As Joe Biden took the lead in key states on Friday, Donald Trump faced an uphill battle in his bid to secure re-election through the courts.
Judges in several states hearing the Trump campaign’s election lawsuits have reacted with scepticism this week at what have been unsubstantiated allegations of voting irregularities.
“The campaign has to support its claims with facts and evidence, and we haven’t seen that,” said Lisa Manheim, an election law expert at the University of Washington School of Law.
The Trump campaign has fired off a series of lawsuits since polling day on Tuesday in several key battleground states and has indicated it will continue to fight.
Election law experts said Mr Trump’s chances of winning the election in the courts are tied in large part to the ultimate vote margins.
Mr Biden has taken the lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia, and is also ahead in Nevada and Arizona. If those leads hold, Mr Trump would need to successfully contest the results in multiple states in order to come out on top — a tall order.
On Friday morning, the campaign’s general counsel, Matt Morgan, declared that the “election is not over” and repeated the campaign’s unsubstantiated claims of “many irregularities” in the Pennsylvania vote, where a win for Mr Biden would decide the election.
But so far, the Trump campaign’s allegations of problems with the election have largely received short shrift in the courts.
“It hasn’t gone particularly well for them so far,” said Rebecca Green, co-director of the election law program at William & May Law School.
In Michigan, which the Associated Press has called for Mr Biden, a judge dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit after a short hearing on Thursday, noting the campaign had provided no substantive evidence of wrongdoing.
A similar scene played out in Georgia, which is heading for a recount given the very close vote margins. A judge in that state quickly dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit for lack of evidence.
In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign has repeatedly claimed that it is not being given access to observe the counting of votes in Philadelphia.
Under questioning from a federal judge on Thursday evening, a Trump campaign lawyer, Jerome Marcus, conceded that its observers did in fact have access.
Judge Paul Diamond, who was appointed by George W Bush, pointedly responded: “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?”
Another lawsuit in Nevada, touted by the Trump campaign at a press conference and brought by local Republicans, is still pending.
The Biden campaign has dismissed the lawsuits as meritless, calling them “a messaging exercise”.
“There’s no other purpose than to confuse the public about what’s taking place,” said Bob Bauer, a Biden campaign legal adviser, on a call with reporters on Thursday.
But the cases have continued to go forward, and the campaign has chalked up some minor wins.
A Pennsylvania state judge granted Republican observers in Philadelphia the right to stand closer to the poll workers who are counting ballots. The city appealed against the ruling, citing concerns about coronavirus.
And another judge in the state ordered election officials to separate mail ballots with voter identification that has been verified between November 9 and November 12, pending further litigation about the precise deadline. Pennsylvania law allows for issues with voter identification on ballots to be fixed after polling day
Hanging above the litigation in the lower courts is a pending case before the US Supreme Court about another Pennsylvania deadline: whether mail ballots arriving in the three days after November 3 can be counted.
“Regardless of which side prevails on that legal dispute, the number of ballots that are possibly implicated is quite small,” said Ms Manheim.