This CNN article, and others, reported that Trump asked for vote counting to stop, and threatening legal action to do so.

I can (sort of) understand calls for a recount, but, if he was behind, what did he hope to gain by stopping counting?

  • 81
    Note very well: The Trump campaign is not calling for counting to be stopped in Arizona or Nevada, where Trump is currently behind (at the time I posted this comment). Counting in those states apparently should proceed. The Trump campaign is only calling for counting to be stopped in those states where Trump was ahead at the end of Election Day, or remains currently ahead. Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 14:58

5 Answers 5


The Trump campaign has launched a number of different lawsuits, some requesting that counting be stopped in certain states, others insisting that counting continue in other states. The CNN article you linked states:

Trump's comments were especially remarkable since it appears that the President has a good chance of winning outstanding states in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan, which could hand him a second term. And the implication of his authoritarian remarks was that the President wants vote counting to stop in those states but to go on in Arizona, where he trails Biden.

That suggests to me, at least, that the situation has moved on between Trump's comments and your reading the article and current vote counts. At the point of calling for the count to be stopped, Trump was winning those states.

In addition, even if Trump is behind in those states, some of the suits they've filed include wanting to remove (or at least review with an option to remove) ballots that have been counted from the totals. Per this article by the Detroit Free Press:

"We have filed suit today in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted. We also demand to review those ballots which were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access. President Trump is committed to ensuring that all legal votes are counted in Michigan and everywhere else.”

So your basic assumption is correct. He hopes to gain the electoral college votes of each state where he either wants counting to stop, or continue. And he hopes to gain those he's behind in by having the ballots already counted reviewed.


From Donald Trumps twitter feed:

enter image description here

He's talking about the things he perceives as fraudulent (counting in metropolitan areas without observers) and allowing votes to continue to come in after the polls officially closed.

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    I don't think this answers the question on why he would want vote counting to stop when he is behind.
    – Joe W
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 22:33
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    I think going from "he says it's fraudulent" to "he perceives it to be fradulent" is a major leap here. The man has been known to make intentionally false statements in the past. He's usually caught making about 6 of them every single day.
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 10:47
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    Your answer is kind of correct in that he perceives these as fraudulent. However his allegation that counting is taking place without observers is false, because observers from both sides are in place as agreed by both sides. You should make it clear that he is falsely alleging this, because currently your answer could be read as this being a statement of fact rather than a disproven allegation.
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:35
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    You need to define: "...allowing votes to continue to come in after the polls officially closed". Postal votes are allowed to be delivered many days after Tuesday November 3rd. What is important is that they were posted before this date (as evidenced by the post-mark on the envelope). Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:56
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    "counting in metropolitan areas without observers" [citation needed]
    – Federico
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:15

If counting was stopped today (November 5th) then Biden might be leading, but it's just a paper-thin lead.

Yes, Biden leads according to electoral votes in those states where the result is already more or less determined. But in many of those where counting still goes on and the results aren't crystal clear yet, the already counted votes show a Trump lead:

State          Electors Trump% Biden%
Pennsylvania   20       50.7*  48.1
Georgia        16       49.6*  49.2
North Carolina 15       50.1*  48.7
Arizona        11       48.1   50.5*
Nevada         6        48.7   49.3*   
Alaska         3        62.1*  33.5

* = current leader

As you can see, if counting was stopped right now, then Trump would win all of these states except Nevada and Arizona. That would mean that Biden would lead by just a single electoral vote. This means two things:

  • Less likely scenario: While electoral college members are pledged to vote for the candidate who got the most votes in their state, in many states they are actually able to vote for someone else, and sometimes they make use of that option. So a single faithless elector who refuses to give Biden their vote could hand Trump the election win. It never happened before in the history of the United States that faithless electors actually changed the outcome of the presidential election, but there is a first time for everything.
  • More likely scenario: If Trump can find a way to legally challenge the election outcome in just a single state (or even just one of the districts in Nebraska or Maine) and change the outcome to his favor, then he could still win the election.
  • 1
    While not stated in the original question, I've assumed the states they were asking about were Wisconsin and Michigan. Those being states where Trump's lead evaporated around the time of the "Stop the Count" statements. What you've posted is helpful to me, in that it covers a broader range of states with some bolted down numbers (as apposed the generalities I provided), but I do think it misses the key states causing the OP confusion.
    – Jontia
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 14:12
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 16:45

Because voting is done by secret ballot. If a fraudulent ballot is separated from its envelope, there’s no way to invalidate it.

When voting by mail, your ballot is in two envelopes. The outer envelope contains your name, signature, postmark, and whatever other mechanisms the state uses to validate your identity and your eligibility to vote. The inner envelope contains no identifying markings whatsoever.

Once the eligibility has been validated, the two envelopes are separated from each other so it’s not possible for a pollster to determine who voted for whom.

If it turns out that fraudulent votes were cast, there’s no way to adjust the vote counts accordingly, because there’s no way to tell who the fraudulent votes were cast for.

Using PA as an example, PA state law says that ballots must be received no later than 8PM on election day, but the PA Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots can be counted up to 9 days after the election to account for mail delays, even those without a postmark date.

The Trump campaign asserts that the judge’s ruling is illegal and wants to appeal the decision. If the votes have already been counted, then there’s no way to undo those counts even if they prevail in court. Therefore, they want to stop mail-in ballots that were received after election day from being counted, because that’s the only way they can prevent them from being included in vote totals if they win their case.

  • The PA example doesn't really work, because you don't need the outer envelope to know when a ballot was received, you only have to know which batch or category it was in (e.g. date received, missing / questionable postmark). Then if a judge upholds an appeal that a certain category shouldn't be included in the final count, you can recount the ballots in that category and subtract them from the official total.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 10:20

Some states like Pennsylvania count mail in ballots after counting ballots of in person voting. Trump argues that there is fraud happening in the count of those mail in ballots, there for requesting that counting should stop.

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