Biden wins Pennsylvania, captures 20 electoral votes; set to become President-elect of the U.S.; Harris to make history as vice president

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(*This story was updated at 12:23 p.m., on Saturday, 11/7/20 with comment from President-elect Joe Biden and information about the statement released by President Donald Trump.)

Capping a political comeback story, former Vice President Joe Biden carried Pennsylvania on Saturday, beating President Donald Trump, as he captured the state’s 20 electoral votes, making him President-elect of the United States, multiple news outlets reported.

The Associated Press called the race for Biden at just before 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.  Unofficial returns showed Biden leading Trump 49.6  percent to 49.1 percent in a state that Trump flipped to the Republican column in 2016 for the first time since former President George H.W. Bush won the White House in 1988.

In a statement, Biden said he was “honored and humbled by by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America.

“With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal,” Biden continued. “We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”

In a statement, Trump said he was not accepting the results, CNN reported.

Biden had 273 electoral votes to Trump’s 214, NBC News reported SaturdayBiden went into Friday morning trailing Trump by about 18,000 votes, according to the Washington Post. Over the weekend, he steadily widened that lead.

With the win, Biden’s running-mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris, of Califronia, is set to become the nation’s first woman vice president, and the first woman of Black and Asian descent to hold the post.

On Twitter, Harris posted a video of herself calling Biden and congratulating him on his victory.

“We did it,” Harris says.

Biden’s win capped a laborious and dramatic weeklong vote count punctuated by a barrage of litigation by Trump’s campaign, and repeated, and baseless, claims by Trump that Democrats had conspired to steal the election.

Trump’s remarks earned him a rare public rebuke from U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who told CBS This Morning on Friday that Trump’s remarks were “very disturbing.”

“The president’s speech last night was very disturbing to me because he made very, very serious allegations without any evidence to support it,” Toomey said, continuing, “I voted for President Trump. I endorsed President Trump. I want the next president to be the person who legitimately wins the Electoral College and I will accept the results.”

Biden, Trump, and their surrogates blitzed Pennsylvania with a series of in-person events in the race’s final days. Biden and his campaign parked in Pennsylvania on Nov. 2, the day before Election Day, finishing with a drive-in rally in Pittsburgh. Trump campaigned in Luzerne County, a county he flipped in 2016.

Pennsylvanians cast a record 3.2 million mail-in ballots, which county officials were not allowed to begin tabulating until 7 a.m. on Election Day after Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly failed to reach an agreement to extend the pre-canvassing deadline before the Legislature adjourned for its pre-Election Day recess last month.

Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, whose office oversees elections in the state, appealed for calm all week, urging Pennsylvanians to be patient as the vote count unfolded.

“No matter how they voted, we have very strong processes in place to make sure that voting integrity and security are constantly followed in every county in the state,” Boockvar said Thursday night.

Those ballots overwhelmingly favored Democrats, prompting a challenge from Republicans, who said Boockvar exceeded her authority by allowing counties to accept ballots up until 5 p.m. on Friday, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

Boockvar’s guidance was upheld by the state Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge prior to Election Day, but might still take up the matter.

Biden flipped back two counties, Northampton and Erie counties, that Trump won in 2016. As mail-in and absentee ballots were tallied by election officials, Biden took the lead over Trump by less than 1,000 votes in Erie County. But it was enough to turn the county blue.

The count in Pennsylvania has been marred by litigation filed by the Trump campaign, hoping to delay the counting of ballots or toss mail-in ballots, which have skewed for Biden.

The Trump campaign filed one suit to expand poll watchers access to Philadelphia’s counting facility. It won the case in a state appeals court, briefly delaying counting in the commonwealth’s largest city. The case is now under consideration by the state Supreme Court. A similar federal lawsuit was resolved last night.

One other suit, brought by two Republican candidates and GOP voters, argues that some counties unlawfully allowed voters to correct their mail-in ballots before Election Day. It is being heard by a state appeals court Friday morning.

There is also the potential that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn a state high court ruling that allows ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. It is not clear how many ballots that would impact, or if invalidating such ballots could swing the state from Biden to Trump.

Such ballots are being segregated and counted separately under guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Legal experts told the Capital-Star last month that the U.S. Supreme Court would likely only step in if their decision could sway the outcome of the election. With such states as Nevada, Arizona and Georgia still to be decided, Pennsylvania’s final margin may not matter.

The ballots also took days to count because Pennsylvania counties could not begin to open and process mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. Just five other states have a similar policy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Negotiations between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republicans to extend the time available to counties fell apart over the GOP’s election security concerns.

And even with the chance to start on the morning of the election, some counties chose to wait until Wednesday to tackle mail-in ballots.

Capital-Star Associate Editor Cassie Miller,  Erie Correspondent Hannah McDonald, and staff reporter Stephen Caruso contributed reporting. 

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press
Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso is the Capital-Star's House reporter. He previously covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter. You can reach him at 845-891-4306.