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Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits Thursday, undercutting a campaign legal strategy to attack the integrity of the voting process in states where the result could mean President Donald Trump’s defeat. The rulings came as Democrat Joe Biden inched closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, and Trump and his campaign promised even more legal action based on unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.

Speaking in the White House briefing room Thursday, the president launched into a litany of claims, without proof, about how Democrats were trying to unfairly deprive him of a second term. “But we think there’ll be a lot of litigation because we can’t have an election stolen like this,” Trump said.

Earlier Thursday, a Biden campaign lawyer called the lawsuits meritless, more political strategy than legal. “I want to emphasize that for their purposes these lawsuits don’t have to have merit. That’s not the purpose. ... It is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process,” lawyer Bob Bauer said, accusing the Trump campaign of “continually alleging irregularities, failures of the system and fraud without any basis.”

Trump is used to suing and being sued. A USA Today analysis found that he and his businesses were involved in at least 3,500 state and federal court actions in the three decades before he became president.  In this election, the court battles so far have been small-scale efforts to get a closer look at local elections officials as they process absentee ballots. A Michigan judge noted that the state’s ballot count is over as she tossed the campaign’s lawsuit.

In Georgia, a state judge dismissed a case over concerns about 53 absentee ballots in Chatham County after elections officials in the Savannah-area county testified that all of those ballots had been received on time. Campaign officials said earlier they were considering similar challenges in a dozen other counties around the state.  In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, the Trump campaign won an appellate ruling to get party and campaign observers closer to election workers who are processing mail-in ballots in Philadelphia.

But the order did not affect the counting of ballots that is proceeding in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, as elections officials are dealing with an avalanche of mail ballots driven by fears of voting in person during a pandemic. The lawsuits in multiple states highlight that the Trump campaign could be confronting a political map in which it might have to persuade courts in two or more states to set aside enough votes to overturn the results. That’s a substantially different scenario than in the contested presidential election of 2000, which eventually was effectively settled by the Supreme Court, when the entire fight was over Florida’s electoral votes and involved a recount as opposed to trying to halt balloting.

Biden, for his part, has said he expects to win the election, but he counseled patience Thursday, saying: “Each ballot must be counted.” Trump campaign officials, meanwhile, accused Democrats of trying to steal the election, despite no evidence anything of the sort was taking place. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, in a call with reporters Thursday morning, said that “every night the president goes to bed with a lead” and every night new votes “are mysteriously found in a sack.” It is quite common in presidential elections to have vote counting continue after election day.


NO WINNER: President Donald Trump carried the prized battleground of Florida, then he and Democrat Joe Biden shifted their focus to three Northern industrial states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House. A late burst of votes in Wisconsin from Milwaukee gave Biden a small lead, but the state remained too early to call early Wednesday. Michigan and Pennsylvania also remained too early to call with hundreds of thousands of outstanding votes in both states.

COURT CHALLENGE: Trump says he’ll take the presidential election to the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear what he means in a country in which vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. Trump says “we want all voting to stop,” but the voting is over. It’s only counting that is taking place across the nation. No state will count absentee votes that are postmarked after Election Day. Biden’s campaign called Trump’s statement “outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect.”

STATUS QUO: Their hopes fading for Senate control, Democrats had a disappointing election night as Republicans swatted down an onslaught of challengers and fought to retain their majority. Several races remained undecided, and at least one headed to a runoff in January. It was a jarring outcome for Democrats, who had devised an expanded political map, eager to provide a backstop against Trump and his party’s grip on the Senate. The voters’ choices will force a rethinking of Democratic Party strategy, messaging and approach from the Trump era.

HOUSE CONTROL: Democrats are driving toward extending their control of the House for two more years but with a potentially shrunken majority. They have lost six incumbents and failed to oust any Republican lawmakers in initial returns. The only gains for Democrats have been two North Carolina seats vacated by GOP incumbents after a court-ordered remapping. Though Democrats seem likely to retain House control, the results have been disappointing for the party, which had hoped to make modest gains of perhaps 15 seats.

BALLOT MEASURES: A nationwide push to relax drug laws took a significant step forward. Voters in Arizona and New Jersey added their states to the list of places legalizing marijuana for adults. And Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Louisiana voters approved an amendment saying there is no state constitutional right to abortion, but Colorado voters defeated abortion limitations. Florida voters approved a measure to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. And Mississippi voters approved a new flag.

QUOTABLE: “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court — we want all voting to stop.” — Trump declared even though voting had ended and it’s only counting that is taking place across the nation.


The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested it could halt what has been a gradual move toward more leniency for children who are convicted of murder. In cases over more than a decade, the court has concluded that children should be treated differently from adults, in part because of their lack of maturity. But the court, which has become more conservative over the last few years, could decide not to go any further.

The justices on Tuesday were hearing a case about sentencing juveniles to life without parole. The court has previously said that should be rare, and the question before the justices has to do with what courts must do before deciding to impose a life without parole sentence on a juvenile. During arguments, which the justices heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic, Justice Samuel Alito suggested the court has gone too far. “What would you say to any members of this court who are concerned that we have now gotten light years away from the original meaning of the Eighth Amendment and who are reluctant to go any further on this travel into space?” Alito asked at one point, referencing the amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Neil Gorsuch also indicated they take issue with the court’s most recent case about juvenile life sentences. The case the court was hearing Tuesday is the latest in a series of cases going back to 2005, when the court eliminated the death penalty for juveniles. Five years later, the court barred life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, except in cases where a juvenile has killed someone. Then, in 2012, the justices in a 5-4 decision said juveniles who kill can’t automatically be sentenced to life with no chance of parole. A related decision four years later said those sentences should be reserved “for all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.”

The justices are now being asked whether a juvenile has to be found to be “permanently incorrigible,” incapable of being rehabilitated, before being sentenced to life without parole. But the court has changed significantly in recent years. More conservative justices have replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose votes were key to the 2012 decision.

The specific case before the justices involves Mississippi inmate Brett Jones, who was 15 and living with his grandparents when he fatally stabbed his grandfather. The two had a fight in the home’s kitchen after Bertis Jones found his grandson’s girlfriend in his grandson’s bedroom. Brett Jones, who was using a knife to make a sandwich before the fight, stabbed his grandfather first with that knife and then, when it broke, with a different knife. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jones, who is now 31, says he is not “permanently incorrigible” and should therefore be eligible for parole. Mississippi says the Eighth Amendment doesn’t require that Jones be found to be permanently incorrigible to receive a life-without-parole sentence, just that Jones’ youth when he committed his crime be considered. The case is Jones v. Mississippi, 18-1259.



The Supreme Court is to hear arguments in a case that could put the brakes on what has been a gradual move toward more leniency for children who are convicted of murder. The court has concluded over the last two decades that children should be treated differently from adults, in part because of their lack of maturity. But a court that is even more conservative, particularly following the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, could move in the other direction.

Barrett is expected to participate in arguments Tuesday, the second day she is hearing arguments following her confirmation last week. The case before the justices, who are continuing to hear arguments by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, has to do with what courts must conclude before sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The question stems from the court’s previous rulings on juvenile offenders. In 2005, the court eliminated the death penalty for offenders who were under 18 when they committed crimes. And in 2010 the court eliminated life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, except in cases where a juvenile has killed someone.

Then, in 2012, the justices in a 5-4 decision said juveniles who killed couldn’t automatically get life sentences with no chance of parole. And four years later, the justices said those sentences should be reserved “for all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.”

The justices are now being asked whether a juvenile has to be found to be “permanently incorrigible” before being sentenced to life without parole. No longer on the court are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, who were key to the 2012 decision limiting the use of life sentences. More conservative justices have replaced them.

The specific case before the justices involves Mississippi inmate Brett Jones, who was 15 and living with his grandparents when he fatally stabbed his grandfather. The two had a fight in the home’s kitchen after Bertis Jones found his grandson’s girlfriend in his grandson’s bedroom. Brett Jones, who was using a knife to make a sandwich before the fight, stabbed his grandfather first with that knife and then, when it broke, with a different knife.

He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is now 31.

The Supreme Court last year heard arguments in a different case about juvenile life sentences. That case involved Lee Boyd Malvo, who is serving life in prison for his role in the 2002 sniper spree that terrorized the Washington, D.C., area. But the case was dropped after Virginia passed legislation that gives those who were under 18 when they committed their crime an opportunity to seek parole after serving 20 years. Malvo, who was 17 when he committed his crimes, will be eligible for parole in 2024.


Signature matches. Late-arriving absentee votes. Drop boxes. Secrecy envelopes. Democratic and Republican lawyers already have gone to court over these issues in the run-up to Tuesday’s election. But the legal fights could take on new urgency, not to mention added vitriol, if a narrow margin in a battleground state is the difference between another four years for President Donald Trump or a Joe Biden administration.

Both sides say they’re ready, with thousands of lawyers on standby to march into court to make sure ballots get counted, or excluded.  Since the 2000 presidential election, which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, both parties have enlisted legal teams to prepare for the unlikely event that voting wouldn’t settle the contest. But this year, there is a near presumption that legal fights will ensue and that only a definitive outcome is likely to forestall them.

The candidates and parties have enlisted prominent lawyers with ties to Democratic and Republican administrations. A Pennsylvania case at the Supreme Court pits Donald Verrilli, who was President Barack Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer, against John Gore, a onetime high-ranking Trump Justice Department official.

It’s impossible to know where, or even if, a problem affecting the ultimate result will arise. But existing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota and Nevada offer some hint of the states most likely to be ground zero in a post-election battle and the kinds of issues that could tie the outcome in knots.

Roughly 300 lawsuits already have been filed over the election in dozens of states across the country, many involving changes to normal procedures because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 people in the U.S. and sickened more than 9 million.

Most of the potential legal challenges are likely to stem from the huge increase in absentee balloting brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. In Pennsylvania, elections officials won’t start processing those ballots until Election Day, and some counties have said they won’t begin counting those votes until the following day. Mailed ballots that don’t come inside a secrecy envelope have to be discarded, under a state Supreme Court ruling.

“I still can’t figure how counting and verifying absentee ballots is going to go in some of the battleground states like Pennsylvania,” said Ohio State University law professor Edward Foley, an election law expert.

The deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots is Friday, an extension ordered by the Pennsylvania’s top court. The Supreme Court left that order in place in response to a Republican effort to block it. But several conservative justices indicated they’d be open to taking the issue up after the election, especially if those late-arriving ballots could mean the difference in the state.



A vast swath of West Texas has been without an abortion clinic for more than six years. Planned Parenthood plans to change that with a health center it opened recently in Lubbock.  It’s a vivid example of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.

Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed. “Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”

The clinic opened on Oct. 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.

Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013 after the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and imposed tough restrictions on abortion clinics.

That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland. Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth. Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic's opening.

“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life. Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.


North Carolina, yes. Pennsylvania, yes. Wisconsin, no. That’s how the Supreme Court has answered questions in recent days about an extended timeline for receiving and counting ballots in those states. In each case, Democrats backed the extensions and Republicans opposed them. All three states have Democratic governors and legislatures controlled by the GOP.

At first blush, the difference in the outcomes at the Supreme Court seems odd because the high court typically takes up issues to harmonize the rules across the country. But elections are largely governed by states, and the rules differ from one state to the next.

A big asterisk: These cases are being dealt with on an emergency basis in which the court issues orders that either block or keep in place a lower-court ruling. But there is almost never an explanation of the majority’s rationale, though individual justices sometimes write opinions that partially explain the matter

There also is a difference in how the justices act based on whether they are ruling on a lawsuit that began in state or federal court.

Conservative justices who hold a majority on the Supreme Court object to what they see as intrusions by federal judges who order last-minute changes to state election rules, even in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The power to alter absentee ballot deadlines and other voting issues rests with state legislatures, not federal courts, according to the conservative justices.

The court also is divided, but so far has been willing to allow state courts interpreting their own state constitutions to play more of a role than their federal counterparts.

Last week, four conservative justices would have put on hold a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling allowing three additional days to receive and count mailed ballots. Three justices in Wednesday’s order about North Carolina’s absentee ballots would have blocked a six-day extension.

The justices did not finally resolve the legal issues involved, but they could do so after the election. A more thorough examination could come either in a post-election challenge that could determine the presidential winner if, for example, Pennsylvania proves critical to the national outcome, or in a less tense setting that might not affect the 2020 vote, but would apply in the future.


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