Americans wait with bated breath as U.S counts final election votes

A day after Americans voted in a divisive and now bitterly contested U.S. election, the fate of the presidency rests on the edge of a knife.

The high-stakes race remains tight, and it’s still unclear when a winner could be determined.

Neither U.S. President Donald Trump nor former vice-president Joe Biden has cleared the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. Millions of votes are still being counted in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia and the potentially critical state of Pennsylvania.

Hours passed before any states flipped from 2016: Biden eventually flipped Arizona, which was considered a reliably conservative state.

Things grew more embattled as the hours passed and Trump falsely claimed victory in the race early Wednesday morning, 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.

Biden, who briefly appeared in front of supporters in Delaware, was also confident Democrats were “on track” to win the election, however, he urged patience.

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” he said. “That’s the decision of the American people.”

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.

Remaining states

Voting came to an end on Tuesday night, but the mail-in voting surge will keep the U.S. waiting.

There are more than one million ballots left to be counted in Michigan, many coming from Democratic strongholds, including Wayne County, home to Detroit. Approximately 79 per cent of the vote has been counted in the state, according to a tally by The Associated Press (AP), with Trump leading by 226,000 votes. Michigan officials said the state aims to have a first, unofficial tabulation within 24 hours, though full results might not come until Friday.

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.

In Wisconsin, Biden is ahead of Trump by fewer than 8,000 votes out of nearly 3.2 million cast. Wisconsin election officials said the process is going as planned and that all but one jurisdiction, a township of less than 300 voters, has submitted their results. Trump’s campaign manager has claimed “irregularities” in some Wisconsin counties and said the president will “immediately” request a recount depending on the final results.

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 200,000 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. Officials there hope to have results sometime before the end of Wednesday.

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 1.4 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 675,000-vote lead.

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 expect to win Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which they specifically said they believe they have already won. None of these states have been decided.

“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.

Mail-in votes

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, the biggest prize among them.

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.

The coronavirus pandemic — and Trump’s handling of it — has become a defining element of the race. The historic public health crisis has killed more than 230,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. Both candidates spend months touting dramatically different visions for the country’s future.

Voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of election day, many of which with coronavirus concerns top of mind, according to an Associated Press analysis.

It represents 73 per cent of the total turnout for the 2016 presidential election.

— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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