With no clear results in the U.S. presidential race as Thursday turned to Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the election process by making a series of unconfirmed or false claims.
Speaking to reporters at the White House Thursday in his first public address since election night, Trump falsely claimed that he would easily win if only the “legal votes” were counted, once again casting doubt on the nation’s outstanding mail-in ballots — a majority of which appeared to have been cast for Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.
There has been no evidence provided by Trump yet to support his claims of Democrats trying to “steal” the election. Both state and federal officials have not reported any instances of significant or widespread voter fraud.
Trump was continuing his attacks early Friday morning on Twitter, saying the U.S. Supreme Court “should decide” the election despite state officials assuring that all votes being counted are legal.
Since early Wednesday, Biden has turned a corner. The Democratic candidate, who has been steeped in American politics for nearly a half-century, secured victories in Wisconsin and Michigan and retaining his electoral college vote lead over Trump.
Biden currently has 264 of the 270 electoral votes, while Trump sits at 214.
There are still hurdles to cross. Biden’s victory in Michigan means he’s technically one battleground state away from achieving his White House hopes, but calls for recounts could further delay determining a president-elect.
Trump faces a bigger challenge at this point. To achieve a second term, the president needs to claim all four remaining battleground states: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.
Those states, along with Alaska, have yet to be called for either candidate by the Associated Press.
Trump, who prematurely claimed victory in many, if not all, of the aforementioned states, has lost some ground since Wednesday.
In Pennsylvania, a critical state for both candidates, there are thousands of votes left to be counted. Trump’s early lead slipped Wednesday from 675,000 to about 239,000. By early Friday morning, that lead would close to just over 22,300 ballots, with just just another five per cent of ballots left to be counted.
Some vote counts have been stopped in Pennsylvania. It is due to restart Friday morning. Either way, the bulk of Pennsylvania’s results could be seen by the end of Thursday.
The races in North Carolina and Georgia are still too early to call due to the sheer number of day-of ballots and potentially thousands of provisional ones. In Georgia, Trump’s lead over Biden has now shrunk to just 1,775 votes with 99 per cent of ballots being counted.
“We’re working to get these done today, if possible,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Thursday of the remaining ballots. “We’re anticipating an extremely close margin.”
In North Carolina, Trump maintains a lead of about 76,700 votes with about 95 per cent of the ballots being counted. That lead remains unchanged as of Thursday evening.
Nevada was initially expected to be first state to call a winner on Thursday, but those hopes appeared dashed by the afternoon when election officials announced that the results of the next 50,000 ballots won’t be available until Friday.
Counting has been a mighty challenge for the state, which opted to send ballots to all 1.7 million active registered voters this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Gloria, registrar of voters for Clark County, Nev., said they plan to have the majority of mail ballots counted by Saturday or Sunday. He said more than 60,000 provisional ballots cast during early voting and on Election Day are outstanding.
Biden is leading in the state, but only just slightly.
Members of the Trump campaign made a slew of unproven allegations about voter fraud and “irregularities” in Nevada on Thursday, including that votes from non-residents and those from the now-deceased have been counted. They provided no evidence to support their claims and refused to answer questions from reporters. The campaign said they would be filing a federal lawsuit in Las Vegas.
Read more: Ongoing live coverage as votes are counted
Gloria dismissed allegations of voter fraud, saying he’s “not aware of any improper ballots being processed.”
“We will not allow anyone to stop us from doing what our duty is – from counting ballots.”
Lawsuits and opposition
Trump, who falsely claimed he had won the election multiple times, has initiated a rash of lawsuits to cast doubt on the validity of the election results and to stop vote-counting.
His campaign has requested a recount in Wisconsin and filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. His legal action in Michigan and Georgia have since been shot down. Republicans have also withdrawn the lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
Some reports suggest Trump is also readying similar legal action in Arizona, which was flipped in favour of Biden, according to The Associated Press projections. State officials say there are about 450,000 ballots still to be counted, many from its biggest county, Maricopa.
In Pennsylvania, an appeals court on Thursday ordered that Trump campaign officials be allowed to more closely observe ballot processing in Philadelphia.
Two of his campaign officials, Corey Lewandowski and Pam Bondi, challenged the validity of the Pennsylvania vote outside a counting center Thursday morning, which they provided no evidence for. They told reporters members of the campaign would go inside and “watch what’s going on.” Lewandowski said they would stand “six feet away… in accordance with coronavirus protocols,” but that they would not “stand at a distance.”
Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf again defended the state’s process.
“Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and no amount of intimidation will stop our dedicated election officials in our municipalities,” he said Thursday.
“The planned attacks on our elections this morning are undemocratic and all elected officials must denounce them.”
The president has spent much of his time at the White House, using his Twitter feed to escalate unfounded theories about “surprise ballot dumps” being behind shifting projections in key states. Many of his tweets were flagged by Twitter for violating its policies for being misleading.
He also threatened to bring some state’s results to the U.S. Supreme Court, which does not hear direct challenges.
By contrast, Biden has been poised but confident in winning the undecided states. He said he expects to win the presidency, but was clear his words did not mean he was declaring victory.
“Only three campaigns in the past have defeated an incumbent president. When it’s finished, God willing, we’ll be the fourth,” he told a crowd of supporters.
“Every vote must be counted. No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Now now, not ever.”
It’s far from unusual that vote-counting stretches past Election Day. States are predominately responsible for setting the rules when the count has to end. However, an unprecedented number of mailed-in ballots — in part due to coronavirus concerns — has proved it does, in fact, take more time to tabulate.
Plus, according to some state laws, some ballots received after the election must still be counted if they are postmarked by a deadline.
Trump, whose public comments have no impact on the tallying of votes across the country, tweeted Thursday that “any vote that came in after election day will not be counted.” This tweet was also flagged by Twitter.
There is no basis to Trump’s claim. In North Carolina, state law allows mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if they are received by Nov. 12. In Pennsylvania, mail-in ballots are accepted up to three days after the election if they are postmarked by Election Day.
State and election officials defended their process repeatedly on Wednesday. Among all of them, they stressed that accuracy is more important than speed.
“The delay we’re seeing is a sign that the system is working,” Gov. Wolf said Wednesday.
That hasn’t stopped Trump supporters from protesting the results so far. On Wednesday, protesters in Detroit, Mich., flooded a ballot-tallying center demanding counters to stop.
Trump has cast doubt on mail-in voting for months. He’s claimed that mail-in ballots invite fraud, which he reiterated Wednesday when no clear winner had emerged.
Those against Trump protested in several U.S. cities to demand the opposite — a complete vote count.
Biden said that each vote must be “counted, and that’s what we’re going to see going through now.”
“In America, the vote is sacred,” said Biden at a press conference Thursday afternoon in Wilmington, Del.
“It’s how the people of this nation express their will, and it is the will of the voters — no one, not anything else chooses the president of the United States of America.”
Anxiety over the prolonged outcome, and Trump’s next moves, also lured protesters to streets outside the White House for a second night. Police in Portland arrested 11 people and seized fireworks, hammers and a rifle. Oregon’s governor also activated the U.S. National Guard in response. In New York, police said they made about 50 arrests in protests that spread widely in the city late Wednesday.
Trump supporters have also targeted election headquarters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, where volunteers are counting ballots around the clock. The protesters have demanded the counts to either continue or stop, depending on the state.
— with files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Sean Boynton and David Lao