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Avalanche of mail ballots -- and ballot-watchers -- threatens to slow results after polls close

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Voters prepare their ballots in voting booths during early voting for the California presidential primary election at an L.A. County 'vote center' on March 1, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles County and 14 other counties in California have transitioned from traditional polling places to ???vote centers??? which allow residents the freedom to vote at any voting center in their county. California is one of 14 states participating in the Super Tuesday vote on March 3. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

An effort by the Trump and Biden campaigns to deploy challengers to ballot-counting operations in battleground states threatens to slow states' ability to count votes, raising concerns that the delays will allow President Donald Trump to double down on his claims that any prolonged counting indicates fraud.

(CNN)An effort by the Trump and Biden campaigns to deploy challengers to ballot-counting operations in battleground states threatens to slow states' ability to count votes, raising concerns that the delays will allow President Donald Trump to double down on his claims that any prolonged counting indicates fraud.

And with millions more people casting ballots through the mail thanks to the covid-19 pandemic -- along with many states waiting to begin counting those ballots until the polls close -- the process could stretch well past Election Day. The prospect of a delayed result comes as Trump and the White House are suggesting that the outcome of the presidential contest should be known on election night, rhetoric that's at odds with what election officials and experts are trying to prepare the public for: Vote totals on election night are never official and the high percentage of mail-in ballots means results will come in more slowly, so a winner may not be known for days, if not weeks, afterward.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic Party have assembled a massive legal effort focused on voting and election issues, including a "special litigation" unit led by Dana Remus, the campaign's general counsel, with hundreds of lawyers looking at state-by-state voter issues related to voter access and vote counting.

That means states could have Trump ahead when voters go to bed on election night, only to see the results shift toward Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, as more mail-in ballots are tabulated.

Several key battleground states -- Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- don't start counting mail-in ballots until Election Day by law, which only raises the stakes for a potential delay until it's known who won.

Once the counting begins, several states, such as Wisconsin, allow challengers to be in close proximity to the election official tabulating the votes, allowing them to question whether a ballot is valid.

Election officials at the central counting locations are typically well-trained, Becker said, adding that campaigns will need "some reasonable basis" to challenge a ballot.

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