avlon reality check
Why Trump's legal team is coming up short
03:09 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Trump campaign’s options to dispute the election have largely evaporated, but that hasn’t stopped some of the President’s supporters from trying to gum up election certifications in battleground states.

In Michigan, two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County – which includes Detroit – on Tuesday temporarily blocked certification of the election results before backing down. One of the GOP board members has recently shared conspiracy theories about the election and Covid-19 on Facebook.

Separately, the wife of a Republican member of the state board in charge of certifying results next week is being held out as a witness by the Trump campaign in a lawsuit trying to block the certification of the vote.

And in Arizona’s Pima County, which includes Tucson, two GOP members of the county board of supervisors voted against certifying the election results, citing possible “statewide irregularities,” though the results were certified on a 3-2 party-line vote.

These efforts by local Republican officials appear to be uncoordinated, but they fall in line with the Trump campaign’s strategy of sowing doubt about the result and seeking to delay certification of the election through multiple lawsuits that have been repeatedly dismissed by judges.

None of them appear to have any chance of changing the election result, with President-elect Joe Biden leading by tens of thousands of votes in all of the states Trump’s campaign is contesting or where there’s a recount. But the protracted effort against the election outcome is feeding into Trump’s false narrative that there is reasonable doubt about the results, while Trump refuses to concede an election he lost and his administration continues to block Biden from beginning its formal transition.

Trump’s lies are swaying his supporters, too. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday found 68% of Republicans said they were concerned that the election was “rigged,” and 52% of GOP respondents said Trump “rightfully won.” A Monmouth University poll found 77% of Trump supporters said Biden’s win was due to fraud.

Those claims of fraud are not holding up in court, however. In a Pennsylvania courtroom Tuesday, Rudy Giuliani, representing Trump’s campaign, delivered a sweeping broadside against mail-in voting as part of the campaign’s long-shot case to block Pennsylvania from certifying votes. Giuliani argued that the Trump campaign has been blocked from observing ballot processing in key cities and saying Democrats could have conspired to commit election fraud by counting absentee votes – both assertions other judges have rejected repeatedly in court as unfounded or wrong.

When pressed in court whether he was alleging specific instances of fraud, Giuliani said he was not.

While the Pennsylvania case still hasn’t ended, other lawsuits have fizzled, as Trump has spread conspiracy theories among his supporters and raised money while seeking to delegitimize Biden’s win.

States will soon certify election results

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign requested a recount in two heavily Democratic counties in Wisconsin, a state Biden leads by more than 20,000 votes. But even former GOP Gov. Scott Walker has said it’s a “high hurdle” to move that many votes toward Trump, though he tweeted in support of the effort on Wednesday.

In Georgia, the state plans to announce the results of a statewide election audit on Thursday, said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting systems implementation manager. Sterling said that the state has finished auditing virtually all ballots from the presidential race. About 5 million Georgians voted, and Biden won by about 13,000 votes.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has clashed with Trump and his allies, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that the state has “not seen widespread voter fraud.”

In recounts since 2000, the average change in the number of votes has been a few hundred, according to research from the nonpartisan group FairVote.

Georgia is expected to certify its election results on Friday, and other key states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada, are slated to certify next week, meaning if there’s no successful legal challenge to the certification, the states will confirm that Biden won the election.

Spreading conspiracy theories in Michigan

That doesn’t mean there won’t be fireworks along the way. In Wayne County on Tuesday, the election certification process sparked an uproar after the Board of Canvassers initially deadlocked 2-2, with the two Republicans voting against certification, based on dubious claims of voting irregularities in Detroit.

A few hours later, the board voted unanimously to certify the results, while Trump cheered on the effort.

William Hartmann, one of the two Republicans on the county Board of Canvassers, has recently shared conspiracy theories about the election and Covid-19 on Facebook, CNN has found. He also shared racist posts about President Barack Obama during his presidency.

On November 7, the day major news outlets projected Biden as President-elect, Hartmann posted on Facebook, “I’m reading the news on how great things are now that Biden and Harris are in as declared by the MSM. What will happen if it doesn’t happen once the official results are tallied? I wouldn’t sell the farm yet.”

Later that day, he wrote, “I’m not really one to promote conspiracy theories” but told his Facebook friends to look up “hammer and scorecard” a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked but did go viral after the election.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers says it will meet next week to certify the elections, and state officials and outside experts believe the board will certify the results without incident. But this mundane procedural step has taken on new relevance in the wake of Tuesday’s drama in Wayne County.

The four-member state canvassing board is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans. And one of the Republican members, Norm Shinkle, is married to someone who filed an affidavit supporting the Trump campaign’s lawsuit that is trying to block the certification of the vote.

Shinkle’s wife, Mary Shinkle, accused election officials in Wayne County of preventing her from observing the ballot count and of being “extremely rude and aggressive” toward Republican poll challengers. The case is still pending in federal court, but a state judge overseeing a similar lawsuit from the Trump campaign said other people’s claims of massive fraud in Wayne County were “not credible.”

In a recent interview with Bridge Michigan, Norm Shinkle said his wife “saw a lot of strange things going on” while she was observing the vote-counting in Detroit’s TCF Center, but “when it comes to my job on the Board of State Canvassers, I wait until I hear both sides before I make a decision.”

Biden is ahead by more than 140,000 votes in the state.

Threats in Arizona

In Arizona, where Biden leads by more than 10,000 votes, the two Republican members of the Pima County board of supervisors, Ally Miller and Steve Christie, voted not to certify the county’s results on Tuesday. Christie cited “statewide and national irregularities” and made claims of voter fraud, while Miller cited concerns about the use of Sharpie-like markers on ballots, despite the debunking of false claims that Sharpie pens were invalidating ballots.

Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs issued a statement Wednesday about post-election death threats that were sent to her family and her staff. “I was prepared for these threats of violence and vitriol,” Hobbs said in a statement, adding that the “intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do.”

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey called the threats against Hobbs “completely unacceptable,” saying he denounced “any threats of violence.” Ducey, however, repeatedly declined to address the unsubstantiated claims of election fraud made by the Trump campaign.

“Whatever rights or remedies are available to the campaigns that they want to pursue, it’s their right to do that,” he said. Asked whether he knows of any widespread evidence of fraud or irregularities in Arizona’s electoral results, Ducey said, “I’ve not seen that. I’ve heard about it – I’ve not seen it.”

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Annie Grayer, Bob Ortega, Marshall Cohen, Jessica Schneider, Katelyn Polantz and Casey Tolan contributed to this report.