After several days of grueling counts and both sides claiming victory, major news networks called the U.S. presidential election for Democrat Joe Biden Saturday, after awarding Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to the former vice president.
Biden is also expected to take Nevada, Arizona and, rather remarkably, Georgia, where the close election will likely trigger a recount.
It was a highly contentious election carried out during a pandemic that prompted a record turnout, with more than 74 million votes being cast for Biden and 70 million for Trump.
Biden, who previously ran unsuccessfully for president twice, will become the 46th person to occupy the Oval Office and will preside over a divided and polarized nation.
He will also have difficulties enacting a progressive agenda, as the Senate appears poised to remain in Republican control, although Democratic wins in closely contested elections in Georgia could split the chamber 50-50.
Republicans this year did better in the House than in 2018 when there was a blue wave. But projections across the country still have the Democrats retaining control of the House, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already indicated she will run for the leader of the Democratic contingent in the House again.
Biden has promised to be a president for all Americans, not just the Democratic constituency that sent him to the White House with a record number of votes.
Part of the reason Americans had to wait until the weekend to learn the winner was the sheer number of mail-in ballots that had to be counted in the states, as many people were frightened to cast votes in public with a highly contagious and deadly disease afoot.
With hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots around the country left to be counted after Election Day, the former vice president did not rush to claim victory.
Pennsylvania had continued canvassing ballots through multiple lawsuits filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign there and across the country to stop a process that it claims without evidence is fraudulent.
In the latest advancement of this legal saga, Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to grant an emergency injunction that would stop every county in the state from counting any more ballots. This challenge hinges on whether county election boards have been segregating mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day from those that arrived on or before Election Day.
Justice Samuel Alito issued a ruling Friday evening requiring Pennsylvania to set aside a certain amount of late-arriving ballots, but the number of those ballots is not thought to be consequential to the outcome.
Whether there was any duty to segregate at all is disputed, as state law permits ballots to be counted so long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. Even if all ballots that arrived between Wednesday and Friday are thrown out, Biden is said to have collected enough mail-in ballots that arrived by Election Day to win the state.
Meanwhile, Trump would not have a path to the 270-vote threshold for electoral college victory even if he secured all three states where early returns put him in the lead: Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia. He needed an upset in either Nevada or Arizona. For Biden, however, Pennsylvania alone put him at 273 electoral college votes.
The Trump campaign’s litigation led to a brief halt in the counting of ballots Thursday morning in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold where county officials had restricted access to vote-counting operations in the interest of privacy and safety.
Earlier that morning, a judge found that the observation area that the county had designated was too far from the action. She said COVID-19 safety protocols justified letting poll watchers get within 6 feet of anything they wanted to observe, but the ruling was put on hold as Democrats and the county appealed.
A federal judge denied the campaign an emergency injunction Thursday night.
Trump has been critical of Pennsylvania’s handling of the election ever since it extended the deadline for mail-in ballots to include anything postmarked on Election Day that arrives as late as Friday.
Before the election, and before Justice Amy Coney Barret began hearing cases, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to speed up its consideration of that issue in the case with the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
The Republicans’ latest filing says it is only a matter of when, not if, the justices take up their challenge. Saying there are four justices in agreement, the application also claims there is “‘a fair prospect’ that the court will then reverse the decision below.”
“Three justices have also stated that ‘there is a strong likelihood that the [Pennsylvania] Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,’” the filing continues. Trump had cited transparency as a basis to stop all vote counting in Pennsylvania, even as Philadelphia streamed the ballot-canvassing process live on YouTube. During Trump’s first presidential campaign in 2016, he said that he will embrace election results “if I win” but contest or file a challenge if he loses.
— By Matthew Renda