5:30 p.m. UPDATE
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden won the battleground prizes of Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday, reclaiming a key part of the “blue wall” that slipped away from Democrats four years ago and dramatically narrowing President Donald Trump’s pathway to reelection.
A full day after Election Day, neither candidate had cleared the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him at 264, meaning he was one state away — any state — from crossing the threshold and becoming president-elect.
Biden, who has received more than 71 million votes, the most in history, was joined by his running mate Kamala Harris at an afternoon news conference and said he now expected to win the presidency, though he stopped short of outright declaring victory.
“I will govern as an American president,” Biden said. “There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America.”
It was a stark contrast to Trump, who early Wednesday morning falsely proclaimed that he had won the election, even though millions of votes remained uncounted and the race was far from over.
The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden after election officials in the state said all outstanding ballots had been counted, save for a few hundred in one township and an expected small number of provisional votes.
Trump’s campaign requested a recount, in addition to filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden led by 0.624 percentage point out of nearly 3.3 million ballots counted.
For four years, Democrats had been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall, the trio of Great Lakes states — Pennsylvania is the third — that their candidates had been able to count on every four years. But Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working class voters and he captured all three in 2016 by a total of just 77,000 votes.
Both candidates this year fiercely fought for the states, with Biden’s everyman political persona resonating in blue collar towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among Black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.
Pennsylvania remained too early to call Wednesday night.
It was unclear when or how quickly a national winner could be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. But Biden’s possible pathways to the White House were expanding rapidly.
After the victory in Wisconsin and Michigan, he held 264 Electoral College votes, just six away from the presidency. A win in any state, including Nevada with its six votes, would be enough to end Trump’s tenure in the White House.
Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up key battlegrounds. Trump falsely claimed victory in several key states and amplified unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties. And the campaign said it was filing suit in Michigan and Pennsylvania to halt ballot counting on grounds that it wasn’t given proper access to observe.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there. Yet, the campaign also argued that it was the outstanding votes in Arizona that could reverse the outcome there, showcasing an inherent inconsistency with their arguments.
In other closely watched races, Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held onto Texas and Ohio while Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota and flipped Arizona, a state that had reliably voted Republican in recent elections.
The unsettled nature of the presidential race was reflective of a somewhat disappointing night for Democrats, who had hoped to deliver a thorough repudiation of Trump’s four years in office while also reclaiming the Senate to have a firm grasp on all of Washington. But the GOP held on to several Senate seats that had been considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas, Maine and Kansas. Democrats lost House seats but were expected to retain control there.
The high-stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. The candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future, including on racial justice, and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of Election Day.
Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory — which he continued on Twitter Wednesday — and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he could try to pursue.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discounted the president’s quick claim of victory, saying it would take a while for states to conduct their vote counts. The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.”
Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors met. That’s set by federal law.
Dozens gathered in Detroit Wednesday afternoon, in a square across from the city’s election commission office. Many wore yellow sweatshirts and carried signs reading “Count Every Vote.” Rai Lanier, one of the organizers, said they had planned the gathering so anxious people could come together and channel that energy into hope.
“This is how democracy is supposed to work,” she said
Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days later.
Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome at the high court. But legal experts were dubious of Trump’s declaration. Trump has appointed three of the high court’s nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.
The Trump campaign on Wednesday pushed Republican donors to dig deeper into their pockets to help finance legal challenges. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, during a donor call, spoke plainly: “The fight’s not over. We’re in it.”
The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures.
Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.
2:15 p.m. UPDATE
WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign said it filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Michigan state court demanding access to locations where ballots are being counted in one of the undecided states that could determine whether President Donald Trump gets another four years in the White House.
The campaign said it is calling for a temporary halt in the counting until it is given “meaningful access” in numerous locations and allowed to review ballots that already have been opened and processed. Trump is running slightly behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Michigan.
The campaign also said it would ask for a recount in Wisconsin, a state The Associated Press called for Biden on Wednesday afternoon. Campaign manager Bill Stepien cited “irregularities in several Wisconsin counties.”
The actions came as elections officials counted votes in several undecided states that are crucial to the outcome of the presidential election.
The former vice president’s campaign meanwhile welcomed the ongoing vote count and a Biden campaign attorney said they are ready for any legal fight. And Michigan Democrats said the suit was a longshot.
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, said Trump only filed the suit to stop The Associated Press and other media outlets from calling the race for Biden.
“This is a Hail Mary,” he said.
The campaign didn’t immediately make public a copy of the lawsuit and it wasn’t clear what areas they argue they were denied access.
Poll watchers from both sides were plentiful Wednesday at one major polling place in question — TCF Center, The Associated Press observed. They checked in at a table near the entrance to the convention center’s Hall E and strolled among the tables where ballot processing was taking place. In some cases, they arrived en masse and huddled together for a group discussion before fanning out to the floor. Uniformed Detroit police officers were on hand to make sure everyone was behaving.
Mark Brewer, a former state Democratic chairman who said he was observing the Detroit vote counting as a volunteer lawyer, said he had been at the TCF arena all day and had talked with others who had been there the past couple of days. He said Republicans had not been denied access.
“This is the best absentee ballot counting operation that Detroit has ever had. They are counting ballots very efficiently, despite the obstructing tactics of the Republicans.”
Republicans already are mounting legal challenges involving absentee votes in Pennsylvania and Nevada, contesting local decisions that could take on national significance in the close election.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump said he’ll take the presidential election to the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear what he meant in a country in which vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end.
“We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court — we want all voting to stop,” Trump told supporters at the White House.
But the voting is over. It’s only counting that is taking place across the nation. No state will count absentee votes that are postmarked after Election Day.
Biden’s campaign called Trump’s statement “outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect.”
“If the president makes good on his threat to go to court to try to prevent the proper tabulation of votes, we have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort,” Biden Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement. “And they will prevail.”
Election law expert Richard Hasen wrote in Slate on Sunday that “there has never been any basis to claim that a ballot arriving on time cannot be counted if officials cannot finish their count on election night.”
Ohio State University election law professor Edward Foley wrote on Twitter Wednesday: “The valid votes will be counted. SCOTUS would be involved only if there were votes of questionable validity that would make a difference, which might not be the case. The rule of law will determine the official winner of the popular vote in each state. Let the rule of law work.”
In any event, there’s no way to go directly to the high court with a claim of fraud. Trump and his campaign could allege problems with the way votes are counted in individual states, but they would have to start their legal fight in a state or lower federal court.
There is a pending Republican appeal at the Supreme Court over whether Pennsylvania can count votes that arrive in the mail from Wednesday to Friday, an extension ordered by the state’s top court over the objection of Republicans. That case does not involve ballots already cast and in the possession of election officials, even if they are yet to be counted.
The high court refused before the election to rule out those ballots, but conservative justices indicated they could revisit the issue after the election. The Supreme Court also refused to block an extension for the receipt and counting of absentee ballots in North Carolina beyond the three days set by state law.
Even a small number of contested votes could matter if either state determines the winner of the election and the gap between Trump and Biden is so small that a few thousand votes, or even a few hundred, could make the difference.
1:30 p.m. UPDATE
Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump in battleground Wisconsin, securing the state’s 10 electoral votes and reclaiming a key part of the blue wall that slipped away from Democrats four years ago.
The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden after election officials in the state said all outstanding ballots had been counted, save for a few hundred in one township and an expected small number of provisional ballots.
Trump’s campaign has requested a recount. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden leads by .624 percentage points out of nearly 3.3 million ballots counted.
The victory for Biden bumps him up to 248 electoral votes, while Trump has 214. It takes 270 to win the presidency.
In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes, a breakthrough that along with wins in Michigan and Pennsylvania helped hand him his first term in the White House. Democrats were determined to reclaim Wisconsin, a state that before Trump hadn’t gone for a Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
1 p.m. UPDATE
PHILADELPHIA — With a bitterly divided America failing to deliver a decisive result for either party, a jittery public awaited clarity today over the fate of a race that remained too early to call.
Across the country, sleep-deprived voters kept TV screens tuned to newscasts while refreshing maps checkered with blue and red that delivered no clear answers.
“There will be a lot of confusion, a lot of chaos,” said Lewis Stevens, 47, a graphic designer and film producer in Detroit who voted for former Vice President Joe Biden. “I’m anticipating court legal battles, the whole nine yards.”
Votes were still being counted across the country and likely will be for days to come as Biden and President Donald Trump both remain short of the necessary 270 electoral votes to win.
Nothing was out of the ordinary in that process beyond a predicted surge of mail-in votes, but the lack of certainty wore on a public exhausted by a seemingly endless campaign, and all the attacks, vitriol and costly TV commercials that go with it.
The verdict will be delivered by a handful of swing states with razor-thin margins likely to lead to recounts and legal challenges. Voters there took deep breaths, coaxed themselves into sanity or otherwise sought refuge from the perplexity and possible further delays.
Jason Klemm, a 49-year-old actor in Philadelphia, sipped vodka from a 7-Eleven cup this morning in Rittenhouse Square, trying to ease his nerves after staying glued to television coverage until 4 a.m., then rising after a nap. As returns continued streaming in, Klemm felt better than he did a few hours earlier that his candidate, Biden, could prevail, but he knew it would fall short of what he’d hoped for.
“I would have liked a miracle last night but it didn’t happen,” said Klemm, whose state showed Trump leading with many votes still uncounted. “But every time I walk away and come back later, it’s a little bit better for Biden.”
In North Carolina, where Democrats clung to hope despite a lead for Trump, Kyle Holland, an 18-year-old student voting in his first election, thought his choice of Trump would prevail.
“I think he looks in pretty good shape. I mean, it’s not gonna be a blowout or anything, but I think he’s gonna be able to get to 270 electoral votes,” said Holland, who lives in Faison, N.C.
In Michigan, where Biden held a narrow lead, 78-year-old Jerry Stutzman, who cast his vote for Trump, expressed disappointment about delays in returns but said he wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
“You’ve got to be careful what you stress over,” the retired businessman said. “I will keep positive. I’m not going to bury myself in the sand. There’s always challenges in the world and you’ve got to learn to live with them.”
Elsewhere in the state, the sentiment was far less calm.
At a Fems for Dems gathering in the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, women routinely moaned and dropped their heads into their hands as the returns came in throughout the night and early morning, some considering switching from red wine to tequila. Even as they held out hope, they knew they hadn’t won what they wanted: a nationwide repudiation of Trump.
“I honestly feel like I’m going to have a heart attack before the end of this,” said Denice Asbell. “I feel like it’s slipping. I’m scared to say this out loud, but the potential for us to see the win that we wanted is slipping away.”
Asbell’s daughter, 13-year-old Rhegan Stallworth, reflected the angst of a divided country as she braced for the outcome in a country where many don’t understand the beliefs of the opposing side.
“It’s like putting your life in the hands of a nation that you don’t trust,” said Stallworth.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s top election official said today that the state has roughly 200,000 ballots left to count, and he is pushing counties to complete the task by the end of the day.
“My team has sent reminders to counties to get all, let me repeat, all of our results counted today. Every legal vote will count,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference.
But he later acknowledged that counties may not be able to complete the process by the end of the day, even though his office is “pushing really hard” for that.
“If we don’t get it there but we get the numbers so small that then there’s no question of who actually the winner is, I think that will be helpful,” he said.
Raffensperger also said that ballots that usually aren’t counted until after Election Day, such as those sent by military people and other citizens living overseas, will eventually be incorporated into the final totals.
The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia’s presidential contest because the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is too early to call, with outstanding ballots left to be counted in counties where Biden has performed well.
Trump and Biden are locked in a tight contest to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Georgia offers 16 electoral votes.
In Gwinnett County, also one of Georgia’s largest, a software problem interfered with the way thousands of mailed absentee ballots are scanned in batches, county officials said.
Some of those ballots will now go through a process known as adjudication, where a 3-person panel that includes representatives of both major parties try to determine the voter’s intent, county spokesman Joe Sorenson said in an email early today.
In the metro Atlanta county of DeKalb — one of the state’s largest — officials will resume processing absentee ballots at 11 a.m. today, the county said in a statement released after midnight.
Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, also stopped counting, but resumed the process at 8:30 a.m. today, spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said. She said earlier that the county plans to resume tallying absentee ballots over the next two days.
Inside State Farm Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks NBA team, about 50 people were counting Fulton County votes in a well-lit conference room today.
In Cobb County, also in metro Atlanta, approximately 15,000 absentee ballots remain to be processed on today or Thursday, Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said this morning. Then, on Friday, the county plans to process another 882 provisional ballots along with any military and overseas ballots and any ballots with missing or mismatched signatures that have been corrected.
Fulton’s decision to stop counting late on Election Night frustrated Raffensperger.
“Fulton County just decided to lay up for the day. What am I supposed to do about that? It’s really frustrating,” Raffensperger told WSB-TV.
11 a.m. UPDATE
From Ford Model T cars that popped off the assembly line in just 90 minutes to 60-second service for burgers, the United States has long had a major hand in making the world a frenetic and impatient place, primed and hungry for instant gratification.
So waking up to the news today that the winner of the U.S. election might not be known for hours, days or longer — pundits filled global airwaves with their best bets — was jarring for a planet weaned on American speediness.
Without an immediate result, the guessing game of trying to figure out whether — and how —President Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden would end up in the White House quickly turned global.
Government leaders scrambled to digest the delay and ordinary people swapped views, hopes and fears on feeds and phones. Some scratched their heads — not for the first time — over the fact that a U.S. president need not win the most votes overall but rather must hit the magic number of 270 votes in the Electoral College.
There was gloating from parts of the world that have previously been on the receiving end of U.S. criticism about their elections and governance. Underscoring how the drama captured global audiences, television graphics in Japan used fireballs to denote some of the battleground states crucial to the outcome.
“I’m hearing it may take some time before things are sorted out,” said the Japanese finance minister, Taro Aso. “I have no idea how it may affect us.”
In Paris, a Spanish resident, Javier Saenz, was stunned to wake up without a declared winner.
“I thought there was going to be something clear. And I have read different articles, no one really knows who is going to win,” he said. “I am very shocked by that.”
The lack of an immediate winner was not, in itself, an indication that anything was wrong. In a year turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, many states made it easier to vote by mail. That slowed the compiling of results.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has been poisoned and attacked for challenging the Kremlin and trying to make Russia more democratic, even suggested that the delay was comforting, a sign of democracy at work.
“Woke up and went on Twitter to see who won. Still unclear. Now that’s (what I call) elections,” he tweeted.
But elsewhere, global unease of not knowing was mixing with sharpening concerns about how America might heal after the divisive campaign. Trump’s own extraordinary and premature claims of victory and his threat to take the election to the Supreme Court also sparked anxiety and comparisons with autocrats.
“That was such a ‘Trump or we burn the country’ moment,” quipped Danny Makki, a Syria analyst, referring to slogans of “Assad, or we burn the country,” that used to be sprayed by supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad on walls in the early days of the country’s civil war to intimidate opponents.
From Europe, in particular, came appeals for patience and rigorous vote-counting. In Slovenia, the birthplace of first lady Melania Trump, the right-wing prime minister, Janez Jansa, claimed it was “pretty clear that American people have elected Donald Trump,” but he was a lonely voice among leaders in jumping ahead of any firm outcome.
The German vice chancellor, Olaf Scholz, insisted on a complete tally, saying: “It is important for us that everything be counted and in the end we have a clear result.”
And the German defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said that “the battle over the legitimacy of the result — whatever it will look like — has now begun.”
“This is a very explosive situation. It is a situation of which experts rightly say it could lead to a constitutional crisis in the U.S.,” she said on ZDF television. “That is something that must certainly worry us very much.”
In financial markets, investors who’d been hoping for a clearer outcome struggled to make sense of it all, sending indexes bobbing up and down. Industry lobbying groups in Germany and Japan, both U.S. trading partners, warned that sustained uncertainty could be bad for business.
Traditional U.S. allies clung to the belief that regardless of whether Trump or Biden emerged victorious, the fundamentals that have long underpinned some of America’s key relationships would prevail.
“Whatever the result of the election, they will remain our allies for many years and decades, that is certain,” said Thierry Breton, the European Union’s commissioner for its internal market.
In the vacuum, there was also points-scoring, with some in Russia, Africa and elsewhere claiming that the electoral process was exposing the imperfections of American democracy.
“Africa used to learn American democracy, America is now learning African democracy,” tweeted Nigerian Sen. Shehu Sani, reflecting a common view from some on a continent long used to troubled elections and U.S. criticism of them.
In Zimbabwe, the ruling ZANU-PF party’s spokesman, Patrick Chinamasa, said: “We have nothing to learn about democracy from former slave owners.”
But others said U.S. electors distinguished themselves by voting in great numbers in the midst of the pandemic.
“That would be a remarkable story for democracy, no matter what the result is,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, an international relations expert at the Chatham House think tank in London. “But if what we see in the next few days is a contested election, a president alleging fraud, people on the ground descending into some sort of fighting over the results, trying to block counting, then I think we’re in a wholly different situation.”
10 a.m. UPDATE
WASHINGTON — America woke up this morning without a winner of the presidential election. That’s OK.
Critical battleground states including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania remained without declared winners, leaving both President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden short of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.
This isn’t necessarily a surprise. In a year turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, many states made it easier to vote by mail, and millions chose to do so rather than venturing out to cast ballots in person. That meant a slowdown in the tabulation of results because votes received by mail often take longer to process than ballots cast at polling places.
And the closer the margin in a state is, the more votes are needed for The Associated Press to declare a winner.
There are also roughly 20 states that allow ballots received after Election Day to be counted if they were postmarked by the day of the election. That includes Pennsylvania, one of the key outstanding states.
Some states, including Florida, began counting absentee ballots days before Election Day — and had definitive results within hours of the polls closing. The AP declared Trump the winner in Florida.
The abundance of absentee ballots also has thrown into doubt historical norms, making the arc of the race harder to determine — though one political narrative that held for sure is that the country remains evenly divided between both parties.
None of that means there is anything wrong with the results, or any reason to doubt the vote-counting process. It just means the country doesn’t know who won the presidential election for the time being.
And we don’t yet know when we’ll know.
The delay doesn’t signify a positive for one side or the other — even though it has provoked radically different reactions from each.
Biden took an outdoor stage in Delaware shortly before 1 a.m. today and said the country needed more time to determine its next president, declaring, “Your patience is commendable.”
“We knew because of the unprecedented early vote, the mail-in vote, that it was going to take awhile,” Biden said. “We’re going to have to be patient until the hard work of tallying the votes is finished, and it ain’t over until every vote is counted.”
Trump spent months railing against expanding mail-in voting and suggesting without evidence that it could lead to widespread fraud, while imploring with equal fervor that the election should have a result on the same night the polls closed. In the early morning hours of today, he told a crowd of cheering supporters at the White House that he would challenge the election results before the Supreme Court, though it was unclear exactly what type of legal challenge he was proposing.
That prompted a statement from Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillion, who said: “If the president makes good on his threat to go to court to try to prevent the proper tabulation of votes, we have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort. And they will prevail.”
Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end.
The U.S. has endured a presidential race without an immediate winner before. In 2000, a Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 12 — more than a month after Election Day — ended the Florida recount and awarded the presidency to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore.
This time, media outlets including The Associated Press and others frequently warned a delayed verdict could occur — suggesting that an election where campaigning was so disrupted wouldn’t escape seeing its conclusion get scrambled as well.
9 a.m. UPDATE
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Legal challenges and a mountain of uncounted ballots promised a long watch today to find out who the people of Pennsylvania chose as president, even as a host of other major races in the state — including for several congressional seats, statewide officers and the Legislature — remained unresolved.
Voters turned out in large numbers for an election that produced few of the glitches some had feared. But the state’s decision to greatly expand mail-in voting means it could still be days before it’s clear whether President Donald Trump repeated his surprise Pennsylvania victory from four years ago or whether native son Joe Biden would collect its 20 electoral votes, the most of any state yet to be called by The Associated Press.
Some of Pennsylvania’s most heavily populated counties, including Philadelphia and suburban counties like Montgomery, Chester and Delaware, were tabulating votes around the clock. Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, said it would resume the count at 9 a.m. CST.
“What’s most important is that we have accurate results and that every vote is counted, even if that takes a little longer,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said after polls closed. “So I’m urging Pennsylvania to just to remain calm, be patient, stay united on election night and in the days ahead.”
Hearings were scheduled today in two Election Day lawsuits filed by Republicans, both seeking to prevent voters whose mail-in ballots were disqualified for technical reasons from fixing it or casting a new ballot. One is in federal court in Philadelphia, the other is in a statewide appellate court that sits in the state capital of Harrisburg.
Republicans and a voter filed a federal lawsuit accusing officials in suburban Philadelphia’s Montgomery County of illegally processing mail-in ballots before Tuesday for the purpose of allowing voters to fix problems with their ballots.
A federal judge in Philadelphia set a hearing for this morning on the bid to stop the count of 49 ballots that were amended and returned there.
But the state’s highest court has not prohibited counties from allowing voters to fix their ballots, said Kelly Cofrancisco, a county spokesperson.
“We believe in doing whatever we can to afford those who have legally requested and returned a ballot a fair opportunity to have their vote count,” Cofrancisco said.
Also, in a lawsuit filed Tuesday night in a statewide appellate court, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and five other plaintiffs asked to block counties from allowing voters whose mail-in ballots were disqualified to be able to cast a vote by provisional ballot.
The lawsuit said the state Supreme Court has already ruled that state law provides no such avenue for a voter to fix a disqualified vote. In Oct. 21 guidance to counties, state elections officials said a voter whose mail-in or absentee ballot was rejected could still vote in person by a provisional ballot.
The state’s top election official, Kathy Boockvar, insisted that the practice singled out by the lawsuit is legal. Regardless, she said there aren’t “overwhelming” numbers of voters who cast provisional ballots after their mail-in ballots were disqualified, but she did not give an exact figure.
The state Supreme Court — citing Postal Service delays, the huge number of people voting by mail because of the pandemic and the strain on county boards of election — ordered counties to count mail-in ballots received as many as three days after the vote, so long as they were mailed by Election Day.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Republican effort to block the counting of late-arriving mail-in votes, but it could revisit the issue.
Trump has tried to sow doubt about the fairness of the election, saying the only way Democrats could win Pennsylvania is to cheat. Without evidence, he said Monday that the three-day period for mailed ballots would allow “rampant and unchecked cheating” and would induce street violence.
And early tosday, he stated without evidence that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election. He also falsely said votes could not be cast after polls closed.
Later in an appearance at the White House, he made premature claims of victory and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court. It was unclear exactly what legal action he might try to pursue.
The unrest he predicted did not materialize in Pennsylvania, but scattered voting issues included problems with voting machines and tardy poll workers.
A judge ordered a polling place in Scranton, Democrat Biden’s hometown, to remain open an additional 45 minutes because machines had been briefly out of commission earlier in the day.
All of Pennsylvania’s 18 members of Congress sought reelection, and in early results, at least 12 won — Republicans Kelly, John Joyce, Fred Keller, Guy Reschenthaler, Glenn Thompson, Lloyd Smucker and Dan Meuser; and Democrats Mike Doyle, Dwight Evans, Brendan Boyle, Mary Gay Scanlon and Madeleine Dean.
A pair of Democratic incumbents, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Treasurer Joe Torsella, sought reelection, while Pennsylvanians also voted for a new auditor general to replace term-limited Democrat Eugene DePasquale.
Control of the state House was also at stake. Democrats went into the election needing nine seats to seize the majority from Republicans after a decade out of power, but lost at least one incumbent in early returns. First-term Rep. Wendy Ullman of Bucks County in the Philadelphia suburbs was defeated by Republican Shelby Labs.
Democrats also saw hopes of regaining a state Senate majority become dimmer as Republican Devlin Robinson unseated Democratic Sen. Pam Iovino in a suburban Pittsburgh district.
Lines were long around the state. In chilly Philadelphia, Shavere McLean, 36, bundled up and brought coffee, a chair and snacks as she waited to vote for Biden, saying, “I just want a better leader, someone who cares about everyone.”
In the Delaware River town of Milford, cars honked at Gail Just, 70, as she held a Trump-Pence sign, saying she supports Trump because he “gets things done.”
6 a.m. UPDATE
MADISON, Wis. — President Donald Trump and Joe Biden were locked in a tight race in Wisconsin as vote-counting stretched past midnight, and the nation’s eyes turned to the same Midwestern battlegrounds that decided the election four years ago.
Trump and Biden were running close as counties around the state coped with a flood of absentee ballots prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 1 million people resorted to mail-in voting, ensuring they could cast a ballot safely but raising the prospect that counting them all would take much longer than usual.
Congressional races were also on the ballot, and Democrats were intent on staving off a GOP supermajority in the Legislature that could strip the governor, Tony Evers, of any real veto power.
A look at key candidates, races, election mechanics and legal fights that shaped the campaign season:
Biden was hoping to reclaim the state from Trump after the president won it by less than 23,000 votes in 2016. Trump’s victory marked the first time a Republican had captured the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Coupled with his wins in the other “blue wall” states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, Wisconsin propelled him to the White House.
Trump’s narrow margin from four years ago gave Democrats hope they could flip the state for Biden, and they mounted an intense get out-the-vote effort, especially in liberal areas that did not turn out strongly in 2016. Polls consistently showed Biden leading Trump as Democrats bashed the president for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
They were locked in a close race as counting stretched from Tuesday night into early today. With nearly all votes counted, Biden had a lead of less than three-tenths of a percentage point over Trump, a margin narrow enough to allow Trump to request a recount if it stands.
Democrat Ron Kind was in a close race to win a 13th term in his western Wisconsin seat against Republican Derrick Van Orden. Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald easily defeated Democrat Tom Palzewicz to win the southeastern Wisconsin seat vacated by Republican James Sensenbrenner’s retirement.
Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore handily defeated Republican Tim Rogers to retain her seat representing Milwaukee and its suburbs. Republican incumbent Tom Tiffany defeated Democrat Tricia Zunker in northern Wisconsin’s 7th District. Incumbents Mark Pocan, Bryan Steil, Glenn Grothman and Mike Gallagher all retained their seats. Pocan is a Democrat. Grothman, Steil and Gallagher are Republicans.
Thanks largely to favorable district boundaries they drew, Republicans have had a stranglehold on the state Senate and Assembly for the last decade, and that seemed unlikely to change. They went into Election Day with an 18-13 edge in the Senate and a 63-34 advantage in the Assembly. Democrats’ main goal was preventing Republicans from gaining a two-thirds majority in both houses. That would enable the GOP to override any veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, allowing Republicans to advance their agenda at will. Democrats have handed nearly $2 million to their incumbents in a half-dozen swing districts in hopes of blunting the Republicans’ attack. One of those incumbents, Sen. Patty Schachtner, lost her seat to Republican state Rep. Rob Stafsholt, but dozens of other races were still in play early this morning, and it was too early to tell if Democrats would be able to block the GOP push.
The run-up to the election was marked by plenty of court battles as Democrats and Republicans struggled for advantage. Democrats and allied groups went to court and won a nearly weeklong extended counting period for absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day. But a federal appeals court handed Republicans a win by striking that down. Trump’s persistent but baseless claims of fraud in mail-in voting led both sides to brace for potential legal challenges well beyond Election Day.