due to wrap Wednesday, with no indication the results will change significantly, as the state races to become the first of the battlegrounds to certify its results on Friday.
Here’s where Trump’s efforts stand in each of the six battleground states:
Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)
Biden‘s lead at midday Wednesday (votes reported): 82,217 (>98%)
Legal challenges: Pennsylvania, the biggest prize among the battleground states with close vote tallies, has been a particular focus of suits seeking to challenge Biden’s win. The Trump campaign sued in Pennsylvania federal court seeking to block certification of the state’s election results but recently shifted the focus of its claims from 680,000 mail-in ballots it claims it couldn’t adequately monitor for fraud to a seemingly narrower category of “defective” ballots that it says shouldn’t have been counted. A ruling is expected shortly, following a colorful Tuesday hearing at which Rudy Giuliani appeared for the Trump campaign.
Separately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a blow to the campaign’s fraud claims by ruling that Republican poll observers weren’t entitled to stand within a certain distance to monitor ballot counts. However, the court said on Wednesday that it would consider the campaign’s claim that about 8,000 Philadelphia mail-in ballots should be disqualified because they weren’t properly filled out. The appeal arises from several suits the campaign filed against county election boards in Democratic-leaning Philadelphia and its suburbs over allegedly defective ballots. State officials have said the number of votes being contested as defective is too small to affect the race. Trump and Republicans have also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate mail-in ballots that arrived as long as three days after Election Day but were mailed before the election, but the state says only about 10,000 ballots fall in that category.
Recount potential: Biden’s lead is above the 0.5% margin that would trigger an automatic recount, and the state has said it won’t conduct a recount.
Certification deadline: No state deadline, but counties must certify their results by Nov. 23
Political landscape: Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, both Democrats, have sparred with Republican state legislative leaders over the rules governing the election and the tortuous way in which the count unfolded. Some GOP senators and conservative commentators have suggested the Republican-controlled state legislature should ignore the vote count and send a slate of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College, but state Republican leaders have so far denied that’s an option.
Bottom line: It doesn’t seem that enough votes are at issue in the Trump campaign’s lawsuits to swing Pennsylvania to the president, even if the lawsuits were to go its way: Many of the ballots being challenged aren’t even included in the current count that gives Biden a lead of more than 80,000 votes. And the suits haven’t been going the Trump campaign’s way, with courts rejecting most of their claims.
Temporary employees of the City Commissioner's office wearing protective masks count votes at a convention center for the 2020 Presidential election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Georgia (16 electoral votes)
Biden’s lead (votes reported): 14,056 (>98%)
Legal challenges: A suit filed in state court in Chatham County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Savannah, alleging invalid late-arriving votes were being mingled with valid ballots, was dismissed almost immediately for lack of evidence. A suit by Trump supporters seeking to block certification of state election results and invalidate votes from Democratic-leaning counties, including Atlanta and its suburbs, based on allegations of widespread fraud, was filed last week but dropped on Monday. Conservative lawyer Lin Wood filed another suit Friday against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, seeking to block him from certifying the state’s results if it includes mail-in ballots.
Recount potential: Georgia is expected on Wednesday to complete a statewide recount by hand that was held in light of the close margin. Raffensperger has said the results aren’t expected to change appreciably, and most experts agree that Biden’s lead is large enough that the recount is unlikely to affect the outcome. Raffensperger also said the state completed an audit of vote machines used during the election and found no signs of tampering. The Trump campaign has put Republican Representative Doug Collins, a close ally of the president, in charge of overseeing the recount for them.
Certification deadline: Nov. 20
Political landscape: Governor Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and both U.S. senators are all Republicans. But the secretary of state has faced enormous criticism from other members of his party over Trump’s apparent loss in the state. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face run-off elections in early January, have called on Raffensperger to resign over the vote count, though they haven’t specifically alleged any wrongdoing. Raffensperger, who has refused to resign, also told the Washington Post Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, suggested he find ways to discard legally cast ballots. Graham denies pressuring the election official.
Bottom line: Trump’s hopes rest on the recount, but those hopes are very slim.
An election official wearing a protective mask counts absentee ballots for the 2020 Presidential election at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, US
Michigan (16 electoral votes)
Biden‘s lead (votes reported): 157,772 (>98%)
Legal challenges: The Trump campaign and its allies have filed several suits alleging voter fraud in Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, and surrounding Wayne County, which heavily favored Biden in the election. The campaign filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block certification of the state results, alleging voter fraud and lack of access for its poll observers in Wayne County. On Friday, a judge overseeing a similar state court lawsuit brought by Republican poll challengers denied their request to block certification of Detroit’s election results based on fraud allegations, calling them “not credible.” And a lawsuit by Trump supporters likewise seeking to block certification and invalidate votes from Democratic-leaning counties was withdrawn Monday. Earlier suits to halt the vote count before the state was called for Biden, including one claiming “severely troubling irregularities” at the TCF Center ballot processing location in Detroit, were dismissed.
Recount potential: Biden’s lead is far beyond the 2,000-vote margin for an automatic recount in Michigan.
Certification deadline: Nov. 23
Political landscape: Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are Democrats, while both the state House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. County election results must be certified by bipartisan election boards though, and Republicans briefly tried to block Wayne County’s certification on Tuesday, citing purported voting irregularities in Detroit. Following a public uproar over the Republicans’ offer to certify Wayne County results minus majority-Black Detroit, the board reversed itself hours later and the two Republicans joined two Democrats in certifying the results.
Bottom line: Given Biden’s lead, the Trump campaign would need to persuade courts to invalidate an unprecedented number of votes to flip Michigan, but its claims of voter fraud have been roundly rejected by courts so far. The vote margin is almost certainly too large for a recount to change the outcome.
Arizona (11 electoral votes)
Biden’s lead (votes reported): 10,457 (>98%)
Legal challenges: The Trump campaign on Friday dropped a suit that initially claimed that “up to thousands” of voters in Maricopa County, the state’s largest population center, were disenfranchised because poll workers directed them to override a ballot rejection by pressing a green button on the voting machine that actually disqualified their votes. At a hearing Thursday, it emerged that only 191 ballots were potentially at issue. The Arizona Republican Party is separately suing to force a manual recount of a portion of votes cast in Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix and favored Biden in the election.
Recount potential: In Arizona an automatic recount is triggered by the lesser of one-tenth of 1% of the number of votes cast for both candidates, or a margin of 200 votes or less.
Certification deadline: Nov. 30
Political landscape: Governor Doug Ducey is a Republican, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is a Democrat, and both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by Republicans.
Bottom line: Though Arizona is the closest of the battlegrounds, there are currently no apparent options for the president to alter the race.
Nevada (6 electoral votes)
Biden‘s lead (votes reported): 33,596 (>98%)
Legal challenges: A lawsuit filed by two Republican congressional candidates claiming that the election in Clark County, a heavily Democratic area that includes Las Vegas, was “plagued by irregularities” was dismissed after the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence. In addition, a group of Nevada Republicans have asked a state court judge to declare Trump the winner of the election, claiming rampant fraud from mail-in ballots made the results of the Nov. 3 vote illegitimate.
Recount potential: There are no automatic recounts in Nevada, though the Trump campaign can request one.
Certification deadline: Nov. 24
Political landscape: Governor Steve Sisolak is a Democrat and the legislature is controlled by Democrats, but Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske is a Republican.
Bottom line: Trump lost this state in 2016 but hoped to flip it this time. The number of votes Republicans say they may contest is smaller than Biden’s margin of victory, and a recount is extremely unlikely to change the results.
A poll watcher observes ballots being counted at the Clark County Election Department in North Las Vegas, Nevada
Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)
Biden‘s lead (votes reported): 20,565 (>98%)
Legal challenges: A suit by Trump supporters seeking to block certification of state election results and invalidate votes from Democratic-leaning counties, including Milwaukee, based on allegations of widespread fraud, was filed last week but dropped on Monday.
Recount potential: Wisconsin doesn’t have automatic recounts but allows requested recounts when the margin is under 1%, as it is here. The Trump campaign has requested a recount of only two Democratic-leaning counties, Milwaukee and Dane, which includes the state capital of Madison.
Certification deadline: Dec. 1
Political landscape: Governor Tony Evers is a Democrat, and the legislature is controlled by Republicans, but elections are run by a state elections commission with a nonpartisan staff.
Bottom line: It’s very unlikely a recount will alter Biden’s margin.