Democratic candidate Joe Biden continues to build on the razor-thin leads he gained early Friday over Republican President Donald Trump in the states of Georgia and Pennsylvania, where vote counting continues. While those races are still too close call, Biden is strongly positioned to win the U.S. presidential election.
The Trump campaign is disputing the results, saying in a statement Friday, "this election is not over." The campaign says the president will ultimately win as a result of expected recounts in close state races and its legal challenges based on unsubstantiated allegations of vote fraud and irregularities.
Biden currently leads in the popular vote and by a 253-214 margin in the crucial Electoral College, where 270 electoral votes are needed to claim the presidency for a four-year term.
In the U.S. system of indirect democracy, the popular vote winner in each state — with two exceptions, Maine and Nebraska — receives all of that state's electoral votes, which are allocated on the basis of population.
Winning Georgia's 16 electoral votes and Pennsylvania's 20 votes would give Biden 299 votes, comfortably surpassing the threshold needed to become president. Biden also holds leads in the states of Arizona and Nevada, which, if confirmed, would increase his total to 316 electoral votes.
Biden moved ahead of Trump in both Georgia and Pennsylvania on the strength of mail-in ballots that were cast in reliably Democratic areas such as the cities of Atlanta and Philadelphia. Those ballots were among the last to be counted.
Since he overtook Trump in Pennsylvania early Friday, Biden's lead in the popular vote in the state has grown to more than 13,500 votes, while in Georgia, he now has a 1,579-vote lead. Both margins are expected to increase as additional mail-in ballots are counted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Biden's election victory was "imminent," but called for patience as votes are tallied.
"The right to vote is a sacred right in our country. And having that vote counted as cast, it is the fundamental foundation of our democracy," Pelosi said during a news briefing Friday.
Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday there will be a recount in that state because Biden's lead there is less than 0.5% of the vote. Georgia officials said about 9,000 military and overseas ballots were still outstanding and could be accepted if they arrive on Friday and were postmarked on Tuesday or earlier.
The Trump campaign also called for a vote recount in Wisconsin, where Biden is winning by more than 20,000 votes.
Trump, without evidence, accused Democrats on Thursday of engineering massive fraud and irregularities to prevent him from winning reelection as president.
"This is a case where they are trying to steal an election, they're trying to rig an election, and we can't let that happen," he said during a White House news conference.
Trump accused state officials of barring his campaign from observing the vote count, called mail-in voting a "corrupt system" that lacks "any verification measures," and said he expects contested election litigation to end up in the Supreme Court. He also spoke without offering evidence of a "corrupt voting apparatus" in states led by Democratic governors.
Trump's unsubstantiated claims drew quick rebukes from some of the president's fellow Republicans.
Senator Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee who has been a Trump critic, said Friday on Twitter that Trump "is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen." He added that "doing so damages the cause of freedom" and "recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions."
Lawyers representing Trump and Republicans filed lawsuits alleging vote counting irregularities and demanding that the counting of mail-in ballots be halted in Pennsylvania, where an early Trump lead evaporated as more mail-in ballots were counted.
The vote count across the U.S. has been slowed by the vast number of mail-in ballots — about two-thirds of the more than 101 million ballots cast before Tuesday's official Election Day — and which are taking longer to count. Many people who voted by mail said they wanted to avoid long lines at polling stations on Tuesday and coming face to face with others amid the country's unchecked coronavirus pandemic.
Biden's campaign urged voting by mail, and the result is that his vote count has swelled in numerous states as those ballots are tallied. Trump mostly urged Election Day in-person voting by Republicans, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to an election rigged against him. Those ballots were generally counted earlier.
With most states already decided, Biden can secure victory by winning Pennsylvania or holding onto his lead in any two of the other states that are still considered too close to call: Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
To win reelection, Trump needs to hold onto Alaska and North Carolina — where he is comfortably ahead — and pick off at least three Biden-leaning states.
Biden leads the national popular vote 73.9 million to 69.8 million, with more than 150 million votes casts, the most ever in a U.S. election.