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Why Election Lawsuits By The Trump Campaign Have Failed

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

When all of the votes from last week's election are counted, they'll be counted again in some states. Georgia's secretary of state has announced that every one of the nearly 5 million ballots will be reviewed again by hand. This comes as the Trump campaign's legal strategy to overturn the president's loss keeps crashing onto the rocks. And let's bring in NPR's Miles Parks, who covers voting. Miles, good morning.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: Let's start with Georgia. I mean, Joe Biden - a 14,000-vote lead. They're talking about hand counting 5 million ballots. What are the chances that this recount could change the result?

PARKS: It seems very doubtful at this point. There is usually a shift, a slight shift in the vote tally from this sort of hand recount, but it's not usually very big. The voting nonprofit group FairVote did a report on this recently. And they found that since 2000, there have been 31 statewide recounts. Just three of those have actually overturned the results. But more importantly than that is the amount the vote margins got changed in those three that got overturned. Margins changed by 390 votes, 239 votes and 400 votes. All three of those numbers - a lot smaller than 14,000 votes, which is Joe Biden's current lead.

GREENE: Well, let's talk about some of the things we've been hearing from the president and his allies. I mean, they have made these claims that people were kept out of counting centers, people ineligible to vote have cast ballots. They're suggesting wide-scale fraud took place. We've talked about there just being no evidence of this kind of stuff. You've been digging in, though, and doing reporting. What are you learning?

PARKS: Right. I mean, my reporting hasn't turned any of these allegations into truths. You know, there are so many accusations flying around right now, it's kind of hard to keep them all straight.

GREENE: Yeah.

PARKS: But generally, they're allegations based on one person's account with no corroborating evidence. And it's important to note that these are completely unoriginal accusations - you know, ballots arriving in the middle of the night, dead people and ineligible people voting. I talked to Chris Thomas, who oversaw Michigan's elections for both Republican and Democratic state administrations for decades. He said the claims are the same sorts he's been hearing his entire career but which have never actually been proven out.

CHRIS THOMAS: This is all being spoon-fed as if it's gospel, and it's not. And as the society has separated into its camps, it's clear that even when things are debunked and found to be false, that that is often not accepted.

PARKS: He also said election officials have this really patriotic attitude about their jobs, about not having their thumb on the scale one way or the other. So it's kind of insulting to them when they're accused of cheating after working this hard to make this election happen - in a pandemic, no less.

GREENE: Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. I mean, they really do seem like the unsung heroes in this election, pulling this off at a moment like this.

PARKS: Right.

GREENE: Let me just ask you, the Trump campaign - all of these lawsuits, Miles, in many states - many of the states that gave Biden his victory - it sounds like they're just not going anywhere. Is that right - is that fair to say?

PARKS: Yeah, if your definition of success is either getting ballots thrown out or changing vote counts, the campaign has been completely unsuccessful so far. I talked to Josh Douglas about that. He's an election law expert at the University of Kentucky. And what he said was basically the campaign has not supplied the facts to back up their claims. Election officials seemed to have been really careful to follow regulations this year, and the campaign has been asking for unrealistic things. Because of all of that, he says it's unlikely that any litigation ends up actually affecting the underlying vote totals in any of the swing states.

JOSHUA DOUGLAS: When you don't know the facts and you don't have the law and you don't have a remedy, you've really got nothing to go on in court.

PARKS: In a state like Michigan, for instance, the margin is well over 140,000 votes, so it's just very doubtful any litigation could overcome that.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Miles Parks for us this morning. Miles, thanks, as always.

PARKS: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.