Americans entered Thursday still not knowing who their next president is, as battleground states continued to count thousands of ballots that will decide the fate of both U.S. President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden.
Biden secured key wins Wednesday after both Wisconsin and later Michigan were called in the Democratic candidate’s favour.
Michigan had been reliably blue in choosing a president for nearly 25 years, until 2016, when Trump won the state by an incredibly small margin. Many of the final ballots in Michigan came from Democratic strongholds.
Biden’s two wins brought his electoral tally to 264, while Trump has 214. The Biden campaign has now turned its attention to Nevada, where they are leading slightly and whose six electoral votes would clinch the presidency.
Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska have still not been called by the Associated Press. Trump is leading in the latter four states, although his margins of victory have narrowed in Pennsylvania and Georgia as ballots are counted.
Earlier Wednesday, Biden addressed the nation and expressed confidence in his standing both in Michigan and Pennsylvania, a key battleground state.
“I’m not here to declare that we won, but I am here to report, that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” he said.
“Only three campaigns in the past have defeated an incumbent president. When it’s finished, God willing, we’ll be the fourth.”
But the high-stakes race remains in flux. It’s still unclear when a true winner could be determined.
Overnight, protests erupted in several U.S. cities, some turning violent.
Trump supporters gathered outside an electoral office in Detroit demanding an end to ballot counting, while another pro-Trump crowd also called for the count to continue in Arizona, which the Associated Press has declared for Biden. Vote results reported Wednesday night have since shrunk Biden’s lead.
In what could further delay a definitive outcome, Trump’s campaign has launched a rash of lawsuits over vote-counting in several states.
The latest lawsuit was filed in Georgia, where the campaign and the Georgia Republican Party are asking a judge to order Chatham County to secure and and account for ballots received after 7 p.m. Tuesday.
In Michigan, the campaign has filed a lawsuit to stop all vote-counting until it can have “meaningful access” to counting locations to oversee the process and remaining ballots. The president is seeking to have said ballots reviewed.
Legal action has also been launched by the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania. That suit seeks to temporarily halt the counting to stop what it claims are Democratic officials “hiding” ballot counting and processing from Republican poll observers in the state.
He has also already requested a recount in Wisconsin, claiming “irregularities” in some counties that it says “raise serious doubts about the validity of the results.”
Meanwhile, both Eric Trump and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany falsely tweeted Wednesday afternoon that Trump had won Pennsylvania — a critical state for both candidates. Those results, however, are not expected until all votes (including absentee ballots) are tallied in full, which could still take days.
Trump and his campaign continue to falsely assert that “surprise ballot dumps” are behind the shifting projections in several swing states key to determining the outcome of the U.S. election, even taking the decision to falsely claim victory in multiple too-close-to-call swing states — which is not their call to make.
Those claims began early Wednesday morning when Trump falsely declared victory in the race, threatening to bring the results to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already won it,” he said at the White House.
Trump provided no evidence to back up his claim, nor did he explain how he would fight the results in the Supreme Court, which does not hear direct challenges.
Voting came to an end on Tuesday night, but the mail-in voting surge will keep the U.S. waiting.
Nevada faced poll delays on election night. The state’s election agency said all in-person early votes, in-person election day votes, and mail-in ballots through Nov. 2 had been counted, but that no further updates are expected until Thursday.
The top elections official in Nevada’s most populous county said more results will be released Thursday morning that include mail-in ballots received Tuesday and Wednesday.
The number of outstanding mail ballots is difficult to estimate because Nevada opted to send ballots to all 1.7 million active registered voters this year due to the pandemic, and it’s hard to predict how many will choose to return them.
North Carolina saw Trump take an early 76,000-vote lead Wednesday morning, though this race is still too early to call. There are about 116,000 mail-in ballots left to count.
In Georgia, an estimated four per cent of the vote remains to be counted, including mailed ballots from two counties where Biden has performed well. Several counties in the Atlanta area also stopped counting votes overnight due to technical difficulties.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he was pushing counties to complete vote tallies, with just under 100,000 ballots left to count as of Wednesday night.
Pennsylvania, a crucial state for both candidates, has the vast majority of votes left to be counted. Many of those were cast by mail. At this point, there are more than 1 million outstanding ballots that electoral officials say will be counted over the coming days — most of them projected to be from Democratic-heavy areas. Trump currently holds a 170,000-vote lead.
State election officials said Wednesday evening that it will be “a matter of days before the overwhelming majority of ballots are counted,” though promised that “hundreds of thousands” of ballots would be counted by the end of the night.
Trump has prematurely claimed he’s won most, if not all, of the aforementioned states, though provided no clear reason as to why.
In tweets Wednesday morning that were quickly hit with warning labels, Trump claimed he was leading, “often solidly,” in many key states.
“Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as suprise ballot dumps were counted,” he tweeted, adding that he believes it’s “very strange.” Twitter quickly hid his claims, warning they were misleading.
For his part, Biden offered his campaign team Wednesday morning to untangle what they believe is a clear path to democratic victory. The team predicted a narrow win for Biden, but a win nonetheless.
They said they expect to win Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. So far, they’ve only secured Wisconsin and Michigan.
“We’re going to win the election. We’ve won the election. And we’re going to defend that election,” Biden campaign manager Bob Bauer told reporters despite not all the votes having been counted.
While vote counting routinely continues beyond election day, an unprecedented number of mailed-in ballots — in part due to coronavirus concerns — means it will take more time to tabulate.
There are several reasons why this counting process is slower. For one, depending on each state’s law, signatures need to be verified. Another factor is resources. Some election offices might not have the staffing or technology to speed up the process. Though many have spent weeks trying to prepare, time constraints and budget issues have hampered some efforts.
Plus, according to laws in states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, some ballots received after the election must still be counted if they are postmarked by a deadline.
Election officials have stressed that accuracy is more important than speed.
Trump has disparaged mail-in voting, demanding that the election be called on election day itself, regardless of the circumstances, and has claimed that any election he does not win must be rigged. Trump himself voted by mail for this election.
He claims mail-in ballots invite fraud, which he reiterated early Wednesday morning when no clear winner had emerged. Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail-in voting.
There has been some scant evidence of fraud linked to this process, but the vast majority of studies have suggested it isn’t a general problem.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf insisted that the process going as expected.
“The delay we’re seeing is a sign that the system is working,” he said Wednesday.
“There are millions of mail-in ballots that are being counted, and that takes longer than the way we used to do it with the standard in-person voting. So we may not know the results today, but the most important thing is that we have accurate results.”
Trump’s most likely path requires him to win Pennsylvania, as well as at least one Midwestern battleground and both Southern states. Pennsylvania is also critical for Biden’s White House hopes, but he does have other paths to nab the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president.
Trump kept several other states on election night, including Texas, Iowa, Ohio and Florida — a key battleground state that saw him gain its 29 electoral votes.
Biden took predictable wins in states like California, Washington and Oregon, but also picked off states Trump sought to gain, including New Hampshire and Minnesota.
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters