The polls have closed in the US presidential election but the race for the White House between Trump and Biden is still unresolved.
Americans headed to the polls on Tuesday in one of the most consequential elections in US history. As the night wore on it appeared the country was in for a long and agonising fight for the White House, with a clear winner yet to be announced.
President Trump’s bid for re-election was aided by winning a series of key battleground states early including Florida, Ohio and Iowa, as Joe Biden expressed confidence he would ultimately prevail across key Northern states and Arizona as the presidential contest turned into a slog that could drag deeper into the week.
“We believe we are on track to win this election,” Biden said in a brief speech, saying he was “optimistic” about the outcome once all the votes were counted and urged the nation to be patient until then.
Shortly after Biden spoke, Trump responded on Twitter, saying that he was “up big” and claiming that his opponents were “trying to STEAL the election.” Twitter immediately marked it as content that was “disputed and might be misleading.”
We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
With millions of votes still waiting to be counted, Trump prematurely declared victory in a speech at the White House, calling to stop the count where he is ahead and baselessly declaring the election to be “a fraud on the American public.”
In an unprecedented move, Trump said he intended to go to the Supreme Court to shut the election down, and appeared sure to escalate a bitter legal battle over how the votes should be counted.
No major media outlet, from the Associated Press to TV Networks, have projected a winner. The deluge of mail ballots has complicated the process this year and extended the time frame before a winner could be determined.
With that in mind, here is the state of play so far:
Voter turnout is said to be the highest in over a century, as more than 101 million people voted early. Some predict the total turnout could be as high as 67 percent.
Polls have closed in all 50 states, and those that have been called for Biden so far include Arizona, Minnesota, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Those called for Trump are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
At the moment, Joe Biden has 238 electoral votes and Donald Trump has 213; a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, and the race has been much closer than many media pundits and pollsters had predicted.
Republicans appear set to retain control of the Senate after a string of crucial wins, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been re-elected in Kentucky. Democrats have flipped two seats, but the GOP have taken one back, and Democrats need a net gain of four seats to win the majority.
The so-called ‘squad’ of House Democrats – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – have each won their respective re-elections.
Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has won her re-election in California’s 12th Congressional district, and said that Democrats have held their House majority.
What is delaying the count?
A full vote count is never completed on election night – which is normal – but enough votes are usually in to confirm a winner. A state is “projected” by major media outlets when they believe one candidate has an unbeatable lead.
US presidents are not decided by the national vote, but by winning enough states. The winner in each state takes a certain number of electoral votes based roughly on the size of its population.
This year, the Covid-19 pandemic means more people than ever have voted early, either by post or in person. Postal votes typically take longer to count as they have to go through more steps to be verified, such as a signature and address check.
About half of the states accept postal ballots that arrive after election day, as long as they are postmarked by November 3, so some votes won’t be counted until days after the election.
There is also expected to be a rise in provisional ballots – votes cast by people who requested a postal ballot but decided to vote in person instead. And these won’t be included in the initial count as they require checks to ensure people have not voted twice.
Most ballots – paper or digital – are counted by machines, but poll workers need to check any paper ballots that machines fail to process. In many cases voting data must be physically delivered or the results read out over the phone.
These unofficial results are certified only weeks later when confirmed by state officials.
What states are we waiting on?
The race is coming down to the key battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Georgia and North Carolina have yet to be confirmed as well.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don’t allow early votes to be processed until polling day, and election officials have warned that counts could take days.
President Trump has enjoyed an early lead in nearly all of those states for now – what many have referred to as a “red mirage” due to the millions of mail-in ballots that have not yet been tabulated and are expected to lean heavily Democrat.
State laws in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin allow election administrators only minimal time to process mail ballots before the polls close. That means backlogs can build up, and several key counties have already announced that they wouldn’t be counting any more mail ballots until Wednesday morning.
For example in Milwaukee County in Wisconsin they won’t be finished tallying ballots until 5am Eastern Time on Wednesday at the earliest. While in Philadelphia, only about 20 percent of mail ballots have been counted, with approximately 1.4 million ballots still uncounted.
What could happen next?
Republicans across the country, including the president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, have sued over the extension of ballot return deadlines in several states that have seen them extended during the pandemic.
However, litigation on stopping the stopping of votes that were cast validly is a different matter, and it’s unclear whether Trump’s suggestion that he expected the courts to step in and halt off-vote-counting is just bluster.
There is no legal argument to compel states to stop counting ballots that were properly filled out and submitted on time.
On Trump’s claim that he’ll go to the Supreme Court, Republican lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg told CNN that “all legally cast votes and the process to try and toss them out would be viewed by any court as a massive disenfranchisement that would be frowned upon.”
Many Democrats fear that the ghosts of the 2000 election, when results weren’t known for weeks, may rear its head once again.
In 2000, two up-and-coming lawyers were on the team that helped build a case to decide a razor-thin race between then-Republican nominee George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore. Those lawyers? Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh – who today sit as Trump-nominated justices on the Supreme Court.