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The Count #4: Republicans Enabling Trump’s Election Theft

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

Today, we’ll look at:

  • If the Presidential election comes down to Pennsylvania, Republican voters will trust a call from the GOP-controlled legislature that Trump won even over a contrary call by the state’s election officials and national media outlets, including Fox News.
  • Why Trump must win Pennsylvania, and what that means for his plot to steal the election.
  • GOP hijinks, from fake ballot boxes in California to 12 hour waits at Georgia polling places.

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  • 20 days until election day.
  • 55 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 61 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 84 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 98 days until inauguration day.


There is rising concern that President Donald Trump and swing state Republican-controlled legislatures will attempt to overturn the results of the election by appointing illegitimate Trump electors to the Electoral College. If they do, Congress will be forced to decide between these electors and those certified by the state’s governor.

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows Republican-controlled legislatures would have political support among GOP voters to announce their own winner.

  • 70% of likely Republican voters would trust a GOP-controlled state legislature if they were to call the election and send Trump electors to the Electoral College, even if the Secretary of State had already certified that Biden had won the state.

“Partisanship is a hell of a drug.” — Jason Ganz, chief of staff at Data For Progress

That majority support endures in this scenario, even if all the major news networks—CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC—also declared former Vice President Biden the winner. 

  • 61% of likely Republican voters would also trust the Republican-controlled state legislature’s call to send Trump electors to the Electoral College even if major news networks, including Fox News, AND the Democratic Secretary of State of Pennsylvania made the call that Biden had won the presidency.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: President Trump has been successful in building distrust in the electoral process among base Republican voters. Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to accepting the results of the election, but to steal the election, he would need the cooperation of Republican-led state legislatures. It’s unlikely that Republican legislatures will act to install a democratically defeated Trump in the White House for a 2nd term without support from their Republican base. This polling suggests that Trump has successfully created that support, likely through his rhetoric undermining the legitimacy of the democratic process.


Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state, but this year, election experts say Donald Trump likely can’t win without getting Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes. In 2016, out of 6 million votes cast, Trump won the state by just 44,000 votes. (In a textbook “blue shift,” Trump’s lead narrowed substantially as Clinton won 58% of the votes counted after election night.)

So this year, the Trump campaign and its allies have launched myriad political and legal fights to challenge everything from where ballots can be returned, to how, and whether, they’ll be counted at all. The situation is so tumultuous, the former Pennsylvania communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign described Pennsylvania’s election season to The Hill as, “Like learning to ride your bicycle in the middle of a hurricane with a crazy person chasing you.”

Here’s a sampling of what’s happening:

  • DEMOCRATS DOMINATE MAIL-INS — Democrats have requested 1.69 million mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, compared to only 633,000 Republicans, a trend that holds across all early ballots cast in the state.
  • DON’T GET NAKED — The Trump campaign won a case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month that will ensure “naked ballots” without second envelopes won’t be counted. There are concerns that more than 100,000 of those ballots could be invalidated because they didn’t include a secrecy envelope.
  • “ELECTORAL CHAOS” — This is what Philadelphia’s top election official said would be the result if the Republican-controlled legislature didn’t pass legislation allowing these naked ballots to be counted.
  • NO EARLY PROCESSING — Pennsylvania is one of four states that don’t allow officials to begin processing mail-in ballots before election day, which will only slow the count and accentuate the blue shift after election night. Legislation has been proposed—but has yet to pass—that would allow early processing, including opening ballots, checking signatures and eligibility, and preparing for scanning, but not actually counting ballots.
  • “SPECULATIVE” IS ONE WAY TO PUT GOP VOTER FRAUD CLAIMS — A Trump-appointed judge recently said the campaign and RNC had presented a “chain of theoretical events” and their arguments of potential fraud were “speculative.” As a result, the judge refused to deem ballot drop boxes unconstitutional and also allowed a Pennsylvania policy that ballots shouldn’t be rejected if the signature doesn’t exactly match the one on file to remain.
  • THE A.G. IS READY FOR THE LAWSUIT TSUNAMI — The Pennsylvania Attorney General has said Trump’s goal with lawsuits and misinformation is to “sow doubt.” His office has been preparing for an influx of lawsuits on election night, “beginning at 8:01 p.m. when the polls close.”
  • “INTEGRITY” COMMISSION FAILS TO HAVE ANY — Pennsylvania Republicans have dropped their push to create a Republican-controlled, so-called “election integrity” commission. The committee would have had subpoena powers to question election and postal service workers while voting is still happening, raising concerns about interfering with ballot counting. The Democratic governor had called the effort an attempt to “steal the election.”
  • REMEMBER — Oct. 27 is the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania.

“The appearance of impropriety can be just as damning — it affirms a particular narrative — Brandon Evans, Real Justice PAC


Republicans’ election tactics, and their problematic effects on a free and fair election, are already rising to the surface.

In California:

  • BYE BYE BALLOT — A California GOP field director last week tweeted a photo of himself returning his mail-in ballot to a box marked “Official ballot drop-off box.” But despite the label, the boxes, which have been placed all around Southern California by the GOP, are not only unofficial, but are illegal. (The tweet has been deleted.)
  • THIS IS NOT LEGAL — The GOP defended their actions as “ballot harvesting,” a practice that’s legal in 26 states including California where voters can hand their ballots to a designated person to submit. But that’s not what’s happening here. As the Orange County Registrar of Voters told the Orange County Register, what the GOP did here would be like putting up a box outside your house and calling it an “official” mail box to collect other people’s mail.

  • SECRETARY OF STATE INVESTIGATING — The secretary of state’s office received numerous complaints about the boxes, which were placed outside political party offices, gyms, gun shops, and churches. “Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes—especially those misrepresented as official drop boxes—is not just misleading to voters, it’s a violation of state law,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told the Washington Post. California’s attorney general has also sent a cease and desist letter to the state Republican Party.

In Georgia: 

  • ENDLESS LINES — Videos filled social media on Monday with hundreds of voters waiting for what seemed like miles at polling stations on the state’s first day of early voting. While it was a federal holiday and voters were socially distancing in line, the record turnout led to reports of people waiting up to 12 hours to vote which could disincentivize voters on the day, and future voters.

  • END RESULT OF SUPPRESSION: These sorts of lines are the direct result of voter suppression. When Republican Governor Brian Kemp was secretary of state, county election officials closed more than 200 voting precincts, and his office reportedly advised officials on how to close those polling stations. We’ve previously covered how the closing of polling sites has left seven counties in Georgia with only a single polling location (the governor, while serving as Secretary of State, also purged half-a-mil­lion vot­ers from the rolls).
  • RACIAL DISPARITY IN WAIT TIMES — Previous research has found nonwhite voters are seven times more likely than white voters to spend more than an hour waiting in line to vote. Why? Because more resources are sent to polling stations in white communities. As Brandon Evans told The Count, this year’s voter suppression tactics by Republicans are nothing new for Black Americans.

“Suppression and the rights of African-Americans to vote has always been on the agenda, while some communities may find this to be a new threshold, for the Black community, this is par for the course.” –Brandon Evans, Real Justice PAC


  • Amy Coney Barrett refused to say whether she would recuse herself from election-related cases if she were confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. During the presidential debate, Trump said he expects the court to look at ballots after election day.
  • There could be more rejected ballots than ever before. Voters who haven’t used mail-in ballots before are up to three times more likely to have their ballot rejected for reasons including arriving late, lacking a signature, or being “naked” That’s hugely problematic with mail-in ballot applications skyrocketing across the country.
  • Virginia’s voter registration system went down on Tuesday, the last day in the state to register to vote ahead of election day. The reason? A fibre optic cable was accidentally cut.
  • Fox News launched a so-called “election integrity” project. Reiterating Trump’s own false claims in its internal announcement, the project is “an attempt to push more baseless conspiracy theories and scare the viewers into thinking the election is being ‘stolen,’” a Fox News veteran told The Daily Beast.
  • The New York Police Department has told uniformed officers and even detectives to prepare for deployment for protests over the highly contested election. The staff memo said, “We should anticipate and prepare for protests growing in size, frequency, and intensity leading up to the election and likely into the year 2021.”

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