2020 Daily Trail Markers: As recount talk grows, remember: Margins have to be very, very, very thin to affect calls

As counting nears completion, the subject of possible recounts in this tight election has been regularly raised. Some states trigger recounts automatically if certain margins are met, in others they must be initiated by officials or candidates. Because of chaos in Florida following the 2000 election, the mention of a recount is alarming for many. But consider this context: historically, recounts re-aggregate very few votes, according to CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte. Therefore, for them to affect final calls, margins have to be very, very, very thin.

In 2016, there were two recounts. In Wisconsin, President Trump’s winning margin got a 131-vote boost. In Nevada, a recount added only three votes to Hillary Clinton’s statewide win. In 2004, a recount in New Hampshire added three votes to John Kerry’s win. In Ohio that year, a recount reduced President George W. Bush’s win margin by only 285 votes. None of those races were even close to being changed because of the recount. The 2000 race is of course an extreme example. The recount there, riddled in controversy, in the end reduced Mr. Bush’s win by about 1,400 votes. So when you look at the margins this election season, the likelihood is that recounts won’t ultimately change the results.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

After days of scouring for a spokesperson for their upcoming legal battle, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has selected Trump campaign adviser and longtime loyalist Dave Bossie to spearhead the efforts. In a departure from Thursday’s crush of press conferences in battleground states, Trump campaign allies and surrogates, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, convened at the campaign’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday to map the path forward. Despite his narrowing lead, CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports the president has given no indication he will concede to his Democratic opponent in the short term. “Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President,” President Trump tweeted on Friday afternoon. “I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” But candidates do not claim the presidency, rather a candidate wins the White House after they reach 270 electoral votes. Although customary, concessions by the losing candidate are not required by the Constitution for a successful transfer of power. On Thursday night, the president charged his political foes and the media of trying to steal the election from him, following a slew of Trump campaign lawsuits. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” the president falsely claimed on Thursday night. Lawsuits filed by the president’s reelection bid in Michigan and Georgia have already been dismissed after failing to provide evidence of voting irregularities.

JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are expected to address the country Friday evening in primetime, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Biden is planning to address the nation tonight in Delaware about his growing lead — even if news outlets have yet to project him the winner, according to people familiar with his plans. Aides spent Friday making preliminary plans for him to speak again tonight on the presumption that he would be over the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the White House, report CBS News political correspondents Ed O’Keefe and Nikole Killion and CBS News campaign reporters Bo Erickson and Tim Perry. But now, one aide familiar with Biden’s remarks tonight says the former vice president will speak out “not to declare victory but to give the kind of update he’s done previously — with even more enthusiasm. Last time he was before the press he trailed in Georgia, he trailed in Pennsylvania, he had a single digit lead in Nevada. But now, with Biden holding the advantage in those states, Biden plans to tout more progress.”

Throughout the day, as Biden took the lead in Georgia and then Pennsylvania, Biden’s campaign came to life after days of subdued hopefulness. Staffers are bustling around the Wilmington, Delaware, event site as some start prepping their celebration strategies. If Biden is declared the victor Friday evening, the transition process is expected to begin this week with full steam ahead on Monday. White House senior staff appointments are expected early in the process to keep momentum, sources told CBS News.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says protests continue for a third day outside the ballot tabulation site in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous, with GOP leaders and right-wing conspiracy theorists among those to rally supporters outside the facility in Phoenix.

GEORGIA

In a press conference Friday afternoon, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling told reporters that 18,000 overseas and military absentee ballots have been accepted throughout the state. As many as 8,410 overseas and military absentee ballots can still be counted in Georgia if they were postmarked by Election Day and received by today. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that Sterling also said earlier Friday that there were 4,169 outstanding ballots that should be counted by this evening, though by the end of the day it was unclear that this timeline was still feasible. The margin in Georgia remains tight. As of 4 p.m., CBS News elections data showed former Vice President Biden ahead of President Trump by 1,564 votes — or .03% of votes cast up to this point. In a press conference earlier Friday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters there will be a recount in the state. “Out of approximately 5 million votes cast we’ll have a margin of a few thousand,” said Raffensperger. “With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia. Interest in our election, obviously goes far beyond Georgia’s borders. The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country.” Georgia law states that if the margin of an election is within 0.5%, the candidate that receives the least amount of votes has two business days after the elections results have been certified by the state to request a recount. The latest possible date that a recount can be requested by the runner-up this year is November 22.

IOWA

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate ordered a hand-count audit of one precinct in Jasper County and requested a countywide recount after a discrepancy “caused by a human error” impacted the results of a close congressional race in the states’ second district, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. Pate said the unofficial election night results, which showed Republican congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks ahead of Democrat Rita Hart by 282 votes was wrong. The results on the secretary of state’s website updated this morning showing Hart ahead by 162 votes. There were 561 votes cast at the Clear Creek Poweshiek precinct in the town of Mingo, the location in Jasper County were the hand-count audit will take place. Pate and Jasper County auditor Dennis Parrott said they are confident the update results as of this morning are correct. They will conduct the audit and recount to be certain. The error “impacted candidates in both political parties, non-partisan candidates, judges, and statewide public measures,” Pate told reporters Friday morning. Parrott said his office initially tried to solve the issue but eventually asked Pate’s office for assistance yesterday at 4:30pm. The county wide recount will take place tomorrow is only expected take a few hours.

MICHIGAN

A judge in Wayne County on Friday rejected an attempt by a poll challenger and non-profit to prevent the Wayne County Board of Canvassers from certifying election results unless all absentee ballots duplicated in Detroit were reviewed by a Republican and Democrat, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The plaintiffs alleged some ballots were remade, a standard process during absentee counting when a ballot isn’t read by a machine or there’s a an error, without Republicans being involved. Judge Timothy Kenny rejected the request for an injunction to prevent the Wayne County Board of Canvassers from certifying results without the review plaintiffs asked for. “In this case, everyone wants to make sure that every legitimate vote is counted,” Kenny said. “And that here what we have are claims about votes that maybe or have been submitted that are or may not be legitimate. This court finds that while there are assertions made by the plaintiffs that there is no evidence in support of those assertions.” Separately, the Speaker of the Michigan House, Lee Chatfield, announced oversight committees in the Legislature will meet tomorrow “to begin an inquiry into the election and counting procedures in our state for this election and future ones.” Chatfield also said, “let me be very clear: whoever gets the most votes will win Michigan! Period. End of story. Then we move on.”

NEVADA

Democrats moved to intervene Friday in the suit announced by the Trump campaign over signature verification in Nevada, demanding a change that local officials say could dramatically slow their tabulation, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.

NORTH CAROLINA

CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that in a press release Friday, the North Carolina Board of Elections announced that nine county boards of elections are meeting today to consider a total of at least 4,300 additional absentee by-mail ballots in North Carolina, and approved ballots will be added to the unofficial results on the State Board of Elections website after the meetings. The press release also stated that “county boards of elections will continue to meet through November 13 to consider additional absentee by-mail ballots that arrive at their offices through November 12, provided they were postmarked on or before Election Day.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Three days after the election, the country still doesn’t know who won in Pennsylvania. After trailing since Tuesday night, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports Biden pulled ahead of Mr. Trump on Friday morning. He led by over 16,000 votes, or about 0.3% by evening. Over 100,000 mail ballots received by Election Day remained uncounted, along with over 100,000 provisional ballots cast at the polls. Counties additionally continued to accept mail ballots without late postmarks until Friday evening, but the Trump campaign is asking the Supreme Court to throw out those ballots. The campaign has also brought two additional suits to the Commonwealth Court since Tuesday. One asked the court not to count provisional ballots from voters who had already applied for mail ballots. In the other, the court ruled in the campaign’s favor that poll watchers in Philadelphia be allowed closer to ballot counting, but the local Board of Elections appealed to the state Supreme Court. Returns will likely continue to update for days in Pennsylvania, as most counties didn’t begin counting provisional ballots until Friday.

WISCONSIN

A grassroots Republican effort in Wisconsin drew national attention for appearing to ask volunteers to call President Trump’s supporters in Pennsylvania and ask them to turn in mail ballots after Election Day, but a script reviewed by CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster showed the calls were a little different. The email, which CBS News obtained, said “Trump Victory urgently needs volunteers to make phone calls to Pennsylvania Trump supporters to return their absentee ballots.” It was dated on Thursday afternoon, two days after ballots had to be postmarked. But a script for callers reviewed by CBS News showed that volunteers were asking people in Pennsylvania who had requested absentee ballots whether they returned those ballots and if they did not, whether they voted a different way. CBS News reached out to Trump Victory Wisconsin but has not heard back.

JUST FOR FUN

GOOGLE ALERT

Frantically googling the election? You’re not alone. According to Google, “Election,” “results” and “election 2020” were the most searched terms in the U.S. in 24 hours. And all 10 of the most searched terms in the past day were about the election, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. With the close race in Pennsylvania and a steady trickle of results coming in from Philadelphia, “Philly memes” spiked 1,950%. People also have Georgia on their mind. Searches of “what triggers a recount in Georgia” jumped 700% in the past day while across the country, searches of “Stacey Abrams” was also trending. Must see this week: “ballot count livestream” searches climbed 500% in the past day. “What does concede mean” was also a breakout search. And not surprising in a long election week of battleground state vote counting, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan have been the top searched states in connection with the election worldwide since Tuesday.

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