U.S. heads into 3rd election day with no clear president-elect

Two days after Election Day, the fate of U.S. President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden still hangs in the balance.

Over the last 24 hours, 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.

Much of the attention has now turned to Nevada, where the Biden campaign is leading slightly. A victory would clinch the state’s six electoral votes — and the presidency — for the Democrats.

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 more than one million votes left to be counted. Trump’s early lead slipped Wednesday evening from 675,000 to about 239,000. Pennsylvania’s results could be seen by the end of Thursday.

In North Carolina and Georgia, the race is still too early to call due to the sheer number of day-of ballots and potentially thousands of provisional ones. Officials in Georgia say they’re about 96 per cent complete.

Nevada could be the first call on Thursday. Election officials in the state’s most populous county said more results will be released sometime Thursday morning that include mail-in ballots received Tuesday and Wednesday. Counting has been a mighty challenge for the state, which opted to send ballots to all 1.7 million active registered votes this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Nevada, about 75 per cent of the votes are in and tallies show Biden leading by just shy of 8,000 votes.

At an afternoon news conference Wednesday, Biden expressed confidence in winning the undecided states. He said he expected 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.”

By contrast, Trump, who falsely claimed he had won the election multiple times, 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. Some reports suggest Trump is readying similar legal action in Nevada and Arizona, the latter was flipped in favour of Biden, according to The Associated Press projections. The state’s biggest county, Maricopa, said that 275,000 ballots still remain.

The president spent much of Wednesday at the White House, using his Twitter feed and campaign team 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.

“We will win this,” he in an address from the White House on election night. “And as far as I’m concerned, we already won it.”

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 state laws in places like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, some ballots received after the election must still be counted if they are postmarked by a deadline.

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,” Democratic Gov. Tom 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.

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.

— with files from the Associated Press

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