On the menu today, another serving of what you need to know, regardless of whether or not it’s what you want to hear. First, what is and what is not happening in the presidential transition, and what part of the transition needs President Trump’s approval before it can begin; in Michigan, a Trump campaign lawyer forgets required parts of a filing for appeal, and a separate lawsuits seeks a re-vote in Detroit; and the rapidly approaching deadlines for certifications of the state votes.
America’s Two Diverging Post-Election Tracks
One week after Election Day, the United States is running along two parallel tracks that are starting to diverge.
In one country, President-elect Joe Biden is going about the work of a presidential transition in Wilmington. All major media organizations have projected that Biden has won at least 279 electoral votes and is leading by five-figure margins in Arizona and Georgia. Biden named a task force for the coronavirus — which included the eyebrow-raising selection of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who once wrote that “living too long is also a loss” — and plans to give remarks today on the Trump administration’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The Biden team announced plans for first-day executive orders that would “rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, rejoin the World Health Organization and repeal Trump’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim nations.”
Biden and Kamala Harris are in Delaware, receiving non-presidential-level classified briefings in preparation to step into the executive branch.
The General Services Administration won’t release any funds or open up any new office space for the Biden transition effort. Biden and his team cannot receive the presidential daily briefing on national-security and intelligence matters until President Trump authorizes it.
The 9/11 Commission warned that the recount and related delays in the transition from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration played a factor in the lack of preparation for the attacks:
The 9/11 Commission Report included a general recommendation that appointments to key national security positions at the time of presidential transitions occur more quickly. The goal of the 9/11 Commission’s recommended changes was to “minimize as much as possible the disruption of national security policymaking” and maintain national security continuity when a new President comes into office. The recommendation addressed the commission’s concern about the length of time a new Administration takes to install key national security personnel. The commission noted, in particular, the abbreviated transition period resulting from the delayed resolution of the 2000 presidential race. The report stated, “Given that a presidential election in the United States brings wholesale change in personnel, this loss of time hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.” As a result, the commission reported, “the new administration did not have its deputy cabinet officers in place until the spring of 2001, and the critical subcabinet officials were not confirmed until the summer — if then. In other words, the new administration — like others before it — did not have its team on the job until at least six months after it took office.”
But other forms of official recognition of Biden’s status as president-elect are moving forward: “The U.S. Secret Service and Federal Aviation Administration extended a flight restriction over Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home through Inauguration Day. Biden’s security detail has been bolstered with agents from the Presidential Protective Division.”
On the other track and in the other country, President Trump contends he has won the state of Georgia, won the state of Wisconsin, and the entire presidential election; that Pfizer and the Food and Drug Administration withheld news of a working vaccine against the coronavirus until after the election; and that polls that didn’t show him winning constitute “tampering with an election.”
Meanwhile, in the Michigan Courts . . .
The filing relies on the affidavits of four Republican poll challengers and a city of Detroit employee who said she worked in the city’s election headquarters through September, a satellite clerk’s office in October and the TCF Center the day after the election.
The allegations range from restrictions on poll challengers to late arriving batches of absentee ballots to the encouragement of early voters to cast their ballots for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Election officials have said they allowed the maximum number of poll watchers for both Democrats and Republicans, only restricting access to any additional poll watchers because of COVID-19 concerns.
The suit, filed by the Great Lakes Justice Center, seeks an independent audit of the election, a halt to the certification of Wayne County votes, an order voiding the county’s election results and the initiation of a new election in Wayne County.
Judges in the Michigan Court of Claims and the Wayne County Circuit Court have already denied similar requests to stop the counting of Detroit ballots, citing a lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
On Monday, the Trump campaign tried to appeal a state Court of Claims decision that rejected a request to stop the counting of ballots. The Trump campaign lawyers apparently forgot to file with their appeal: “copies of Stephens’s order, the lower court docket or register of actions, a transcript of the lower court hearing and additional copies of a brief,” as required, and the Court of Appeals promptly rejected the request for not filing properly.
The Real Deadlines for the 2020 Presidential Election
The Trump campaign does not have a lot of time to waste on avoidable mistakes if they hope to see significant changes in the vote counts by the date Michigan must certify its election results. Michigan’s deadline is in 13 days, November 23.
Yesterday, we discussed the recount thresholds in the key swing states; right now, only Georgia’s vote totals indicate a close enough margin to mandate an automatic recount. The Trump campaign could, by offering to cover the costs, have recounts in Nevada and Wisconsin, and certain Pennsylvania counties may choose to recount, if there is a verified discrepancy in the returns.
The vote totals become “etched in stone” once they are certified, and each state has its own deadline for certifying the results. In chronological order, they are as follows:
Georgia’s certification deadline is November 20: “The Secretary of State shall also, upon receiving the certified returns for presidential electors, proceed to tabulate, compute, and canvass the votes cast for each slate of presidential electors and shall immediately lay them before the Governor. Not later than 5:00 P.M. on the seventeenth day following the date on which such election was conducted, the Secretary of State shall certify the votes cast for all candidates.”
Pennsylvania’s certification deadline is November 23: “Last day for the county boards of elections to file with the Secretary of the Commonwealth returns from the November election.”
In North Carolina, the vote totals will be certified November 24. “After each general election, the State Board of Elections shall meet at 11:00 A.M. on the Tuesday three weeks after election day to complete the canvass of votes cast in all ballot items within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Elections and to authenticate the count in every ballot item in the county by determining that the votes have been counted and tabulated correctly.”
Arizona will certify its results November 30: “On the fourth Monday following a general election, the secretary of state, in the presence of the governor and the attorney general, shall canvass all offices for which the nominees filed nominating petitions and papers with the secretary of state[.]”
Nevada’s certification is December 1: “On the fourth Tuesday of November after each general election, the justices of the Supreme Court, or a majority thereof, shall meet with the Secretary of State, and shall open and canvass the vote for the number of presidential electors to which this State may be entitled.”
In Wisconsin, December 1 is the “last day for chairperson of the Wisconsin Elections Commission to certify the results of the general election.”
The Electoral College meets on December 14, 2020.
ADDENDUM: Everyone is dunking on MSNBC host Joy Reid for contending that the website FiveThirtyEight.com is named so because of the margin in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. In fact, the margin was 537, not 538, and Nate Silver wrote: “This site is named after the number of electors in the Electoral College . . . equal to 100 members of the US Senate, plus the 435 members of the US House, plus three more for the District of Columbia.”
She will probably claim her account was hacked.