Even as Joe Biden was declared the winner of Pennsylvania — and ultimately the presidency — President Donald Trump’s legal team vowed to fight on in court against the state, and the city, whose votes had denied him victory.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, pledged at a Philadelphia news conference Saturday that a slew of new lawsuits was coming next week to challenge the “Democratic Party hacks” in the city that he blamed for costing Trump a second term.
Without presenting any evidence, he alleged that city election administrators had personally submitted dozens of ballots, that they’d denied Republican monitors access to where votes were tallied, and that they had accepted mail ballots cast in the name of dead people.
“This city has a sad history of voter fraud,” Giuliani said, speaking from the parking lot of a landscaping business in Northeast Philadelphia. “It’s illegal. It’s unconstitutional. And we will be bringing action.”
Since Election Day, campaign has peppered state and federal judges across Pennsylvania with filings challenging small pockets of votes, as the president — renowned for his litigiousness before he took office — turned to a familiar forum in hopes courts might preserve any chance of his reelection.
But as counting stretched on all week, legal experts increasingly agreed that the vote margins had grown too wide and Trump’s Electoral College deficit too vast for even a few favorable rulings to tip the balance in his favor.
“The numbers we are looking at are not so significant that it’s likely to make or break anything,” said Suzanne Almeida, director of the voter advocacy group Common Cause Pennsylvania.
By Saturday evening, Biden had nine more Electoral College votes than he needed and held a lead in two out of three battleground states where the winner had not yet been called. In Pennsylvania, Biden’s lead had widened to nearly 37,000 votes with a dwindling number of mail and provisional votes unlikely to change the outcome left to be counted.
If nothing else, the continued litigation — in Pennsylvania and other battleground states — appeared designed to cast enough doubt on the process to justify belief among Trump’s supporters that the race was not finished and his loss could only be explained through pervasive fraud.
“The simple fact is that this election is far from over,” Trump said in a statement minutes after the Associated Press and news networks called the race for Biden on Saturday morning.
At his news conference, Giuliani did not specify any new allegation of misconduct that would form the basis of the lawsuits he pledged for next week. Instead, he promised “a big case” focused on an issue that has been litigated before several courts and Democrat and Republican judges: that Republican monitors had not been able to watch the vote-counting in any meaningful way.
GOP observers have complained since the counting began Tuesday that they haven’t been able to inspect ballots for any irregularities, as they’ve been kept behind waist-high barriers at distance from the tables at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being tallied.
The City Commissioners, who oversee elections and include Republican Al Schmidt, had initially placed both Democrat and GOP monitors in an area 13 feet from the closest vote-counting tables and more than 100 feet from the farthest. But after a Republican state appellate judge ordered Thursday that the city allow monitors within six feet of all tables, elections officials rushed to comply.
State law requires only that counties allow one observer from each campaign or political party into the room and gives no guidance on how close they should be allowed to the actual counting process. But at various points over the last five days, anywhere from six to 15 have been allowed to watch the process from inside Convention Center.
And while Philadelphia requires monitors to be city residents or Pennsylvania lawyers who have registered before Election Day, the City Commissioners relaxed those rules to allow some unregistered observers from both parties in light of the Trump campaign’s complaints, said Adam Bonin, an election lawyer who observed the count as a Democratic monitor.
Despite this, Trump has falsely claimed that his monitors were blocked entirely from accessing the counting hall. On Saturday, Giuliani said that GOP observers were kept from inspecting any of the votes, while also alleging they had seen several questionable ballots logged into the city’s tally.
“There was no inspection of a single mail-in ballot,” Giuliani said. “Some of the ballots looked suspicious — from very far away, they looked like the same pen, the same handwriting. But we can’t say that because we couldn’t inspect it.”
Flanked by several Republican observers from the city, Giuliani said many of them had agreed to testify in his promised case.
The former mayor of New York City spoke in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Holmesburg — a venue the president mistook earlier on Twitter for Center City’s ritzy Four Seasons Hotel in announcing Giuliani’s news conference.
Meanwhile, state Republicans continued to pin their hopes on U.S. Supreme Court intervention.
At GOP urging, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — the justice assigned to oversee emergency motions from Pennsylvania — ordered Friday that all counties segregate any votes that arrived after Election Day but still under the state’s three-day grace period for mail ballots. The ballots had to be postmarked before 8 p.m. Tuesday, the close of voting.
Republicans have asked Alito and his fellow justices to strike down the controversial Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling from earlier this fall that created that window, and to disqualify any votes that arrived within it.
But despite Alito’s order that those votes be counted separately, at least until the high court decides if it will revisit the issue, lawyers for the state’s top elections official said in a new filing Saturday that the vast majority, if not all, of Pennsylvania’s counties had already been doing that.
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar had issued “unambiguous guidance” more than a week ago for local elections officials to not only count those votes separately but exclude them from their tallies, the lawyers said.
And after Alito’s order, she double-checked with local election officials to ensure that process had been followed, according to their brief. Sixty-three of the state’s 67 counties — including Philadelphia and Allegheny — confirmed that they were following that process. The four others had not yet responded, but Boockvar’s lawyers told the court they had no reason to suspect officials there were doing anything different.
It is unclear just how many late-arriving ballots came in before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline set up by the state’s highest court. Some counties reported receiving none, while in others, hundreds were delivered during the grace period, Boockvar has said.
Even if the U.S. Supreme Court were to take up the case, overturn the ruling that created the grace period, and toss any votes, it’s unlikely that the number would be large enough to reverse Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.
What’s more, said Ben Ginsberg, a GOP election lawyer for George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount, if the Supreme Court were to strike down the grace period, justices would likely limit their ruling to future elections. It’s improbable — though not impossible — that the justices would disqualify votes in this election, he said.
“That would result in the disenfranchisement of a large number of voters who simply followed the instructions they were given by election administrators,” he told CNN.
And yet, as Biden prepared to deliver his victory speech Saturday with vote counts growing in his favor, the incumbent and his supporters rested their faith on the diminishing chance that the courts could still deliver him a win.