What usually happens?
US presidential elections are not won by national popular vote. The winner in each state collects their votes in the Electoral College – and needs a total of 270 to win the White House.
In most elections, the outcome is clear – but not officially confirmed – at the end of the night. The mainstream US media “calls out” every state for one of the candidates. Although not based on the final vote count, this projection is almost invariably accurate.
This means that an accurate count of the electoral colleges can be made and a winner declared. In 2016, it happened at 2:30 a.m. in Washington when Trump hit the 270 required.
Why is it not happening this time?
Due mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of voters – around 68% of the total, up from 34% in 2016 – voted early, including by mail.
The counting of postal votes is slower because the signatures and addresses of voters and witnesses must be verified and the ballots smoothed before being fed into the counting machines. Some states begin this verification process well in advance of polling day, which means that the count itself can begin as soon as the polls close.
However, there has been no early treatment in several key battlefield states this year, as Republican-led state legislatures have denied urgent requests by local election officials to pass new laws to allow more time for processing ballots. Such a refusal in Pennsylvania has created huge backlogs in cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, which have grown from 6,000 mail-in ballots in 2016 to more than 350,000 this year.
What states are we talking about?
Five states have yet to be called: Alaska, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and Fox News’ decision-making office, called Arizona for Joe Biden. The Trump campaign maintains, however, that the call was made too early.
Alaska will end up in the Republican column with virtual certainty.
The race is extremely tight in Georgia. The latest batch of votes returned from Clayton County, which is part of the Metro Atlanta area, saw the votes crash sharply for Biden and give him 917 votes ahead with nearly 20,000 missing ballots and missing ballots. other provisional ballots still to be counted.
The Democratic challenger is in the lead Nevada, with only late Democratic-leaning postal bulletins to count. But according to state law, postmarked ballots on Election Day can be counted as long as they are received by 5 p.m. on November 10, which means the count in the state could continue over the weekend.
In North Carolina, while Trump is clearly the frontrunner, the state is accepting mail-in ballots until Nov. 12 – though that should make little difference.
Biden reduced Trump’s lead to just over 18,000 Pennsylvania in the wee hours of Friday. He won the mail-in ballot count by huge margins and could very well take the state. Pennsylvania officials say they expect most votes to be counted by Friday.
What complicates things?
About half of all states will accept postal votes that arrive after election day as long as they are postmarked by November 3, so mailing delays can mean some ballots fail. will be processed a few days later: Pennsylvania said the results would not be considered to complete until Friday’s deadline.
There has also reportedly been an increase in the number of provisional ballots issued by people who requested a postal vote, but then decided to attend the polling station in person. These should be carefully checked to make sure that no one has voted twice.
The very great unknown: a contested result
In the 2000 race, Democratic candidate Al Gore lost Florida by just over 500 votes out of a total of nearly 6 million, costing him the election. After a contested recount and a Supreme Court ruling, George W. Bush was declared the winner.
More than 300 lawsuits have already been filed for alleged violations of electoral law in the 2020 elections, according to reports, and more can be expected due to accusations of postal ballot irregularities and changes in voting rights. voting rules due to the pandemic.
Trump and his campaign have already filed lawsuits this week to stop the vote count in Pennsylvania and Georgia (which have yet to be called by the Associated Press) and Michigan, which the PA called on Biden. Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed the campaign’s lawsuits on Thursday.
Trump’s campaign has also called for a recount in Wisconsin, which the PA called for Biden.
There is no evidence that campaign legal challenges will affect the outcome of the election under the law.