Joe Biden is close to securing enough electoral college votes to achieve what he called a “victory for the American people” early on Thursday, as Donald Trump pursued legal avenues to the White House.
After securing victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, some news agencies were calling Arizona for the Democrat – which if confirmed – would give him 264 electoral college votes, meaning he would need to secure one of Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina or his home state Pennsylvania to reach the necessary 270 to claim the country’s top position.
Mr Trump, however, must win all four states. He has begun legal action in three of them to either stop the counting of votes or insist his team be provided greater access to scrutinise the process.
- Election remains too close to call
- Counting set to continue into third day
- Arizona, Georgia, N Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania key to outcome
- Biden closer to securing 270 electoral college votes
- Trump takes legal action to stop vote counting
The president, seeking a second term in the White House, clocked up early victories in states including Florida, Ohio and Texas shortly after polls closed on Tuesday night. But Mr Biden outperformed the US president as absentee ballots began to be counted and focus turned to the three rust belt states that delivered victory for Mr Trump in 2016.
Mr Trump had earlier falsely claimed victory and threatened to go to the US Supreme Court, as he warned a “fraud on the American nation” was being carried out over the way votes were being counted.
Mr Biden’s campaign said the president’s extraordinary comments, made in the White House against a backdrop of US flags, were a “naked attempt to take away the democratic rights of American citizens”.
Mr Trump said Tuesday’s election, which was characterised by a high number of mail-in and early votes, in part due to the coronavirus crisis, had been “an embarrassment to our country”.
“We were getting ready to win this election — frankly we did win this election,” Mr Trump said.
The president announced that “we will be going to the US Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop”.
Later on Wednesday he claimed that it was “very strange” that “surprise ballot dumps” had eroded his overnight lead in key states.
“How come every time they count mail-in ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?” he said.
Mr Trump’s campaign requested a recount in Wisconsin, in addition to filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Michigan seeking to pause the vote count in those key battleground states. His campaign also filed suit in Georgia, asking for a judge to order election officials there to follow the law on storing and counting absentee ballots.
As counting looked set to continue for a third day, Mr Biden had significantly increased his possible routes to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election, while Mr Trump’s path to victory had narrowed. However, in tweets on Wednesday night, Mr Trump “claimed” the states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Michigan.
Mr Trump has nominated three of the Supreme Court’s nine justices — including, controversially, Amy Coney Barrett, whose appointment was confirmed just a week before the election.
It is unclear what, if any, legal basis the president would have, with Mr Biden’s camp insisting that the law required every “duly cast vote” to be counted.
Mr Biden said: “We won’t rest until everyone’s vote is counted.”
His campaign had been braced for Mr Trump to seize on record numbers of postal votes to allege he was being cheated.
Mr Biden’s campaign chief Jen O’Malley Dillon said the Democrat was on a “clear path to victory” and would “garner more votes than any presidential candidate in history”.
Among the remaining undeclared states, Georgia is a “toss-up” and North Carolina is “really tight” but “probably leaning towards Trump right now”.
Ms O’Malley Dillon said: “Last night the president of the United States falsely claimed that he had won this race and then demanded that votes stop being counted.
“The American people get to pick their president, the president does not get to pick the people whose votes get counted.”
Further results in Nevada, where the two candidates are neck and neck, will not be announced until Thursday, leaving six college votes up for grabs.
Mr Biden has painted the election as the “battle for the soul” of the nation, saying democracy itself is at stake. Mr Trump reprised his “Make America Great Again” mantra during the campaign.
Speaking in Delaware on Wednesday night, Mr Biden stopped short of declaring victory, but he predicted he would win the race once all the votes were counted. “I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to declare that, when the vote is completed, we will be the winners.” – PA