Why Trump's lawsuits won't change the outcome of the election
Also, all eyes on Georgia to decide control of the Senate, the first woman vice president-elect, what's on Connecticut lawmakers' agenda, and would you get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The election results are in, for the most part. Former Vice President Joe Biden is going to be the 46th President of the United States and the oldest person to ever serve in that office. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is going to be the first woman, first woman of color and first person of Asian-American descent to hold office in the White House.
In this week’s edition of Crash Course, we examined the claims of voter fraud that President Donald Trump and members of the Republican party have used to deny that Biden won the election. We also spoke to a number of women at and around UConn about Harris’ ascendency to VP.
Keep reading for an explainer on why Georgia might decide the balance of power in the upper chamber of Congress, and a list of what’s on the agenda for the Connecticut legislature in 2021. We’ve got a conversation starter about a potential COVID-19 vaccine, too.
Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential election involves lots of lawsuits
Ben Crnic writes: A week has passed since Joe Biden secured the more than 270 electoral votes needed to win the 2020 Presidential Election. But President Trump has still refused to accept the results, casting doubt on a peaceful transfer of power. Trump’s baseless main argument: that the election was stolen from him due to widespread voter fraud caused by mail-in ballots.
Photo via Unsplash
The Trump campaign filed numerous lawsuits in several states where Biden won. Trump has also blocked cooperation with President-elect Biden’s transition team while he contests election results. Here’s a rundown of Trump’s lawsuits and why rumors of voter fraud are not true.
Trump’s Lawsuits Explained
Trump’s campaign filed multiple lawsuits in key swing states where he lost, including Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan. These lawsuits focus on stopping the count of mail-in ballots and allowing Trump campaign members to supervise the counting of these ballots.
UConn Professor of Law and Public Policy Douglas Spencer said the Trump campaign’s litigation will have no impact on the outcome of this election.
“Successful election challenges are predicated on evidence gathered during an election, not after,” Spencer explained via email. “Courts are hesitant to alter election results under any circumstances, and they will be very skeptical of cases where the primary evidence is after-the-fact affidavits (signed statements by individuals who say they saw something fishy).”
Courts are skeptical of these lawsuits, which have been dismissed in Georgia and Michigan. There is also no way for these lawsuits to change the outcome of the election. Even if Trump wins all of them, there are not enough affected ballots to get rid of Biden’s lead in the states in question.
For instance, if Trump won his lawsuit in Pennsylvania and stopped the count of ballots that were received after Election Day, this would mean only 4,000 ballots would be removed. Biden leads Pennsylvania by 50,000 votes, so the suit would have no impact on who won the state. The same is true in Georgia, where only 53 ballots would be affected by Trump’s lawsuit. Biden’s current lead in Georgia is 14,000 votes.
According to Spencer, these lawsuits are more likely a strategic move for Trump.
“First, it’s in his nature to be combative and he has a particular history of threatening lawsuits to deflect negative publicity,” Spencer wrote. “Second, his strategy seems to be a desire to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the entire election, not just specific ballots. But this strategy is likely to blow up in his face.”
Spencer is confident that the courts will sort out the issue.
“Each of the cases brought by the Trump campaign will be decided in an orderly and peaceful fashion. Each side will have an equal opportunity to present their case and the dispute will be resolved based on documented evidence and reason. Just what the doctor ordered,” Spencer stated. “This past week our election system was tested and it proved up to the task. This next week the courts will be tested and I’m confident they will pass with flying colors.”
Why Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims are Baseless
Trump and his congressional Republican supporters claim that he lost the election because of “illegal votes” in certain states. But the Trump campaign has offered no evidence to backup his claims of widespread voter fraud while filing highly speculative lawsuits that have been dismissed. In many of the states where the vote is being challenged, other Republicans won congressional races. In Georgia and Nevada, the election systems are overseen by Republican officials.
Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties as well as international observers have stated that the 2020 U.S. election went well. A joint statement issued Thursday by the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating executive committees said this year’s election marked “the most secure in American history.” Many states also successfully improved their mail-in voting systems in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in places that Trump won—Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana.
All political eyes on Georgia
Allison O’Donnell writes: Georgia proved to be an important state in the 2020 presidential election. This is the first time Georgians have preferred a Democratic candidate to a Republican since 1992. Biden holds a lead over Trump by about 0.3% or 14,000 votes.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced a statewide hand recount and audit on Wednesday. The recount is expected to be completed with election results certified by the deadline of Nov. 20, according to USA Today.
While the recount will not change the results of the presidential election (Biden will retain more than 270 electoral votes even without Georgia), it will have a significant impact on the Senate. UConn Political Science Prof. Robert Lupton said the Senate majority will be decided by who Georgia elects.
The suburban Atlanta district, previously Republican, has evolved into Democratic locations, Lupton explained. “It is the epicenter of the ‘new south’ Democrats have been campaigning to mobilize,” he said.
Lupton specifically referenced former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ work with Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project. These two organizations founded by Abrams registered more than 800,000 new voters. Abrams focused on disengaged voters of color, as opposed to the typical undecided, moderate, often white voters.
Shannon Nee, a 2016 UConn alumna who is an assistant lacrosse coach at Kennesaw State University, said that politics in Georgia is influenced by the diversity of Atlanta and other cities.
“Obviously in the areas that are farther from cities and big towns you still see some of that different Southern mentality, but living in the city of Atlanta there are so many different people and cultures that the values are changing.”
Cities like Atlanta, Athens, Savannah and Macon comprise the majority of Democratic voters, according to the Associated Press’ election map. Urban centers tend to have more diversity, and lean Democratic, explained UConn Political Science Prof. Paul Herrnson.
“The other blue areas in the state are where there are universities — in Athens you have [the University of Georgia] and Cobb county is Kennesaw so the younger generations who are in college are also getting out there and voting which I think is awesome,” Nee said. “We encouraged all our players to vote—especially since a lot of the younger generations are calling for change.”
If the Georgia recount does not reveal clear winners in the state’s two Senatorial contests, Georgia is expected to hold a runoff election on January 5, 2021, two weeks before President-elect Biden’s inauguration. A runoff is required because neither of Georgia’s Republican senators drew a majority of votes on Election Day.
The results of a runoff election could either swing the majority in the Senate to Democrats, or leave Republicans in charge and give them influence over Biden’s plans.
Millions in campaign cash is expected to funnel into Georgia for political advertising. Party leaders and interest groups have already started courting voters. Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced this week that he's moving to Georgia to help try to flip the state's Senate seats. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the first big name to travel Georgia to stump with incumbent Republican Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
Here are the Connecticut people being considered for Biden administration positions
Ashley Anglisano writes: President-Elect Biden has started the process of choosing members of his administration. Some of Biden’s Connecticut supporters have been floated as potential picks.
Chris Dodd, the former Democratic Connecticut U.S. senator, has an almost 40-year friendship with Biden from when they served together in the Senate. Dodd helped Biden choose Kamala Harris as his running mate. With great-grandparents who were all born in Ireland, Dodd is rumored to be in the running for Ambassador to Ireland.
Chris Shays, a former congressman in Fairfield County, also has potential to serve in the Biden cabinet. Described as a moderate Republican and Trump opponent, Shays endorsed Biden in August and campaigned for him. According to the CT Mirror, past presidents have chosen people from other political parties to serve in their administrations, and with Biden aiming for unity, this isn’t an unlikely move for him.
After Biden announced he would appoint a teacher to lead the Department of Education, 5th district congresswoman Jahana Hayes emerged as a contender. Hayes was named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year and was an early supporter of Harris.
COVID-19 will be a major focus for Biden once he takes office and Yale School of Medicine Professor Marcella Nunez-Smith was selected to be part of the Biden transition team’s COVID-19 advisory board. This could lead Dr. Nunez-Smith to work on health policy within the administration.
Dan Esty, the former Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner could be considered for EPA chief or another post within that agency, according to CT Post. Esty is a Yale law and environment professor who held positions at EPA as a young lawyer under former President George H.W. Bush.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, whose name was mentioned as a potential Secretary of State, said at a Nov. 6 press conference that he prefers to remain in the Senate, the Hartford Courant reported.
Graphic sources: Connecticut Secretary of the State, Hartford Courant
How Kamala Harris is making history as VP-elect
Fiona Brady writes: The election of Sen. Kamala Harris to the second-highest office in the United States marks many firsts. The daughter of immigrant parents from India and Jamaica, Harris has broken barriers as the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to be elected to the vice presidency. She is also the first person in the White House to graduate from a historically Black university and to be a member of a Black sorority.
Speaking for the first time as the vice president-elect in Wilmington, Delaware on Saturday, Harris talked about her late mother who believed a moment like this was possible in America. Harris said that while she may be the first woman in the office, she would not be the last.
“So, I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women—Black Women, Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women, throughout our nation’s history, who have paved the way for this moment tonight,” Harris said.
Her historical win brings unprecedented representation to the White House. We spoke with some women at UConn about what this moment means to them and the fight for gender equality.
“What it has done is it has made visible what I think has been invisible for a long time,” said Kathleen Holgerson, director of UConn’s Women’s Center. “It’s not like women of color weren’t doing work in the political realm or that they didn’t have important things to say, it was that women of color often weren’t able to garner the platform that white folks and white men were able to.”
UConn Journalism alumna Jamiah Bennett ‘20 reflected on the importance of representation, having been raised in a predominantly white community. When Bennett saw Black women or Black girls breaking barriers in leadership positions, she said it made her even more motivated to do the same. She watched Harris’s speech with her family on Saturday night and said it was a special moment.
“I got emotional seeing her up there because I was seeing this woman who looked like me as the vice president-elect,” said Bennett. “I never thought that I would see that in my lifetime.”
UConn senior Olasubomi (Mini) Ajayi has always been passionate about practicing medicine, but she noticed there were not many Black doctors or nurses treating her while she was growing up. She said representation serves as a motivator for young girls because it allows them to see themselves reflected in different spaces and gives them something to aspire towards.
“There are so many barriers that are in place for women, especially women of color to really get into those spaces, especially in politics considering the political context that we live in now,” said Ajayi. “It’s gratifying to see Kamala Harris in that position.”
The women we interviewed are hopeful that Biden will choose a diverse group of cabinet members.
“Having diversity across the board hopefully will be powerful. Not only does it bring different voices to the table that haven’t been there for so long, it is powerful because it adds other perspectives and shows us unity as well,” Bennett said.
These are the issues on Connecticut’s legislative agenda
Mike Mavredakis writes: With Election 2020 giving them a 31-seat majority in the state House of Representatives and an eight-seat majority in the state Senate, Connecticut Democrats will set the agenda for the next legislative session. They are expected to focus on funding for higher education, health care coverage and legalization of recreational marijuana.
Lawmakers have been putting pressure on Gov. Ned Lamont to increase spending on public universities and community colleges, according to the CT Mirror. The pressure on Lamont has grown after a bump in tax revenue trimmed the state budget deficit by almost 40% last year.
Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven told the CT Mirror that with more than one million applications for unemployment benefits filed in Connecticut since mid-March, legislators can’t afford to watch colleges and universities struggle.
“We’ve got to step up and give them new opportunities for training so they can find new professions, so they can stay in Connecticut and so they can feed their families,” she told The Mirror.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all state universities to limit occupancy. UConn is at just 50% occupancy, slightly lower than the state average of 53%. This has limited revenue available to colleges, who rely in part on student housing and meal fees to keep their doors open.
Legislators are also looking to revisit adding a public option for healthcare in the state, according to WNPR. Democrats view it as a key priority while Republicans are a bit more reluctant.
“Even though we have a new president…there’s still going to be paralysis there,” Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, told the CT Mirror. “That’s why it’s up to us here in Connecticut, because our constituents simply can’t wait any longer for the politics of Washington to work in their favor. They need the politics of Hartford to work in their favor.”
Lamont supports measures to make insurance “more accessible and affordable,” the Hartford Courant reported.
Connecticut may consider legalizing recreational marijuana after five other states, including nearby New Jersey, passed ballot measures during election 2020, CTNewsJunkie reported.
Legalization would grow the state’s gross domestic product by a projected $953 million at the minimum, according to a study by UConn economics professor Dr. Fred Carstensen. Nationally, polls show that 66% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to the most recent Gallup data.
Conversation starter: Will you get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Allison O’Donnell writes: A new coronavirus vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has shown over 90% effectiveness in human trials, the company announced this week.
But Americans remain divided on whether they would get the vaccine. Willingness among American adults to get inoculated decreased from 42% to just 21% from May to September 2020, according to a Pew Research study.
Experts estimate that 70% of the population would need to have COVID-19 antibodies to halt the epidemic. More than 10 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 as of November 10, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Gov. Lamont said he has no plans to order mass vaccinations in Connecticut. Lamont estimated that Connecticut would receive 50,000 to 100,000 vaccine doses from Pfizer by the end of the year.
UConn has been dealing with a significant increase in cases. With just a week left before students leave campus for Thanksgiving break to finish the semester online, the university placed all residence halls in quarantine, The Daily Campus reported.
Will you take the coronavirus vaccine when it is available? Who should get it first?
How are you handling ‘COVID fatigue’?
Should vaccines be mandatory?
How are you planning to stay safe during the holiday season?
Talk about it with your friends and family! 🗣🗯
In case you missed it
A COVID-19 contact tracing app launched Thursday to be utilized by students and staff at Connecticut state universities. The app is entirely voluntary and allows users to remain anonymous. [Hartford Courant]
Some 13 million Americans are dependent on unemployment aid, funding that will expire by the end of the year without congressional action. [New York Times].
The U.S. Supreme Court appears likely to uphold the Affordable Care Act, despite its newly expanded conservative majority. [NPR]
The Trump administration removed the scientist at the head of the program that produces the National Climate Assessment. Michael Kuperberg is expected to be replaced by climate change skeptic David Legates. [Politico]
Polls missed the mark again in the 2020 election with a tendency to make Republican candidates appear weaker than they were. Polling firms are considering a shift to new research methods and some media outlets are reconsidering how they portray polls in their coverage. [New York Times]
That’s it for this week’s Crash Course! We will be back again next Friday with a look at education under a new administration, as well as some advice from UConn experts about how we can start talking and listening across political divides.
Crash Course is reported, written and produced by UConn Journalism majors Ashley Anglisano, Fiona Brady, Ben Crnic, Mike Mavredakis and Allison O’Donnell, under the guidance of Associate Professor Marie K. Shanahan. Read more about us »
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