Battleground states count mail ballots, with Biden just shy of votes to clinch presidency

By: - November 5, 2020 3:40 pm

WASHINGTON — Two days after Election Day, the nation waited for vote-counting to finish in several critical states, where the tallying of mail ballots has left Democrat Joe Biden just short of the votes needed to become the next president.

Thursday’s updated totals could push Biden beyond the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory if the trends in the remaining battleground states continue. Biden’s staffers have expressed confidence that he will soon be declared the winner.

President Donald Trump has urged that vote-counting be halted as his legal team filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada. They also filed suit in Michigan, which news outlets called Wednesday for Biden. A judge dismissed the suit Thursday. Meanwhile, Pro-Trump protesters gathered in Georgia and in Arizona, where some were armed, including several with rifles, the Arizona Mirror reported.

Here are some questions—and answers—about where to watch and what’s left to be tallied:

How’s Pennsylvania doing with its huge number of mail ballots to count?

Counting has been slow but steady in Pennsylvania, where those mail ballots dramatically shrunk Trump’s lead in the state. As of noon Thursday, Trump led by Biden by 116,000 votes, or 1.8% of the overall vote.

Even as that margin dwindled, Trump’s campaign maintained that they believe Trump will again win Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, arguing there are enough outstanding votes in Republican-leaning counties in addition to the 100,000 left in Philadelphia.

But mail ballots tallied so far have trended toward Biden, and Democrats have expressed confidence that the former vice president will end up with a vote margin of 100,000 or more in Pennsylvania. State data showed 581,000 mail ballots left as of noon Thursday, though that data lags behind county websites.

“It is looking like we’ll have the overwhelming majority counted by today,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told CNN on Thursday.

The president’s legal team also won a court battle to have its observers closer to the vote-tallying tables at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported. That ruling briefly halted counting as city officials scrambled to accommodate it, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Vote-counting also was paused in Allegheny County—home to Pittsburgh— due to legal issues surrounding some 29,000 ballots that were incorrectly mailed to voters. Those votes and another 6,000 with other issues aren’t expected to be counted until at least Friday.

Will Biden flip Georgia blue?

The mail-ballot counting in Georgia had nearly erased Trump’s lead there as of noon Thursday, when updated totals showed Trump ahead by just 14,000 votes.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger tweeted Thursday that there were 50,401 ballots left as of 12:45 p.m.

Earlier on Thursday, the uncounted tally included 17,000 ballots in Chatham County, home to the city of Savannah. The Trump campaign had filed a lawsuit over 53 absentee ballots in Chatham County, arguing those ballots were received after the deadline. That suit was dismissed Thursday morning.

Outside Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, where Fulton County ballots were being counted, Trump protesters chanted “Stop the steal,” the Georgia Recorder tweeted.

What about Arizona, which some outlets called for Biden?

Biden led by about 68,000 votes as of Thursday morning, a narrower margin after updated results from Maricopa County favored Trump.

Those results were released after a tense evening outside the Maricopa County Elections Department, where a crowd of Trump supporters gathered, the Arizona Mirror reported. Some of those protesters were armed, and harassed reporters covering the vote-counting.

The Associated Press and Fox News have called Arizona for Biden, though other news outlets have categorized it as too close to call.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said Thursday morning that roughly 450,000 votes remained to be tallied.

How wide is the margin in Nevada? 

New numbers released midday Thursday boosted Biden’s lead there to 12,000 votes, up from a lead of less than 9,000 votes Wednesday morning, the Nevada Current reported.

In the state’s largest county, Clark County, there are at least 63,262 ballots left to be counted, according to the Current.

Nevada law allows ballots received up to seven days after Election Day to be counted, so long as those ballots were postmarked on or before Election Day.

Trump’s campaign also is seeking legal recourse there, challenging what his legal team claimed were voting “irregularities,” such as ballots from non-residents or deceased residents.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura Olson covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.