Jim Sandoe, a Vietnam war veteran and Pennsylvania Democrat, cast his vote for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, weeks ago. On Election Day, he checked into a hospital for a surgery.
Daniele Delehanty, a retired flight attendant and a Pennsylvania Republican voted for President Donald Trump on November 3 because voting on Election Day just “seemed right”.
Delehanty’s Election Day vote with millions of others gave Trump a massive early lead when the state began counting, picking up the polling-day ballots first. Trump’s lead over Biden in Pennsylvania stood at 11 percentage points Wednesday noon with about half of the state’s 2.5 million mail-in/absentee ballots counted. It had fallen to 2.5 points around 10 am Thursday as the state, with the Democrat splitting them 80-20 with the president.
Early votes have fueled Biden’s surge in states that had looked in the bag for Trump in the first hours of counting. Georgia, a solidly Republican state that had not voted a Democrat in a presidential election since 1992, was a close fight Thursday morning as the state counted (its 1.3 million) absentee ballots that it had received from the 1.8 million requested. Biden had slashed Trump’s 2.5 percentage point lead at 2 am Wednesday (eastern time) to 0.2 percentage point.
A record number of 101 million Americans cast their ballots early — the total turnout of over 160 million is a record as well — in this election, with 35.9 million in person at early voting centers and 65.2 million by mail.
Arizona is the other battleground state still on the table, with counting under way. It has been a historically Republican state and Trump won here in 2016. But Biden took an early lead there as unlike Pennsylvania, Arizona began counting its 2.6 million absentee ballots before the close of polling — they could under state laws start two week before — and early numbers were huge for Biden, so much so that Associated Press and Fox News called it for the former vice-president around 2:50 am on Wednesday. Biden was leading Trump by 9 percentage points at the time, which was down to around 2.8 points Thursday as the president stacked up his polling-day vote numbers.
Fox retracted its projection for Arizona shortly, but AP hasn’t.
The Trump campaign has complained and is calling for the votes to be counted in full, unlike in other states where it has called for a halt in counting, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Meena Bose, professor of political science at Hofstra University, said, “Early voting is certainly a significant part of the 2020 US presidential election, but election day votes for president Trump have been key to his victory in several states. (And early voting in states such as Florida helped Trump as well.)
“The absentee/mail-in ballot counting currently underway (and post-election receipt of ballots in NC and PA, which the Trump campaign is contesting in court), looks likely to strengthen Biden’s margin. Early voting and absentee/mail-in voting both have clearly contributed to historic high voter turnout overall; how much they influence the outcome of the presidential race is still very much in process.”
The president’s campaign has also called for a recount in Wisconsin, which allows it if the margin is less than 1%; Trump is trailing Biden in the state by less. A recount appeal must be filed within three business days of the announcement of the certified result.
The Trump campaign’s multiple lawsuits and recount could drag out the outcome for more days even after the completion of counting, which is likely to last at least until Friday evening, at the expiry of a court-mandated deadline for Pennsylvania to count mail-in ballots postmarked November 3 or before.
Critics see the lawsuits as just another manifestation of President Trump being “litigious”, going back to his days as a businessman and/or an attempt by his campaign to prevent states where he is down from announcing the result till the resolution of Pennsylvania, the prize state with 20 electoral votes that gave him the 2016 election and the presidency.