WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory is shifting toward election boards that certify the vote as Trump and his allies seek to upend the electoral process.
The battle is centered in the battleground states that sealed Biden's win.
In Michigan, two Republican election officials in the state's largest county initially refused to certify results despite no evidence of fraud. In Arizona, officials are balking at signing off on vote tallies in a rural county.
The moves don't reflect a coordinated effort across the battleground states that broke for Biden, local election officials said. Instead, they seem to be inspired by Trump's comments about fraud and driven by Republican acceptance to criticism against the nation's electoral system as state and federal courts push aside legal challenges filed by Trump and his allies.
There is no precedent for the Trump team's effort to delay or undermine certification, University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas said.
"It would be the end of democracy as we know it," Douglas said. "This is just not a thing that can happen."
Certifying results is a routine, yet important, step after local election officials have tallied votes, reviewed procedures, checked to ensure votes were counted correctly and investigated discrepancies. Typically, this certification is done by a local board of elections and then, later, the results are certified at the state level.
However, as Trump has refused to concede to Biden and continues to spread claims of victory, this process is taking on new significance.
Among key battleground states, counties in Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin have made it through the initial step of certifying results. Except for Wayne County, this process has largely been smooth. Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia still haven't concluded their local certifications.
Then all eyes turn to statewide certification.
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In Wayne County, the two Republican canvassers at first balked at certifying the vote and then reversed course after widespread condemnation. A person familiar with the matter said Trump reached out to the canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, on Tuesday evening after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support.
Across the nation, recounts and court challenges must wrap up and election results must be certified by Dec. 8. That's the constitutional deadline ahead of the Electoral College meeting the following week.
Matt Morgan, the Trump campaign's general counsel, said last week the campaign was trying to halt certification in battleground states until it could get a better handle on vote tallies and whether it would have the right to automatic recounts. Right now, Trump is requesting a recount in two Wisconsin counties, and Georgia is doing a hand audit after Biden led by a slim margin of 0.3 percentage points, but there is no mandatory recount law in the state. The law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.
Some have held out hope that by delaying certification, GOP- controlled state legislatures will get a chance to select different electors, either overturning Biden's victory or sending it to the House.
Lawsuits have been filed by Trump allies in Michigan and Nevada seeking to stop certification. Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani argued to stop vote certification Tuesday in Pennsylvania. And the same day, the Arizona Republican Party asked a judge to bar Maricopa County, the state's most populous, from certifying until the court issues a decision about the party's lawsuit seeking a new hand count of a sampling of ballots.
The party is also putting pressure on county officials across the state to delay certification, even though there hasn't been evidence of legitimate questions about the vote tally showing Biden won Arizona.
"The party is pushing for not only the county supervisors but everyone responsible for certifying and canvassing the election to make sure that all questions are answered so that voters will have confidence in the results of the election," said Zach Henry, spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party.
While most counties in Arizona are pressing ahead with certification, officials in Mohave County decided to delay until Monday, citing what they said was uncertainty about the fate of election challenges across the country.
"There are lawsuits all over the place on everything, and that's part of the reason why I'm in no big hurry to canvass the election," Mohave County Supervisor Ron Gould said Monday.
Officials in all of Georgia's 159 counties were supposed to have certified their results by last Friday. However, a few have yet to certify as the state works through a hand tally of some 5 million votes.