More than a week after Election Day, incumbent President Donald Trump is still promising his supporters a win and Republican lawyers are still pursuing claims of election improprieties in half a dozen states. But is the result of the election really in doubt?
Conversations with more than a dozen state election chiefs around the country and with election lawyers and experts indicate that recounts will likely not move states like Wisconsin and Georgia into Trump's column. Nor do they think that legal challenges — even if some succeed — will undo former Vice President Joe Biden's projected Electoral College victory.
Despite the number of lawsuits filed and the public rhetoric that has accompanied them, experts say, few have the evidentiary backing to survive in court. The state election officials, Republican and Democrat alike, told NBC News there is no evidence of fraud backing up Trump's claims in their states.
"Any amount of scrutiny is going to reveal this, that the process actually worked extraordinarily well," said Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's Democratic secretary of state, who points out that Biden is leading in Michigan by nearly 150,000 votes.
Benson said she sees many of the GOP lawsuits as "press releases masquerading as legal claims. … That's why we see so many being deemed meritless, but instead to erode the public's confidence in our elections process."
Justin Levitt, an election law expert and professor at Loyola Marymount Law School who worked at the Justice Department during the Obama administration, said many of the legal claims "are outlandish, and not supported by the facts on the ground as we know them. … Judges have been remarkably good so far across the board, no matter who appointed them, at recognizing nonsense for what it is."
NBC News spoke to two other non-partisan legal experts, who both shared Levitt's assessment.
While Trump and his supporters have alleged fraud on social media and on cable television, lawyers who are pressing fraud claims in court are more constrained in what they can say. There are potential professional repercussions, like sanctions from the bar, for making unsupported claims.
In Pennsylvania earlier this week, a judge demanded that a Republican lawyer say plainly whether he was alleging fraud.
"I am asking you a specific question and I am looking for specific question. Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 disputed ballots?" asked the judge.
"To my knowledge at present, no," answered the lawyer. He gave the same answer when the judge asked if there had been "undue or improper influence" with respect to the same disputed ballots.
On Thursday, Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, said in an Arizona courtroom, "This is not a fraud case. We are not alleging fraud. We are not saying anyone is trying to steal the election." Langhofer said the Trump campaign was instead alleging there had been "good faith errors" in the count.
In Michigan, three lawsuits focus on the counting of votes in Wayne County, home of Detroit. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany flourished a packet of affidavits from Republican poll watchers 234-pages thick as evidence of fraud in the counting of absentee ballots.
A Democratic official on the county board that certifies election results, however, said much of what is in the affidavits is untrue, and that he thinks many of the poll watchers simply didn't know what they were seeing.
Jonathan Kinloch, vice chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, said it was likely many were unfamiliar with the election ballot-handling processes, and misconstrued the activities they observed.
"The Republicans pulled people into that room who already doubted the [integrity of the election] system," said Kinloch. "They were looking for issues. Most of the things they claimed seemed a clear misunderstanding of the processes, or were generalities."
A review of the affidavits shows that Republican poll watchers objected to Black Lives Matter gear worn by some poll workers and the "intimidating" size of another. One Republican watcher at the absentee vote-counting center in Detroit was suspicious when 80 percent of military absentee ballots seemed to be for Biden. (Wayne County is heavily Democratic.)
Matt Sanderson, a long-time Republican elections lawyer who has served as an election law analyst for NBC News and MSNBC during the 2020 election, said that in Michigan the Trump campaign strategy seemed to be quantity over quality.
"I assume that's mainly for public consumption, since the volume has the effect of obscuring any more serious issues that they identify, which you would want to tee up in court during an expedited process. The affidavits are replete with accounts of behavior that the affiants view as suspicious, but probably would have been explained on the spot in a less tense environment."
Sanderson said that of the many allegations he reviewed, there are two that might have some traction in court. One, by Zach Larsen, a former assistant attorney general of the state, alleges that many scanned ballots did not match names in the main poll book.
"It does not indicate that he registered a challenge, though," said Sanderson, "and it could be that he had a misimpression of what was occurring because he appeared to be there only a short time."
Another poll watcher alleged that the dates were changed on "thousands" of absentee ballots to make it appear they arrived on or before Nov. 3.
Said Sanderson, "I would like to see what the Board of Elections/Dems say about this before determining whether this has any legs. This could just be that the ballots themselves indicated a timely receipt date but the data entry … had not yet been performed."
In state court Wednesday, Republican attorney David Kallman addressed both the allegations Sanderson highlighted, saying they were "very specific claims that these people saw specific acts happening," and denied that they were "generalities."
"Mr. Larsen was very clear he saw ballots being assigned to people who did not vote. That, that's a serious allegation, your honor, of fraud."
The Democratic attorney, David Fink, responded, "We've seen this before. And we're seeing it in multiple places in some ways it's starting to feel in this courtroom at least a little bit like Groundhog Day."
Chris Thomas, a former state elections director who was working as a liaison with vote watchers during the counting of absentee ballots, told the court that what Larsen had witnessed was actually a "correction of clerical errors, not some type of fraud." Thomas said some barcodes on the return envelopes would not scan and thus voters' names were not already on a list.
He said that the allegation that dates were changed on ballots was false, and that workers were simply reentering data that had not been properly saved previously.
Thomas said that many of the vote challengers who watched the counting did not seem to understand the election process.
Levitt said that none of the lawsuits, in any of the states, is likely to change the outcome. "There are a few ballots that may end up getting challenged, and a few ballots where something may happen. But there's been no legal claim whatsoever that would justify invalidating or otherwise overturning 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 ballots. It's simply not going to happen."
John Lapinski, Ph.D., who is director of elections for NBC News and oversees its Decision Desk, said Biden's lead was insurmountable regardless of lawsuits or recounts. Said Lapinski, "Even if all the stars aligned for President Trump and he were to win some of these lawsuits, the math doesn't add up." The history of recounts offers little hope for him as well. "In the 21 statewide recounts that we've seen over the last 50 years," said Lapinski, "we've never seen the margin move more than 2,500 votes." Biden leads in both Georgia and Wisconsin by five figures.
Levitt said the nation already knows the outcome of the 2020 election: "I actually don't have a doubt that on January 20, at 12:01 p.m., President-elect Joe Biden will become President Joe Biden, and will take over the government. You may hear a lot of noise until then."