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Stefanik: ‘I support the president’s legal challenges’

But congresswoman says Biden is likely to be president

President Donald Trump greets U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik on stage during an event at Fort Drum in August 2018. (Photo — Sydney Schaefer, Watertown Daily Times)

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said she continues to support President Donald Trump’s legal challenges to the results of the Nov. 3 election.

“I support the president’s legal challenges to make sure that every legal vote is counted, that we’re not counting the illegal ballots,” she said in an interview with the Times on Monday.

This year’s vote count has taken much longer than it has in recent presidential elections. Because of a steep increase in the number of voters casting absentee ballots — the New York Times reported more than 92 million absentee ballot requests were processed this year — many more votes couldn’t be counted on election night. As the initial tabulations came in the days and weeks following the election, it became clear President-elect Joseph Biden had secured the Electoral College, ending with a projected 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

Stefanik said she believes legal challenges play a key role in close elections and said she believes the presidential election was a close one this year.

“When you have a close election — which I didn’t have, but there are many of them across the country — and the president had a close election in many of these swing states, which are key,” she said, “those legal challenges are important to make sure that the American people have faith in the outcome.”

Stefanik reiterated her position Tuesday during an interview on the conservative cable news channel Newsmax.

“I support the continued effort by the Trump campaign to make sure every legal ballot and only legal ballots and legal votes are counted,” she said in an interview with Newsmax’s Shaun Kraisman.

Starting just days after the election, as more and more votes came in for Biden, Trump’s legal team began arguing in courts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada that election processes had been mishandled in one way or another. In news conferences led by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who’s at the helm of the Trump campaign’s legal strategy, Giuliani has made many claims of ballots being changed, thrown out, that fraudulent ballots have been introduced and that other countries are counting ballots for local U.S. boards of elections.

Trump’s lawyers have stopped short of alleging outright fraud in court but have asked that thousands of ballots be tossed due to what they say are “irregularities.”

So far, the courts have ruled in the Trump campaign’s favor one time out of 39 completed suits.

Stefanik said she’s seen numerous examples of dead people voting, signatures that do not match state records on absentee ballot envelopes, double-voting and absentee ballots not being counted at all.

“Look no further than upstate New York, that disastrous counting process with the (boards of elections) in New York’s 22nd Congressional District,” she said.

That race, between incumbent Democrat Anthony Brindisi and the Republican he unseated in 2018, Claudia Tenney, has gained national attention as the county boards of elections in the district have struggled to count every ballot accurately. The race is extremely tight, at times looking like either candidate is ahead by only 13 votes, and both candidates are currently battling in Oswego County Court to decide which ballots should be counted and which should be tossed.

The Brindisi and Tenney campaigns both disputed a number of ballots during the initial count, for various reasons. The Tenney campaign has said there were “hundreds of ineligible ballots,” which were “illegally or improperly cast by the dead, non-residents or unregistered voters.”

The boards of elections in both Madison and Oneida counties noted those disputes on sticky notes, many of which were lost or mixed up, rather than the method prescribed by state law of simply writing the note on the ballot itself. Further complicating the count is the fact that neither county is able to definitively state which of those disputed ballots were already counted.

That case is ongoing, and state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte will make a final determination, not on who won the election but on which ballots can be counted, in the coming weeks.

Despite these local cases, in which hundreds of ballots have been called into question for routine errors out of tens or hundreds of thousands of ballots cast, election experts across the country have reaffirmed there was no evidence of wide-scale election fraud this year.

Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was part of the team that oversaw election security nationwide this year. On Nov. 12, the agency joined with other election security organizations to release a memo, stating there’s no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was compromised in any way. This came after Trump and his legal team claimed that Dominion voting machines, used in a number of states including Georgia and New York, were hacked or altered intentionally to miscount votes. Krebs was promptly fired from his position on Nov. 17 and has spent the last few weeks speaking to the media about the election. He’s said this year’s election was the most secure in American history.

In spite of her support for Trump’s ongoing legal challenges, Stefanik isn’t ruling out the likelihood that Biden will be the next president.

When speaking about her legislative priorities for her coming congressional term, Stefanik discussed the possibilities a divided government, with Democrats controlling the House and presidency while Republicans hold the Senate, would present.

“I think a divided government, if Republicans hold the Senate and Democrats are in a slim majority in the House, there will have to be bipartisan compromises,” she said.

Stefanik also said she has few qualms about Trump leaving office after the Electoral College casts their votes in December. Trump has said if the Electoral College votes to confirm Biden’s victory, he will leave office.

“The president himself has stated that if it is certified, not only by the states but the Electoral College, he will ensure a transition, and that is going to play itself out,” she said.

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