With mailed-in votes still being counted in key ‘Battleground States’ through the night of November 3, neither U.S. President Donald Trump nor Democratic candidate Joe Biden emerged victorious after a fiercely fought election for the Presidency of a deeply troubled and polarised country.
On Wednesday morning, Americans, some bleary eyed, some frustrated, some resigned and others hopeful, prepared for days of uncertainty and legal battles over the results.
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The country is in the throes of a raging pandemic with close to 2,35,000 dead and high levels of unemployment.
Though local governments and the private sector prepared for civil unrest going into Election Day, no major incidents of violence were reported.
The turnout was expected to be 65% — the highest in more than 120 years as per election data tracker, the U.S. Elections Project. A record-breaking 100 million plus Americans voted early, including by mail.
Despite both candidates still having a shot at the 270 of 538 Electoral College votes needed to win, Mr. Trump prematurely and falsely declared victory at 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election,” Mr. Trump said, adding he would go to the Supreme Court to stop “voting” [counting].
Mr. Biden expressed optimism that he could still win the race. “I’m here to tell you tonight, we believe we’re on track to win this election,” he told supporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday night.
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“As I’ve said all along, it’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who has won this election,” Mr. Biden said.
“That’s the decision of the American people.”
Also read: What might happen if U.S. election result is disputed?
Mr. Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon sent out an email shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday, saying that the Biden camp would counter any legal challenges to counting by Mr.Trump.
The battle for the White House was very much still in progress close to noon on Wednesday, with results for key swing States still not declared. The Associated Press declared Mr. Biden the winner of Arizona at 2.50 a.m. on Wednesday (while some other agencies continued to show Mr. Biden in the lead but did not call the State).
Mr. Trump held on to Florida — a State the winner has taken in the last six Presidential elections. Democrats invested much in campaigning in Florida and had hoped to win its 29 Electoral College votes. With its loss, the journey to 270 became harder for Mr. Biden.
In addition to doing well with white voters in the State, Mr. Trump was backed by Latinos — including Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans as per exit polls. While Mr. Biden won Miami-Dade county — where there is a concentration of Latinos — Mr. Trump ate into his vote share there.
Mr. Trump also retained Ohio and Iowa. He finished strongly in Texas — which Democrats had hoped to win banking on the fact that some 60% of the red state’s electorate cast early ballots; Democrats tend to vote early relative to Republicans, who tend to vote on Election Day. The state however had not significantly expanded mail-in voting.
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin - “Blue Wall” states that flipped from Democrats in 2016 and carried Mr. Trump to the White House – were still in play mid-morning (Washington time) on Wednesday. By the early afternoon, with a lead of about 20,000 Mr. Biden looked like he was on track to win Wisconsin , with its 10 electoral votes. The Trump campaign announced that they would seek a recount in the State.
Both candidates intensely courted voters in Pennsylvania in the last week of the campaign, with an eye on the State’s 20 Electoral College votes. The State is a mix of rural areas that support Mr. Trump and urban and suburban areas where Democrats are strong. The President had a wafer thin majority over Hillary Clinton in 2016, flipping a state that had voted Democrat since 1998.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump led Mr. Biden in Pennsylvania by almost 10 percentage points at the time of this writing. However, hundreds of thousands of votes were still being counted – the State has until the end of Friday to complete their count.
In Michigan – with 94% of the counting done and mailed-in ballots being still being tallied, Mr. Biden had squeaked ahead of Mr. Trump, winning 49.3% of the vote versus Mr. Trump’s 49.6% of the vote versus Mr. Trump’s 48.7% at the time of filing this report. The President had flipped this long-time blue State in 2016 but Mr. Biden had lead in the State in opinion polls going into Tuesday.
“Most likely, Biden won, we just need to finish counting all the legally cast ballots,” Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political Science professor who runs the United States Election Project, told The Hindu via email on Wednesday morning. The Hindu had asked Mr. McDonald what it would take for either Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump to win.
Republicans likely to retain Senate and Democrats, the House
All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, currently controlled by the Democrats, were up for re-election. Democrats were expected to keep control of the House, which they took from Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. At the time of filing this report, Republicans had flipped 7 seats, a net gain of 5, with Democrats flipping 2 seats.
In the 100-member U.S. Senate where the GOP has a 53-47 majority, 35 seats were up for re-election. The Republicans are expected to keep control of the Senate, with Democrats flipping two seats (Colorado, Arizona) a net gain of one seat, as Republicans flipped one seat (Alabama).