Joe Biden is leading in the vote count in all four states that could decide the presidential race, as Donald Trump’s campaign filed several lawsuits seeking to stop the counting or invalidate the ballots in at least four locations.
The former vice-president and Democratic nominee on Thursday steadily erased the President’s edge in Pennsylvania, the largest state still counting, and Georgia, gaining narrow leads in both states by Friday morning. Mr. Biden also remained slightly ahead in Arizona and Nevada. On Wednesday, he defeated Mr. Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin, two other crucial swing states.
Make sure to keep up with The Globe’s continuing U.S. election explainer here. Check back in to the map of results to see the winners state-by-state. And finally, want to catch up on what you missed today? Read the play-by-play on today’s events here.
To win the presidency, Mr. Biden would have to either carry Pennsylvania or any two of the other three states still outstanding. Officials in Pennsylvania and Arizona said they expected to have vote counting mostly completed by Friday night; Georgia was also close to finishing. Nevada, meanwhile, did not expect to finish until the weekend.
At an evening White House briefing, the President said elections officials in every swing state, “run in all cases by Democrats,” had counted unspecified “illegal votes,” and complained that his leads in early vote counting were “miraculously getting whittled away in secret.” Mr. Trump also accused public-opinion pollsters of deliberately publishing “phony” numbers favouring Mr. Biden in order to discourage his supporters from voting.
“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election,” Mr. Trump said. “They’re trying to rig an election.”
But the President and his legal team did not provide evidence of such a conspiracy. No states have reported serious problems with either voting or counting. Two of the four outstanding swing states, Georgia and Arizona, are run by Republican governors aligned with Mr. Trump.
The U.S.'s three top television networks – NBC, CBS and ABC – cut away from Mr. Trump’s statement, as did cable channel MSNBC. Only CNN and Fox carried the entire thing.
In the briefing, the President outlined only two specific problems: That his poll watchers in the counting hall in Philadelphia could not get close enough to the ballots, and that elections officials in Detroit put paper over a window as a group of his supporters tried to barge into the room.
In Philadelphia, a judge on Thursday ruled in Mr. Trump’s favour and allowed his volunteers to stand within six feet of the ballots. In both cities, the counting halls are monitored by cameras whose footage is streamed live on the internet. Republican poll watchers stationed inside have not reported fraud.
The President’s election-night lead in early counting evaporated because officials counted day-of votes first and mail-in ballots afterward. Mr. Biden encouraged his supporters to vote by mail, which explains his gains later in the count.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Biden tried to project a presidential demeanour. He spent the day in policy briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic matters with his vice-presidential running-mate, Kamala Harris, in his home city of Wilmington, Del.
“Democracy is sometimes messy, so sometimes it requires a little patience,” he told reporters. “I ask people to stay calm. The process is working.”
Throughout the day, the President’s campaign filed or threatened a multitude of lawsuits. In Philadelphia, officials briefly stopped counting ballots after the judge’s ruling. The count resumed after the hall being used for the count, in the Philadelphia Convention Center, was reconfigured to comply with the order.
Among its other legal actions, the campaign asked for counting to stop in Pennsylvania and Georgia, and challenged the validity of some votes cast in Nevada, Georgia and Michigan. In at least two cases, in Georgia and Michigan, courts dismissed the cases Thursday.
Mr. Trump also wants a recount in Wisconsin, which went to Mr. Biden by 20,000 votes. He is further expected to challenge the practice in Pennsylvania and Nevada of counting mail-in votes that arrive at elections offices after voting day.
The President’s circle also turned on its allies. On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s son, chided fellow Republicans for not echoing the President’s fraud accusations and attacked Fox News, which typically supports Mr. Trump, for calling Arizona for Mr. Biden on election night.
Most Republicans remained silent in the face of Mr. Trump’s outburst. One exception was Larry Hogan, the Maryland Governor who has previously criticized the President’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no defence for the President’s comments tonight undermining our democratic process,” he tweeted. “No election or person is more important than our Democracy.”
Election monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said any accusations of fraud in the vote were “baseless.”
“The system has held up well,” Urszula Gacek, the head of the election-monitoring team told reporters in Washington, adding that there was “no solid ground” for allegations of cheating.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she had found just one instance of voter fraud, which occurred several weeks ago when a man requested a ballot for his dead mother. “That was the only incident that I am aware of in this year,” she said at a news conference.
But Mr. Trump’s accusations appear to have whipped up his base. On Thursday, a Facebook group called “Stop the Steal” reached more than 365,000 members before the social-media site shut it down. The company said it was concerned by the fact that members were calling for violence and levelling accusations about the integrity of the election process.
In Philadelphia, police formed a cordon around the convention centre. The local ABC affiliate reported late Thursday evening that officers had searched a Hummer from Virginia after receiving a tip about a group of people plotting to attack the building. Shortly after 10 pm, police arrested a man nearby, but it was not clear if he was connected to the potential plot.
The mood on the street had been peaceful for much of the day. A handful of Trump supporters waved campaign flags emblazoned with the President’s name and held up signs decrying “illegal” votes. Police erected a pen around the group to keep it separated from a much larger crowd calling for the count to continue.
“The election was stolen as soon as Trump was elected President; they were plotting, the plan was in the mix,” said Daryl Brooks, 52, a Republican poll watcher. He said he had not been allowed to get close enough to the vote counters in the hall to make sure the votes were legal.
“We are here to make sure that those who are counting know that, if games are tried to be played, there are people watching,” said Sarah Anderson, director of policy for FreedomWorks, a right-wing group that dispatched a contingent to the scene.
Across the street, several hundred anti-Trump protesters brought a P.A. system and staged an hours-long R&B dance party. They waved flags reading “Black Votes Matter” and “Count Every Vote.”
“Donald Trump is moving to steal the election. It’s a move of a fascist to suppress the vote and to lie,” said Emma Kaplan, 30, who came from New York to protest. “People need to get into the street so the will of the people is respected.”
Nicolas O’Rourke, 32, compared Mr. Trump’s efforts to stop ballot-counting with the historic disenfranchisement of Black voters.
“Philadelphia is a Black and brown city – we’re no stranger to those who don’t want to hear our voices," said Mr. O’Rourke, who is Black. “We’re here to make sure they do.”
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