Trump supporters protesting at the Arizona state house after the 2020 election (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Post-election politics begins, legal wrangles could swing US election

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Protests and legal challenges as US election counting continues, Ardern sets out government’s economic plans, and special votes released today could swing seats.

If you’re hoping for a decisive update to the US election count overnight, bad news – it’s still on a knife edge. At the early morning time of writing, and according to the New York Times, Joe Biden had 253 electoral college votes in the bag, compared to 214 for Donald Trump – 270 is the magic number that puts a candidate over the top.

In terms of the key states,Pennsylvania is currently still showing a narrow lead for Trump, with full results not expected until at least tomorrow. Many of the remaining mail-in ballots to be counted are expected to favour Biden. Trump is looking likely to hang on in Georgia by a few thousand votes. Arizona has been un-called somewhat, and could still be in play for Trump. Nevada is leaning Biden and North Carolina is leaning Trump. There are various scenarios from here, but in short just Arizona and Nevada together, or Pennsylvania alone, would give Biden the win.

What has been notable in the last day has been the rapid emergence of post-election politics, with questions over the count itself now crucial for deciding the winner. The New York Times reports protests have broken out across the country, with Democrat-leaning protests demanding that every vote be counted, and Republican-leaning protests at times demanding the counts stop, or demanding access to observe the count. The impetus for these competing demands is based on the situation on the ground, and the urgings of Trump, as this excerpt shows:

Mr. Trump claimed early on Wednesday that he had won the election long before key states had counted all their ballots. He spent much of the day asserting, without evidence, that people were trying to “steal” the election from him and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the many ballots sent through the mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Arizona, the Trump demand is for the vote counting to continue. As AZ Central reports, there is also a weird lawsuit coming that alleges conservative voters were given felt-tipped pens to vote with, so that their votes would be discounted. It appears to be basically baseless, but these are the sorts of stories that will really drive the Trump narrative over the coming weeks – that the election has been stolen. As AP News reports, lawsuits have also been filed by the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. And 538’s live blog has a lengthy section on where each particular bit of legal chicanery stands, marked as 11.27am.

Finally, a detail about it all which will leave anyone used to a proportional representation system scratching their heads: Biden’s campaign now has a full 50.5% of the popular vote, with more than 72 million overall. Trump by contrast has about 68.5 million, for 47.8%. That’s really quite a big margin, and yet the actual result could still go either way.


The PM outlined her government’s economic plans at a speech yesterday to a Business NZ audience, reports Michael Andrew. The two big announcements were a new flexi-wage version of the wage subsidy programme, and improvements to the small business loan scheme. Ardern also discussed the resource management act, the digital economy, and backed up a campaign promise to increase sick leave provisions from five days to ten. In general terms though, as Politik reported, the overall tone was of a deeply business-friendly government – author Richard Harman speculated that it was perhaps the most business-friendly Labour government since the 80s.


The special votes are out today, and there could be some changes on what we got from election night. With most special vote tallies leaning left, it’s highly likely that either Labour or the Greens will pick up at least one seat off National – and possible that both parties will. Individual races are also up in the air, including Dr Shane Reti in Whangārei, Rawiri Waititi in Waiariki, and Denise Lee in Maungakiekie. How it all shakes down will be a matter of great interest for Maureen Pugh especially, the West Coast based National MP who is facing yet another unfortunate exit from parliament – her career is profiled here by the NZ Herald’s Amelia Wade. Finally, could the cannabis referendum result be overturned? Probably not, but there’s an outside chance. Keep an eye on The Spinoff at 2pm for the results.


Workers at a Christchurch managed isolation facility are speaking out about their concerns, after two staffers contracted Covid-19, reports the NZ Herald’s Chris Lynch. The key issue is communication – both from the health ministry and about what is and isn’t being revealed to the public. There was also criticism of the role being played by defence force personnel, who are allegedly “just political optics” and “basically walk the perimeter occasionally and play cards, watch movies all day and night.” A managed isolation and quarantine spokesperson disputed the claims. Meanwhile, Radio NZ reports that managed isolation capacity is now basically fully booked until at least Boxing Day.


A police stocktake has revealed what new digital and technological tools are in the toolkit, reports Radio NZ’s Phil Pennington. The stocktake was commissioned after it was revealed police had secretly been trialling facial recognition software, and this latest information reveals other programmes that little has been heard of so far. Researcher Dr Andrew Chen said it wasn’t necessarily the case that anything on the list was surprising or concerning – rather he argues that it shows more questions have to be asked about what police are using.


A meeting to watch out for early next week: Finance minister Grant Robertson and Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr will be getting together to discuss monetary policy, and potentially loan to value ratios for bank lending, reports Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan. The significance of that second one is that the relaxing of LVRs earlier this year has allowed a lot of investor money to be ploughed into the housing market, driving soaring prices. Robertson brought a scheduled meeting with Orr forward so that it could take place ahead of Wednesday’s November Monetary Policy Statement.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

These are all the faces you’ll be looking at in 2021. Get used to ’em. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Mike Joy writes about embracing science to fight Covid-19, but ignoring it on freshwater. Sarah Austen-Smith gives aspiring lobbyists tips on how to approach each new cabinet minister. Two Māori organisations share the lessons from their success in building resilience against the effects of Covid. Business is Boring speaks to an insider on the remarkable rise of Karangahape Road as a music software hub. Sir Geoffrey Palmer writes about the stain the Trump presidency will leave on the US. Economist Mary Jo Vergara explains the continued disproportionate impact Covid is having on women and unemployment. And Sam Brooks wraps all the telly TVNZ has coming in 2021.


For a feature today, a piece about what it means to be a right-wing political man in America. I should be clear, I’m not sharing this piece from WhoWhatWhy because I agree with the sentiments expressed by some of Trump’s hardcore ‘hypermasculine’ supporters that are profiled in it. Rather, I think it’s important for people to have an accurate sense of what drives some of those supporters. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite Cuzzocrea and other young male Trump supporters who say that their candidate is giving them “the real deal,” as of August 27, Trump had totalled 22,247 false or misleading claims over 1,316 days of his presidency — leading to a striking average of about 16.9 per day.

But his supporters see it as “telling it like it is” or being “authentic.” “He’s probably just saying things that a lot of other politicians are afraid to say, but what they’re actually thinking of,” said Antonio Figueroa, the vice president of the Miami Young Republicans, of Trump’s frequent name-calling — recently seen in his branding of vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris as a “monster.”

Of this desire by Republicans to view Trump’s crassness as authentic, Du Mez said, “this really has to be understood as part of a backlash to feminism, and to the constraints that they feel have been placed upon, particularly, white men.”


An outline of Super Rugby 2022 has been revealed, and it finally includes teams from the Pacific, reports the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Gregor Paul. All going to plan (and, yep, that’s no given in the current sporting landscape) the tournament will include five teams from each of Australia and New Zealand, along with Pasifika Moana and Fiji. The Moana team have a way to go to prove their financial viability, but they’re understood to be the preferred franchise to get a side from the region into the tournament.


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