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Nov. 5 highlights: Vote counting goes on in battleground states

Read the latest news and updates as key states count remaining votes.
Image; President Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a background of red and blue stars in concentric circles.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading election news from November 6, 2020.

Election Day stretched into its third day on Thursday as Americans anxiously awaited results in several key states.

Joe Biden maintained his lead over President Donald Trump, who delivered a series of false claims about the election on Thursday night and has vowed legal action in several battleground states as the Electoral College gap widened.

Stories we're following:

All eyes on battleground vote counts as anxious nation waits

Trump campaign presses legal challenges as swing states count away

—Could a recount flip a key battleground? History says don't count on it.

—See which counties in the remaining battleground states have the most votes left to count

Los Angeles County officials debunk viral video questioning ballot collection

Los Angeles County officials responded Thursday to a viral video, now viewed about 1.2 million times on Twitter, that fueled questions about ballot collection in the Reseda neighborhood.

The video, which surfaced online Wednesday and has been posted by multiple social media users, is one example of the varied examples of misinformation that have been debunked by government officials in recent days. 

“There were no missed ballots or missed Drop Boxes,” a spokesperson for the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office told NBC News in an email Thursday. “All Vote by Mail Drop Boxes were closed and locked at 8 PM on Election Day and then collected the following day – as was scheduled. The ballots are valid ballots and will be processed and counted in our Official Election Canvass."

The spokesperson also confirmed that the individuals shown in the video collecting ballots are members of their staff.

Trump to speak shortly

President Trump is expected to give remarks at 6:30 p.m. ET in the White House.

The Russians have no need to spread misinformation. Trump and his allies are doing it for them

In September, U.S. intelligence officials warned that because of the pandemic, it might take a few days for the results of the presidential election to emerge — and that foreign adversaries might exploit the delay to spread false information intended to undermine confidence in the vote.

But instead of doing that, American officials and private experts say, the Russians and other foreign influencers have appeared content to report on the claims — made with no evidence — by President Trump and his allies that the election is being “stolen” from them.

“US President Donald Trump said that every vote that came in after Election Day will not be counted,” reported Sputnik, an English-language Russian government website, after Trump tweeted “Stop the count,” Thursday morning.

“Trump calls results ‘big WIN’ & accuses opponents of ‘trying to STEAL’ election, gets ‘misleading’ label from Twitter,” RT, another Russian media operation, said Wednesday.

“Nothing that Russia or Iran or China could say is anywhere near as wild as what the president is saying,” Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who tracks foreign disinformation, said. “We cannot say this time that Russia, Iran or China interfered in a significant way. They don’t need to write fake news this time — we’re making plenty of fake news of our own.”

Read the story.

Georgia to conduct its first 'risk limiting audit' before certifying election results

Another wrinkle to the closely watched tabulation in Georgia: Before certifying results, Georgia election officials, under a new state law, will begin Friday what they’re calling a risk-limiting audit to ensure the votes were accurately counted.

Under a risk-limiting audit (RLA), a statistically meaningful sample of ballots are examined by hand to see whether the declared winner truly won. The audit is mathematically designed to catch anomalies that would arise from misconfigured machines, procedural errors or intentional attack.

But in a lawsuit filed by election technology activists, University of California, Berkeley, statistics professor Philip Stark, who helped pioneer the concept of RLAs, said in an affidavit the state’s procedures are more of a “pilot” than a true RLA. That’s because of lax chain of custody procedures, the use of “duplicated” rather than original ballots, and other issues, he told NBC News in an email.

In addition, Georgia is using new electronic ballot marking devices that print out paper records rather than the hand-marked paper ballots necessary for the high quality audit trail, he said.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday the state’s review will produce “over 90 percent confidence level” in the results and certification will be reached by Nov. 13.

House Democrats' tensions flare on post-election call

The first House Democratic conference call since Tuesday's election turned contentious Thursday, with moderates expressing frustration and anger over the strategy amid the party's loss of several seats. 

Several members complained about the liberal push to defund the police — something Democratic leadership has not supported — and embrace of what critics of the party describe as socialist policy proposals, according to two people on the call. 

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was one of the members who raised such concerns. She barely won her race – by about 5,000 votes - in a conservative district. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told the caucus that the election results ultimately were good for Democrats because although they did not win every race, they had held the House and appear likely to win the White House. 

But one lawmaker said of Pelosi’s take, “That’s B.S.”

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., would not give details about the call, but he was clearly frustrated about the party's election performance.

“My dad used to tell me, ‘You gotta turn chicken s--- into chicken salad.’ And that’s exactly what I intend to work towards,” he said.

Could a recount flip a key battleground? History says don't count on it.

Chances are a recount won't make a difference in a statewide election.

In the past 50 years, few recounts have led to a change in the winner. And in the handful of still-uncalled 2020 battleground states, there has not been a flip following a recount in at least the last two decades.

The Trump campaign, which has initiated a legal blitz in swing states, already announced it will request a recount in Wisconsin, where President Donald Trump trails 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by about 20,000 votes. Wisconsin law allows for candidates to request a recount if the margin in the race is within 1 percent.

If that recount is at all similar to past Wisconsin recounts, the current vote deficit would be a mountain to overcome.

Read more here.

Biden again predicts 2020 win: We 'will be declared the winners'

Joe Biden on Thursday again expressed confidence that he would win the 2020 race after all votes are counted.

“We continue to feel, the senator and I continue to feel very good where things stand,” Biden said Thursday about the 2020 race during brief remarks alongside his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware.

“We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Sen. Harris and I will be declared the winners,” Biden added. He delivered similar remarks Wednesday.

 

Nodding to the fact that votes were still being counted in several key battleground states nearly 48 hours after polls closed, Biden said “democracy is sometimes messy” and “sometimes requires a little patience.”

He reiterated his call that “each ballot must be counted,” urging supporters to “stay calm.”

“The process is working,” he said. 

Prior to speaking, Biden received briefings on the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy.

Trump campaign files federal lawsuit seeking to stop count in Philadelphia

The Trump campaign is asking a federal judge to stop the vote count in Philadelphia.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon, the campaign says the Philadelphia County Board of Elections is not yet obeying a state appeals court order to let observers get closer to the counting tables.

“It has been studying the order for over an hour and a half, while counting continues with no Republicans present," the suit said.

The campaign said this violates their right to due process and seek an emergency injunction to stop the count until Republican observers are allowed better access.

Pro-Trump operatives coordinated viral #StopTheSteal events. Facebook shut them down.

In 2019, a group of right-wing political operatives promoted a fundraising website to build a section of border wall, and the site later became the subject of a money-laundering investigation. Now, those same operatives are behind a Facebook group, which went viral Thursday, dedicated to delegitimizing election results that don't favor President Trump.

On Thursday afternoon, Facebook took down the page, called “Stop The Steal.”

As members of the group repeatedly called for violence and a civil war, leading to turmoil inside Facebook, the group expanded at a rapid pace Thursday morning, topping out at about 350,000 profiles. The group pointed users to organized events, including one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday afternoon with a “#StopTheSteal” branding.

Read the full story here.

'Clown show': Trumpworld tries to project optimism despite concerns about messaging

The Trump campaign is publicly trying to project optimism about the president’s path forward, but it’s very narrow and relies on holding a lead in one state where Joe Biden is closing the gap — Pennsylvania — and cutting into the lead Biden holds in another state — Arizona. Still, some close to the campaign think there’s a chance — not a big one, but a chance. As one Trump adviser put it, "He has to get lucky everywhere, but this race isn’t over." Another source familiar, while not confident, pointed out the door isn’t shut entirely: "Is it possible? Sure it is." 

Aides wanted to convince Trump to send a "better" tweet on the election. That’s why he tweeted Thursday to "stop the fraud" after "stop the count." The aides think fraud is a better message and are trying to get him to stick to it, underscoring that they are struggling with their messaging. There’s also some discomfort from those in the Trump orbit about how the legal strategy’s unfolding, with one person close to the White House calling the legal effort a "clown show." 

That legal blitz is falling apart in key states, with judges tossing out lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan, in both instances because of the lack of evidence to back up the Trump campaign’s claims. 

The president, working for part of the day out of the Oval Office, has not made any appearances on camera since his 2:30 a.m. remarks in the East Room the night of the election. But sources indicate he’s been very engaged with updates on the vote count from his team — "all in." 

If Biden does end hitting the 270 threshold, don’t expect an immediate concession — at least not until some of the legal fights shake out: "We’re going to fight until the very end. To the death. Until the last second."