Biden gains ground in Pennsylvania as Trump tries to stop the ballot count

Protesters march Wednesday outside City Hall in Philadelphia.
Protesters march Wednesday at City Hall in Philadelphia and shout “Black Lives Matter” as President Trump goes to court to try to block Pennsylvania’s counting of mail ballots.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump sought Wednesday to block Pennsylvania from counting more than 1 million ballots cast by mail in Tuesday’s election as the tabulation narrowed his lead over Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Trump’s extraordinary attack on the voting system came in a broad legal assault on ballot counting across a handful of toss-up states that will decide the presidential election.

The Republican president was more than 600,000 votes ahead of Biden early Wednesday in Pennsylvania, but by the end of the day that margin had shrunk to fewer than 140,000 votes.


Biden’s lopsided victory in the mail ballots counted by Wednesday, 77% to 22%, put the former vice president on track to erase Trump’s lead entirely by the time the count of the remaining 763,000 mail ballots was complete. Most were cast in counties that Trump lost in 2016. Mail ballots take extra time to process and count so each voter’s eligibility can be verified.

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On Wednesday afternoon, even as election officials in the state’s 67 counties were working around the clock counting ballots, Trump went ahead and falsely declared he had won Pennsylvania.

Trump alleged fraud but produced no evidence. His attempt to halt the count while multiple courts weigh his grievances drew a scathing rebuke from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

“These attempts to subvert the democratic process are disgraceful,” Wolf said.

Wolf, a Democrat, said Pennsylvania would “fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters and continue to administer a free and fair election. Our election officials at the state and local level should be free to do their jobs without intimidation or attacks.”

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani planned to announce the new lawsuits outside the Philadelphia Convention Center where city election officials were still counting more than 350,000 ballots submitted by mail.

Eric and Lara Trump, the president’s son and daughter-in-law, were also expected to attend, but dozens of shouting anti-Trump protesters, who were cleared from the scene by police officers, drove them to move their event to an airport.


Giuliani branded the city’s ballot counting, which is overseen by a bipartisan commission, “a concerted effort of the crooks who run the Democratic Party.”

The former New York City mayor repeated Trump’s false assertion that the president had won Pennsylvania but gave no sign of how he would know that when — at that point — just over 1 million ballots were not yet counted.

He said the Trump campaign was filing at least three lawsuits to challenge the counting system.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, in Philadelphia with Eric, left, and Lara Trump.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, President Trump’s personal lawyer, calls for a halt to the counting of more than 1 million Pennsylvania ballots cast by mail in Tuesday’s presidential election, alleging with no evidence that the tabulation is marred by fraud. With him are Eric and Lara Trump, the president’s son and daughter-in-law.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

“We’re not going to let them get away with it,” Giuliani said. “They’re not going to steal this election.”


Pam Bondi, a Trump campaign senior advisor, denounced Seth Bluestein, a Republican deputy election commissioner, for enforcing rules that require poll watchers for Trump and Biden to remain behind barricades during the ballot counting.

“He is wearing a badge the size of a baseball,” she said. “And as far as I know, he’s not a sworn law enforcement officer, so it looks like intimidation to me.”

Election 2020: Americans turned out to vote in this year as never before, and the result seemed to deepen the trench dividing the two warring parties.

Nov. 4, 2020

Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, said the vote counting was going remarkably smoothly as thousands of county officials processed roughly 2.6 million mail ballots — about 10 times the number that were cast in Pennsylvania four years ago.

“I urge everybody to remain patient,” she said.

In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,284 votes out of nearly 6.2 million cast.

Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, accused Boockvar of trying to “bake in a back door to victory for Joe Biden with late, illegal ballots in collusion with” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Boockvar denied wrongdoing, saying her aim was to ensure every valid ballot was counted.

Trump’s lawyers will try to find a legal basis for setting aside votes, but most experts think their prospects are dim, even with the Supreme Court dominated by conservatives.

Nov. 4, 2020

In a ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state’s high court ruled that mail ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 or with illegible postmarks must be counted if they are received by county election offices by the end of Friday.

The Trump campaign and Republican allies in the state Legislature have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that ruling and invalidate any mail ballot not received before polls closed on Tuesday.