WASHINGTON: Americans – and many people across the world – held their breath as the US presidential election results remained tantalisingly poised on Thursday with Democratic candidate Joe Biden knocking on the doors of the White House and President Trump mounting legal challenges to thwart him and demanding a halt to counting of votes.
After being projected winner in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, Biden is poised at 253 electoral votes, needing 270 to win, with possible victories in Arizona (11) and Nevada (6), two states where he is leading. He is also rapidly closing the gap in Pennsylvania (20) and Georgia (16), either of which would shut the door on Trump.
The US President’s response to an imminent loss: Stop counting votes!
“STOP THE COUNT! ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!” Trump tweeted in all caps on Thursday morning even as his legal teams swung into action to get the courts involved, even though under state laws, each state is mandated to count votes received even after Election Day as long as ballots are postmarked by election day (Pennsylvania has carved some exceptions).
STOP THE COUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1604585557000
“All of the recent Biden claimed States will be legally challenged by us for Voter Fraud and State Election Fraud. Plenty of proof – just check out the Media. WE WILL WIN! America First!,’ Trump wrote, even though there was little evidence of fraud in an election process that is now globally known for being sketchy and shambolic with a decentralised system allowing states to adopt different rules and practices.
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The gridlock arising from the slow pace of counting and the leeway given to some states to receive mail-in ballots days after election day has stirred unrest on both sides with mobs storming counting centers demanding counting or not counting of votes depending on which candidate is leading or trailing.
The President himself has sought a recount in Michigan and Wisconsin, two states which have been called for Biden by narrow margins of about 10,000 and 20,000 respectively, similar to margins Trump won them by in 2016. But he has refused to accept the calls on the two states that puts Biden within striking distance of White House. While anything less than a one per cent margin can trigger a recount (both states qualify on that count), typically recounts don’t shift more than 200to 300 votes, not thousands or ten thousands.
Charges of fraud and partisanship are flying thick and fast. On Thursday, Pennsylvania Lt Gov John Fetterman said that his state’s ballot-counting process is “drawing to a close” and he believes that the outstanding ballots will deliver the state’s 20 electoral votes to Joe Biden. Asked about the slow pace of counting and the legal challenges, Fetterman told one TV network, “You have the Trump campaign showing up on our corner in Philadelphia like some sad carnival barker, making outlandish claims.That’s the only problem.”
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Biden can also get to 270 by winning Arizona and Nevada, both states he is leading by small margins. But local officials are still processing thousands of ballots. Encouraged by the news that Trump is unexpectedly shrinking Biden’s lead in Arizona, his surrogates want counting of votes to continue here, though they want it stopped in other states.
Biden meanwhile is rising above the din and presenting a presidential front. “It is clear that we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. I’m not here to declare that we’ve won. But I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Biden said in a six-minute speech from his home state of Delaware with running mate Kamala Harris standing nearby.
“There will be no blue states and red states when we win, just the United States of America,” he added, pledging to be president of all Americans without regard to party affiliation.