A Capitol in turmoil. Impossible, in Harrisburg, capital of Pennsylvania, not to fall on the two camps which tear the result of the ballot boxes. At the foot of its facade and its steps, a hundred supporters of Donald Trump shout the slogan “Stop the steal” (“Stop the theft”) against the background of harangues from “Mister Free”, a Republican host from Baltimore who abuses its loudspeakers, its microphones and its hateful refrains towards the Democrats who “rot America”. On the other side? A farandole of supporters of the Biden-Harris tandem, often dressed in the yellow “Count every vote” sweatshirt. Two America. Two battles. One to discredit the results of the presidential election. The other to ask to continue the count and draw the consequences.
Trump sues the ballot box
The State Supreme Court, a few tens of meters away, is the real theater of the duel. In neighboring Philadelphia on Friday morning, Election Commission officials vowed to continue the vote count, but warned that, perhaps, the results – 49.5% of the vote for Biden, 49.3% for Trump with 93% of the votes cast this Friday at 9 p.m. – could not be certified until the 20-day deadline required by law. Jubilation on the side of the Trumpists, whose lawyers have squatted the corridors of the courts since election night, complaints slung over the shoulder. The police, for the time being rather quiet, prepared the barricades to bar the street and protect if necessary its magistrates (five Democrats, a Republican and an independent).
The legal assault on the ballot box promises to be ruthless. “We’ll never let go. Trump is our president. The one the Americans elected, ”defends, in front of the imposing facade of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center, Kristen Schoeffel, a former non-commissioned officer whose husband serves with the Marines in neighboring Maryland. The young woman and her companions have just seen Donald Trump denounce Pennsylvania as one of the most corrupt states in the country. Everyone applauded. Then prayed that “God punishes those who steal the votes of the people” …
A demolition in order
Peter M. agreed to speak to us. A member of a New Jersey law firm, he doesn’t want to give us his card, referring to Justin Clark, Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager. On Wednesday, Peter was at the Philadelphia airport, during a short press conference given by Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and the candidate’s main legal adviser, and by his own son, Eric Trump. A demolition in good standing of the commission responsible for supervising the organization of the poll in Pennsylvania, where the executive is Democrat and the legislature Republican. Since then, Georgia, a southern state headed by a Republican governor, announced yesterday its intention to proceed with a recount (1,553 votes ahead for Biden on Friday at 9 p.m.).
“Our job is to collect everything we can to prove the problematic process of the count,” explains Peter, saying he only speaks to us out of respect for the “Swiss democratic tradition”. “Our observers, for example, were unable to enter the rooms where the results were collected on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, at the Philadelphia Convention Center. We also have evidence that piles of ballots were left unattended during breaks. We are fighting against a system. ” Kristen talks about ballot boxes full of military votes found in trash cans. She shows us on her phone an article from the pjmedia.com website, acquired at the MAGA (Make America Great Again) camp. Problem: The article shows undated pictures. Impossible to verify.
Donald Trump has not said his last word
Near them, a young woman in a tight suit takes out her cell phone to show us suspected observers behind a security cordon. It is because of this that the controversy arose, in Pennsylvania, on the need to have binoculars to observe the count, which Donald Trump denounced Thursday evening from the White House. Victory: A Philadelphia court finally accepted observers to come closer. “We are not crazy. We have the right for us ”, continues our interlocutor. “Do you think you would accept, in Switzerland, that hundreds of thousands of ballots arrive after election day and still be counted?”
“Legal” and “illegal” bulletins
One name is circulating in the halls of the State Building next to the Capitol, where Governor Tom Wolf’s offices are located: that of James Schultz, a lawyer now based in Philadelphia after serving as Trump’s lawyer in the White House. He is, for the Democrats, the “brain” of this army whose goal is twofold: to accredit the idea that mail ballots, however arrived within the legal deadlines, are “illegal”, therefore to be thrown. And put maximum pressure on the teams responsible for counting the last votes.
Omar Sabir is one of the deputy mayor (Democrat) in charge of the count. He spoke on Friday to ask voters for patience. “These lawsuits aim to have the issue of postal votes re-examined by the Supreme Court of the United States, which on October 20 chose not to challenge the judgment of the State Supreme Court” (allowing absent voters to send their ballots at the latest on the day of the vote, the postmark being taken as proof).
40,000 ballots from military bases are also called into question. “We will examine them,” says Omar Sabir. And the accusations on the refusal of the observers? “Where are they? Have you seen these repressed observers? The controversy covered a few meters. We worked without problem with those who were accredited. But we also saw arriving, in the night after the vote, people whom we did not know.
Donald Trump’s legal army looks like the president. Much of his offensive is to occupy the media attention and … to slow down the counting operations Rudolph Giuliani has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to stop altogether, so far unsuccessfully. “Their language is coded. By speaking like Trump of “legal” and “illegal” ballots, they induce the idea that part of the votes counted does not meet the criteria provided for by the law of our state, which is absolutely false “, adds Omar Sabir.
Each American state is sovereign as regards the rules of the ballot. Pennsylvania, for example, allows postal votes but not advance votes, as in Texas, where voters could go to the polls the last week of October, to avoid queues. The local Democratic administration, loyal to the “Biden line” of health prudence, has also encouraged remote voting, due to the pandemic. While Donald Trump asked his voters to mobilize on November 3. Result: a predictable majority of blue ballots among those absent.
The search for the grain of sand
So is it really a matter of law? A Washington lawyer corrects: “In Pennsylvania, as in other states where lawsuits are piling up, Trump’s lawyers are playing on two tables: on the one hand, the accusation of fraud, which assumes an intention, which is very difficult to prove even if there have been in the past in this country, everyone knows it. Hence the accusations (for the moment without proof) of corruption of the local Democratic administration. On the other hand, the search for a grain of sand, administrative or technical error, which will disrupt the electoral machine, to justify a new count, or even the intervention of the Supreme Court, if two States are in disagreement. “
The irony is that the slowness of the count denounced by the Trumpists is actually… caused by them. “Everyone is protecting themselves,” confirms Ed Barnes, a deputy returning officer in rural Pennsylvania. Everything is checked several times. The watchword is to make no mistakes. ”
Our Washington lawyer adds: “It’s a race against time. Trump must find something concrete, solid, to support his thesis and seriously derail the electoral train before Biden reaches the magic number of 270 voters. And yet, all will not be settled. The right scenario for Trump is a very limited victory for Biden, gained thanks to a single state or two, which the head of state will have legally pounded. If the Democrats are three or four states ahead, with a large margin of delegates, his lawyers will speak quickly in a vacuum. “
Pennsylvania, the state that can derail anything
On the forecourt of the Capitol in Harrisburg, “Mister Free” finally agreed to exchange, between two praises of “Donald”. Impossible to know his last name. The man, muscular, looks with his goatee like an officer of the Civil War, whose national museum is located on the heights of the city. He admits to having “a totally voluntary mission”: to give voice “to be heard” by Pennsylvanian judges.
Weird all the same. The day before, this professional agitator was absent. It happened as soon as Giuliani and others came to Philadelphia. And here it is now at work, with slogans, loudspeakers, background noise and propaganda material under the windows of the judges of the State Supreme Court. Who says army says intimidation? “Our lawyers want the law to prevail. It is essential in this state where our Constitution was signed in September 1787. Pennsylvania has a historic responsibility vis-à-vis the people of the United States, ”he blurted into the microphone.
Behind him, a young Hispanic woman, molded in a starry t-shirt, sways on a low wall of the building, with a large American flag in hand. She refuses to accept the fact that Donald Trump’s advance of 700,000 votes here turned into tens of thousands of votes late on Friday. She calls history to the rescue, speaks of civil war in these lands where the memory of the bloody years of conflict, between 1861 and 1865, is still omnipresent. “We must not be afraid, nuance Wayne Motts, director of the National Civil War Museum. We won’t kill each other for a president. Slavery was, at the time, a matter of life and death. Our country had only existed for less than a century. Today, our democracy is mature. ”
The Latin muse of the Trumpists redoubles their ardor at the microphone. She screams her anger under the windows of the Harrisburg Supreme Court, between two rap tunes. Pause. His “Stars and Stripes” is planted in front of us. “We are here to warn everyone who hears us loud and clear: examine these complaints,” she warns. If not… ”Otherwise?
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