What's happening with lawsuits, postal votes and recounts in the US election?

Donald Trump has launched legal challenges in five key US states, alleging that election officials are counting fraudulent votes. As a result, though Joe Biden has been announced the winner of the election, the process could be protracted for weeks, and the damage to public confidence in the democratic process could last much longer. Here is what's happening in each state. For the latest election updates, see our live blog. 2020 US election results map in full Which states are facing voting challenges? Michigan The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit seeking to halt voting in Michigan on Wednesday, November 4, claiming that Republicans were not allowed to observe counts "meaningfully" in several locations, but a state court judge dismissed it. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens made the ruling during a court hearing on Thursday.   She also said the defendant, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, was the wrong person to be suing because she doesn't control the logistics of local ballot counting, even if she is the state's chief election officer.  The lawsuit claimed Ms Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers. She was accused of undermining the "constitutional right of all Michigan voters ... to participate in fair and lawful elections". The state was key to Donald Trump's victory in 2016, when he flipped it from the Democrats by less than 11,000 votes, but this year Joe Biden has won its 16 electoral votes with 99 per cent of the votes counted.  Georgia Joe Biden has taken a slim lead in the key state of Georgia. Votes are still being counted in the state, meaning the race could continue to be exceptionally close - Mr Biden's lead was just over 10,000 votes. As things stand, Mr Biden has 49.5 per cent (2,465,781 votes), while Donald Trump has 49.3 per cent (2,455,428 votes). Georgia was a vital state for the president, who would have needed to win more of the remaining states than Mr Biden in order to grab the presidency.  The Georgia Republican Party and President Trump have asked a judge to secure and account for all late ballots. A Republican poll watcher claimed that election officials in Chatham County, Georgia, added 53 mail-in ballots which arrived late to a pile of lawfully collected votes. Mail-in ballots are expected to lean toward the Democrats. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, however, Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass did not provide an explanation for his decision Thursday, November 5, at the close of a roughly one-hour hearing. The county includes the heavily Democratic city of Savannah. Georgia state officials have announced that a recount will take place due to the narrow margin between Mr Trump and Mr Biden. A recount can be requested by a candidate if the margin is under 0.5 percent of votes cast according to Georgia state law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said: “Right now Georgia remains too close to call. Out of approximately 5 million votes cast we’ll have a margin of a few thousand. With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia.” A formal recount will take place in late November. Wisconsin Mr Trump's reelection campaign is seeking a recount in Wisconsin after Mr Biden won by less than 0.7 per cent of the vote. Under state law, a recount may be requested if the margin of defeat is less than one per cent. The Trump campaign also claimed there were "irregularities" in vote counting, but did not expand on what those might be. Nevada With 93 per cent of the votes counted, Nevada has been declared a win for Joe Biden, who currently holds a 2.4 per cent lead. Republicans have hurled multiple lawsuits at Nevada. The Trump Campaign announced it would sue the state to stop counting after they claimed ballots have been cast by non-residents and on behalf of the deceased.  A request by the campaign to halt counting in Clark County, Nevada, which usually leans towards the Democrats, was rejected by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday. Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaks at a press conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, held by the Trump campaign Credit: Joe Buglewicz / Bloomberg Pennsylvania  Pennsylvania was instrumental in securing Joe Biden's win, with the state's 20 electoral votes taking Mr Biden to a majority of 279, more than sufficient to secure the presidency.  Multiple legal challenges have been filed by Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. Notably, they have become involved in a Supreme Court case which challenges a state law that allows mail-in ballots to be counted until Friday November 6. The president won a different lawsuit in the state on Thursday 5, which means observers can stand six feet from count officials. Judges sided with Republicans and also ordered some provisional ballots set aside. Legal experts said the legal challenges were too narrow in scope to have an impact on the outcome of the election. As of Sunday

What's happening with lawsuits, postal votes and recounts in the US election?

Donald Trump has launched legal challenges in five key US states, alleging that election officials are counting fraudulent votes. As a result, though Joe Biden has been announced the winner of the election, the process could be protracted for weeks, and the damage to public confidence in the democratic process could last much longer.

Here is what's happening in each state. For the latest election updates, see our live blog.

2020 US election results map in full

Which states are facing voting challenges?

Michigan

The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit seeking to halt voting in Michigan on Wednesday, November 4, claiming that Republicans were not allowed to observe counts "meaningfully" in several locations, but a state court judge dismissed it.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens made the ruling during a court hearing on Thursday.  

She also said the defendant, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, was the wrong person to be suing because she doesn't control the logistics of local ballot counting, even if she is the state's chief election officer. 

The lawsuit claimed Ms Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers. She was accused of undermining the "constitutional right of all Michigan voters ... to participate in fair and lawful elections".

The state was key to Donald Trump's victory in 2016, when he flipped it from the Democrats by less than 11,000 votes, but this year Joe Biden has won its 16 electoral votes with 99 per cent of the votes counted. 

Georgia

Joe Biden has taken a slim lead in the key state of Georgia.

Votes are still being counted in the state, meaning the race could continue to be exceptionally close - Mr Biden's lead was just over 10,000 votes.

As things stand, Mr Biden has 49.5 per cent (2,465,781 votes), while Donald Trump has 49.3 per cent (2,455,428 votes).

Georgia was a vital state for the president, who would have needed to win more of the remaining states than Mr Biden in order to grab the presidency. 

The Georgia Republican Party and President Trump have asked a judge to secure and account for all late ballots.

A Republican poll watcher claimed that election officials in Chatham County, Georgia, added 53 mail-in ballots which arrived late to a pile of lawfully collected votes. Mail-in ballots are expected to lean toward the Democrats.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit, however, Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass did not provide an explanation for his decision Thursday, November 5, at the close of a roughly one-hour hearing.

The county includes the heavily Democratic city of Savannah.

Georgia state officials have announced that a recount will take place due to the narrow margin between Mr Trump and Mr Biden.

A recount can be requested by a candidate if the margin is under 0.5 percent of votes cast according to Georgia state law.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said: “Right now Georgia remains too close to call. Out of approximately 5 million votes cast we’ll have a margin of a few thousand. With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia.”

A formal recount will take place in late November.

Wisconsin

Mr Trump's reelection campaign is seeking a recount in Wisconsin after Mr Biden won by less than 0.7 per cent of the vote. Under state law, a recount may be requested if the margin of defeat is less than one per cent.

The Trump campaign also claimed there were "irregularities" in vote counting, but did not expand on what those might be.

Nevada

With 93 per cent of the votes counted, Nevada has been declared a win for Joe Biden, who currently holds a 2.4 per cent lead.

Republicans have hurled multiple lawsuits at Nevada. The Trump Campaign announced it would sue the state to stop counting after they claimed ballots have been cast by non-residents and on behalf of the deceased. 

A request by the campaign to halt counting in Clark County, Nevada, which usually leans towards the Democrats, was rejected by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaks at a press conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, held by the Trump campaign Credit: Joe Buglewicz / Bloomberg

Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania was instrumental in securing Joe Biden's win, with the state's 20 electoral votes taking Mr Biden to a majority of 279, more than sufficient to secure the presidency. 

Multiple legal challenges have been filed by Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. Notably, they have become involved in a Supreme Court case which challenges a state law that allows mail-in ballots to be counted until Friday November 6.

The president won a different lawsuit in the state on Thursday 5, which means observers can stand six feet from count officials.

Judges sided with Republicans and also ordered some provisional ballots set aside. Legal experts said the legal challenges were too narrow in scope to have an impact on the outcome of the election.

As of Sunday evening (GMT), Mr Biden had extended his lead in Pennsylvania by 49.7 per cent to Mr Trump’s 49.1 per cent, with an estimated 99 per cent of votes counted. 

 What has caused the confusion? 

  • There are different voting and counting rules in different states. Recount margins vary and in some states, like Pennsylvania, voter ID is required for first-time mail-in and absentee votes. In 21 states, like Nevada, mail-in ballots can be received after election day, but in others they cannot
  • Difficulties with administration - absentee ballots need to be checked against the rolls, and this slows up counts in some neck-and-neck states
  • More people have voted by post due to the coronavirus pandemic, creating counting delays
  • In most states, postal votes have favoured Joe Biden more than votes cast on election day. This is possibly due to the two candidates' different messages on coronavirus, but the Trump campaign has been alleging these votes are fraudulent for several weeks
  • Big-city counts take longer and urban areas generally vote Democrat

When will the election result be final?

All disputes must be settled by December 8. On December 14, electors will formally cast their votes in the Electoral College.