TRAVERSE CITY/PITTSBURGH (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden made a last-ditch push for votes in battleground states on Monday (Nov 2) as their campaigns prepared for post-election disputes that could prolong a divisive presidential election.
Mr Trump, who is trailing in national opinion polls, has continued to lob unfounded attacks at mail-in ballots, suggesting he would deploy lawyers if states are still counting votes after Election Day on Tuesday.
Mr Trump told reporters on Monday evening that Pennsylvania’s plans to count mail ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day would lead to widespread cheating, although he did not explain how.
He urged the US Supreme Court to reconsider its decision that left the extension in place. The court has left that possibility open.
“Bad things will happen and bad things lead to other type things,” he told reporters in Wisconsin, another battleground state.
On Twitter, Mr Trump said the court decision would “induce violence in the streets.” The social media platform flagged his message, adding a disclaimer to the tweet that its content was “disputed” and “might be misleading.”
It is not unusual in the US for states to take several days or even weeks to count their votes, and a record surge in mail ballots could draw out the process further this year.
“Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” Mr Biden campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon told reporters.
Mr Biden himself predicted a quick victory, but also sought to downplay the drama. “I’m hoping for a straightforward, peaceful election, a lot of people showing up,” he told reporters in Pittsburgh.
The election has prompted an unprecedented wave of litigation over whether to adjust voting rules in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both sides have amassed armies of lawyers who are prepared to take on post-election battles.
On Monday, a federal judge in Texas rejected a Republican bid to throw out about 127,000 votes already cast at drive-through voting sites in the Democratic-leaning Houston area.
In Pittsburgh, Mr Biden told supporters that the country’s future rested in their hands.
“When America votes, America is heard. And when America is heard, the message will be out loud and clear: It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home,” he said.
Mr Trump, 74, is seeking to avoid becoming the first incumbent president to lose re-election since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Despite Mr Biden’s national polling lead, the race in swing states is seen as close enough that Mr Trump could still piece together the 270 votes needed to prevail in the state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the winner.
Mr Trump has spent the final days of the campaign predicting victory and deriding Mr Biden for backing restrictions that aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“A vote for Biden is a vote for lockdown, misery and layoffs,” he told the crowd in Scranton.
‘A little worried’
Many Democrats said they were nervous about the results after expecting Mr Trump to lose handily in 2016. “I’ll be honest, I’m a little worried,” said Patti Cadoso, 41, a medical school administrator who attended a Miami rally hosted by former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Mr Obama, whom Mr Biden served as vice president for eight years, said Mr Trump’s push to stop counting votes on election night was undemocratic.
“That’s what a two-bit dictator does,” he told a rally in Miami. “If you believe in democracy, you want every vote counted.”