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Presidential results not final yet, say local Republicans, elected officials

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Local Republicans are among those saying the presidential election is too early to call due to still-ongoing ballot counting and pending lawsuits from the campaign of President Donald Trump.

Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer, however, said no evidence substantiates those claims and that the process is playing out as it’s supposed to.

An election day plagued by the pandemic that’s still surging across the nation became an “election week” after the Associated Press, Fox News and other outlets formally declared Joe Biden the president-elect four days later on Nov. 7. Their calls judged Biden had enough votes to surpass President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, pushing him past the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.

But Trump and his campaign have yet to concede the results, maintaining alleged voter fraud stemming from the use of absentee by mail ballots and the counting process that has followed.

Rowan County Republican Chair Don Vick said it was premature for media outlets to declare Biden the president-elect as the nation is currently in a “wait and see” stage.

He said it is difficult for some Americans to understand all of what’s going on. But Vick said he’s holding on to the hope that mistakes are found throughout the electoral process. And ultimately, he hopes the election plays out in Republicans’ favor.

Whatever happens, Vick said, he doesn’t expect Trump will be out of the public’s eye.

“I wouldn’t doubt seeing him in 2024,” he said.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday the George secretary of state announced an audit that would involve a full hand tally of ballots. Otherwise, Bitzer said, Trump is currently challenging states where he’s outside of “pretty wide margins,” particularly in states he won by smaller margins in 2016, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

According to the Associated Press, Biden leads Trump by more than 145,000 in Michigan, more than 50,000 in Pennsylvania and by more than 20,000 in Wisconsin. Biden maintains a lead of a little more than 14,000 in Georgia.

Trump’s cases could be harder to make since several states resolved election-related issues before Election Day, Bitzer said. And to date, courts haven’t accepted these cases to review due to the lack of sufficient evidence of fraudulent ballots electoral irregularities.

“I don’t see how he succeeds in court,” Bitzer said.

In order for Trump’s cases to make it to the Supreme Court, the campaign would have to lose and file for an appeal. Bitzer said the Supreme Court would decline to hear a case or declare “no controversy” in the matter if there’s insufficient evidence to allege fraud.

The refusal to concede affects the transition to a new administration and prevents classified briefings that might otherwise take place, Bitzer said. It also serves as another example of Trump “breaking the norms that are generally accepted in American presidential politics,” Bitzer said.

Elaine Hewitt, who’s been active with the local Republican party for years, said this election was such an unusual one, with extended acceptance dates for ballots in multiple states. Hewitt said she didn’t wish to elaborate on her thoughts regarding the arguments or claims of fraud made by the Trump campaign as things are still currently playing out and it’s “too early to tell.”

“Speculating from the trenches is just made up words,” she said.

She did add, however, that Democrats had a hard time accepting the 2016 presidential election. And that if there is any mistrust in the electoral process, it won’t be new.

Bitzer said more polling and study will be needed to determine if Americans develop or hold skepticism or mistrust in the American electoral process. He suspects Americans’ thinking will be partisan and politically divided.

Hewitt said the point of confusion among Americans has more to do with the courts who “overthrew” state laws after the election started. For example, the Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 28 that North Carolina and Pennsylvania could continue counting absentee by mail ballots days after the election if they were postmarked by Election Day. The high court upheld North Carolina’s lower court rulings to allow the counting period to span nine additional days compared to the three additional days approved by the state legislature.

The Rowan County Board of Elections will meet today at 5:30 p.m. to count remaining absentee and provisional ballots, and the state Board of Elections will hold its canvass meeting on Friday at 11 a.m.

Eventually, America will have to get to a point where the results are accepted, Vick said, especially as the Biden-Harris administration has already begun taking actions such as establishing a panel of medical experts to lay out Biden’s plan for mitigating the pandemic.

“We’re going to have to get on with things,” he added.

Bitzer said continuing to count ballots and release election results is normal. The confusion comes in because the average voter’s sense is that they cast a ballot and want to know who wins the night of the election or the morning after.

“Just because we haven’t declared the winner here in North Carolina doesn’t mean the process isn’t working,” he said. “It’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to.”

North Carolina’s Republican politicians have also been among those sharing their thoughts on the election controversy. Sen. Thom Tillis, who was re-elected, on Monday tweeted that every vote cast legally must be counted and that Americans should have confidence in the nation’s elections.

“President Trump has every right to request recounts and litigation to ensure state election laws were followed, just as other Democrat & Republican candidates have done before,” Tillis said.

Rep. Ted Budd, a Republican representing North Carolina’s 13th congressional district in the U.S. House, has been more vocal about the issue on Twitter. Budd’s district contains Rowan County. Starting next year, he’ll be Rowan County’s lone congressman.

“If we can spend two years investigating Russian collusion conspiracy theories, we should be able to take the time to #CountEveryLegalVote,” Budd said in one tweet.

In another, Budd stated that “TV networks don’t get to decide who our President is,” adding that voter fraud must be investigated and exposed.

Additionally on Monday, Budd said he and his colleagues sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General AG Barr demanding to know what the Department of Justice is doing to “ensure the integrity of the voting and counting process.”

Locally, Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, on Monday said in a newsletter that “the count continues and the election has yet to be certified,” adding that it’s still too early to designate anyone the president-elect.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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