Repeating his desire for a winner to be declared on the night of November 3, President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that he doesn't "believe" tallying votes for weeks after Election Day is lawful, a remark observers interpreted as yet another open signal of the president's intention to challenge the counting of legally submitted ballots.
"It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on November 3, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate, and I don't believe that that's by our laws," Trump said before departing the White House for a campaign rally in Lansing, Michigan. "I don't believe that. So we'll see what happens."
It is, in fact, perfectly legal for states to count ballots for weeks after the election; some states allow mail-in ballots to arrive up to two weeks after November 3 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Due to the unprecedented surge in mail-in voting sparked by the pandemic, the process of tallying ballots and determining the election winner is expected to take longer than usual.
"He wants to throw out legal votes. That's what he's saying here," tweeted Garance Franke-Ruta, executive editor of GEN magazine.
Watch Trump's comments:
"It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on Nov. 3, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate, and I don't believe that's by our laws." -- Trump (In fact tallying all the ballots is consistent with the law.) pic.twitter.com/Dlj7DCiCT1
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 27, 2020
Progressive critics and election analysts have long been warning of a "nightmare scenario" in which Trump falsely declares himself the winner on November 3 based on an early lead in in-person votes and proceeds to declare all votes counted after Election Day illegitimate. The president's comments Tuesday bolstered those fears.
"Donald Trump is planning to everything he can to make sure your vote doesn't count," progressive advocacy group Indivisible—part of a coalition planning mass protests should Trump attempt to steal the election—said in response to the president's remarks Tuesday, which came hours after the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the battleground state of Wisconsin cannot extend its Election Day deadline for the arrival of mail-in ballots.
In his concurring opinion in the case, Trump-nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh parroted the president's attack on the common state practice of counting ballots that arrive after Election Day—a possible indication that Kavanaugh is, as Slate's Mark Joseph Stern put it, "open to stealing the election for Trump."
The implications of Kavanaugh's reason could reach beyond Wisconsin. As Stern pointed out on Twitter, North Carolina Republicans are already citing Kavanaugh's argument to justify their own push for the Supreme Court to limit the state's absentee ballot deadline.
"Brett Kavanaugh's stunning opinion last night should be a huge story today," said Stern. "It cast aspersions on mail ballots. It's riddled with errors. It endorses a theory too radical for the Bush v. Gore majority. It's a preemptive attack on our election's integrity.