Democratic candidate Joe Biden has moved closer to claiming victory in the U.S. presidential election as updated vote counts erode President Donald Trump’s leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Biden currently leads in the popular vote as well as the Electoral College count, 253-214, with a majority of 270 needed to claim the presidency for a four-year term.
Vote counting is still under way in four states that will decide the election: Arizona and Nevada, where Biden is ahead; Pennsylvania, where Trump’s early lead has, as of early Friday, decreased to 18,000 votes, and Georgia, where Biden has pulled ahead by 917 votes.
In the U.S. Electoral College system, the popular vote winner in each state — with two exceptions, Maine and Nebraska — receives all of that state's electoral votes, which are allocated on the basis of population.
Meanwhile Trump, without evidence, Thursday accused Democrats of engineering massive fraud and irregularities to prevent him from winning reelection as president.
“This is a case where they are trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen,” said Trump during a news conference.
In contrast, Biden earlier in the day urged patience while states tabulate the record number of votes, more than 150 million, cast in this year’s election.
“Each ballot must be counted. And that's what we're going to see going through now. And that's how it should be. Democracy sometimes is messy,” Biden said during a briefing.
Counting under way
If Biden holds his vote leads in Arizona, with its 11 electors, and Nevada with six, he will reach the 270 Electoral College majority and become the country’s 46th president at his inauguration in January, no matter the outcome in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Trump needs to hold all the states he has been leading in and pick up either Nevada or Arizona, in each of which Biden is currently leading.
In Pennsylvania and Georgia, Trump’s lead shrank as the vote count continued. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said Thursday the remaining votes being counted are almost entirely mail-in ballots. So far those have significantly favored Biden.
The Biden campaign had urged supporters to vote by mail to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump has, without evidence, denounced mail-in voting as fraudulent and a scam.
Trump cited the disproportionate number of late votes being won by Biden as possible vote interference by what he called the corrupt voting apparatus of states with Democratic governors.
“We were winning in all the key locations by a lot, actually, and then our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away in secret,” Trump said on Thursday.
Twenty electoral votes are at stake in Pennsylvania. Trump has more comfortable leads in two other states that have not yet been called: Alaska and North Carolina.
As of early Friday, Biden was leading by around 11,500 votes in Nevada, which has six electors, and by about 47,000 in Arizona, which has 11 electors. Many more votes are still to be counted in both states.
Biden leads the national popular vote 73.5 million to 69.5 million, but it is the Electoral College that will determine the winner after a contentious, months-long campaign.
On Twitter, Trump demanded that the vote count be stopped. But if the vote count were frozen in its late Thursday morning state, Trump would lose, becoming the third U.S. president in the last four decades to lose reelection after a single term.
Trump on Thursday also cited irregularities, such as state officials barring his campaign from observing the vote count, called mail-in voting a “corrupt system” that lacks “any verification measures,” and said he expects contested election litigation to end up in the Supreme Court.
Lawyers representing Trump and Republicans filed lawsuits alleging vote counting irregularities and demanding that the counting of mail-in ballots be halted in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s lead was dwindling as more mail-in ballots were counted.
The vote count across the U.S. has been slowed by the vast number of mail-in ballots — about two-thirds of the more than 101 million ballots cast before Tuesday’s official Election Day — and which are taking longer to count. Many people who voted by mail said they wanted to avoid long lines at polling stations on Tuesday and coming face to face with others amid the country’s unchecked coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s campaign urged voting by mail, and the result is that his vote count has swelled in numerous states as those ballots are tallied. Trump mostly urged Election Day in-person voting by Republicans, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to an election rigged against him. Those ballots were generally counted earlier.
Trump’s lawyers also called for a recount in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, where Biden was projected the winner of the state’s 10 electors on Wednesday. They contended that there were irregularities at some voting stations.
Trump claimed victory in the early hours of Wednesday, but Biden has stopped short of saying he has won.
“I’m not here to declare that we've won,” Biden said Wednesday. “But I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”