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Biden-Trump counting presses ahead 2 days after Election Day

Last Updated Nov 5, 2020 at 9:43 pm EST

This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Patrick Semansky
Summary

Trump tried to press his case in court in some key swing states.


Two days after Election Day, neither candidate had amassed the votes needed to win the White House.


With millions of votes yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 71 million votes, the most in history.


Election officials in key battlegrounds pressed forward Thursday with presidential vote counting as Democrat Joe Biden urged patience and President Donald Trump pursued legal options with little success, insisting the processing of ballots should be stopped.

Trump lashed out Thursday evening in a performance that suggested he knew his prospects for a second term were slipping away.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” Trump claimed. In fact, there is no evidence that any votes cast illegally are being counted or that the process is unfair and corrupt.

The ballot-counting process across the country largely has been running smoothly with no evidence of widespread fraud or problems.

Trump delivered his statement before reporters in the White House briefing room and left without taking questions. It came after Trump and his allies spent a second day watching and waiting with the rest of the nation as vote totals pushed further in Biden’s direction in some key battlegrounds.

Biden, meanwhile, sought to project the appearance of a president, speaking briefly to reporters after attending a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday. He offered reassurance that the counting could be trusted and declared that “each ballot must be counted.”

“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” said Biden. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”

The different approaches unfolded as the nation waited to learn which man would collect the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. Biden’s victories in Michigan and Wisconsin put him in a commanding position, but Trump showed no sign of giving up. It could take several more days for the vote count to conclude and a clear winner emerge.

With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 72 million votes, the most in history.

Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.

Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits there on Thursday.

Biden has already won Michigan and Wisconsin. The contests in Georgia and Pennsylvania, along with Nevada and North Carolina, were tight with votes still being tabulated.

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”

Trump’s legal challenges faced long odds. He would have to win multiple suits in multiple states in order to stop vote counts, since more than one state was undeclared.

There were no obvious grounds for the Justice Department to attempt to intervene to stop a vote count at the state level, unless the federal government could somehow assert a violation of federal voting laws or the Constitution. The department could theoretically file a brief in support of a Trump campaign lawsuit if it believed there were federal concerns at stake, but that intervention would be extraordinary.

While Trump has insisted that ballot counting stop, it was unclear exactly what that included. Counting for votes received by Nov. 3 was continuing, but roughly 20 states allow ballots to be counted if postmarked by Nov. 3 but received in the days after. In some states that is as long as nine days, or even longer. Some of the deadline changes were made as a result of the pandemic, but others are just routine parts of state election laws. Trump has fixated on Pennsylvania, where the Supreme Court refused to stop a court’s ruling that allowed for a three-day extension.

He also said he was taking fraud claims to court – but most of the lawsuits only demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted. A judge in Georgia dismissed the campaign’s suit there less than 12 hours after it was filed. And a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump lawsuit over whether enough GOP challengers had access to handling of absentee ballots

Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the suits were legally “meritless.” Their only purpose, he said “is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”

It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed cases as several states posted all-time highs. The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.

Beyond the presidency, Democrats had hoped the election would allow the party to reclaim the Senate and pad its majority in the House. But while the voting scrambled seats in the House and Senate, it ultimately left Congress much like it began – deeply divided.

Jaffe reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Andrew Taylor in Washington and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.