Democrat candidate Joe Biden edged closer to victory over President Donald Trump in the United States presidential race on Thursday as election officials tallied votes in the handful of states that will determine the outcome.
The Republican president, who during the long and rancorous campaign attacked the integrity of the American voting system, has alleged fraud without providing evidence, filed lawsuits and called for at least one recount, Reuters said.
Some legal experts called the challenges a long shot unlikely to affect the eventual outcome of the election. As counting continued two days after Election Day, slowed by large numbers of mail-in ballots this year, Biden was leading in Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona and closing in on Trump in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Multiple Trump lawsuits and a recount request would have to succeed and find in some cases tens of thousands of invalid ballots to reverse the result if Biden does prevail. Some of the outstanding votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania were clustered in places expected to lean Democratic – like the Atlanta and Philadelphia areas.
In Georgia’s Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, officials said they expected to finish vote tallying on Thursday morning, with 10,000 absentee ballots left to count.
By early Thursday, Trump led by 19,000 votes out of nearly 5 million cast in the state.
Trump had to win the states where he was still ahead, including North Carolina, plus either Arizona or Nevada to triumph and avoid becoming the first incumbent US president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
The president appears to have grown more upset as his leads in some states have diminished or evaporated during the counting.
On Thursday morning, he weighed in on Twitter, writing, “STOP THE COUNT!” To capture the White House, a candidate must amass at least 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College
Such electoral votes are based largely on a state’s population. Edison Research gave Biden a 243 to 213 lead in Electoral College votes. Other networks said Biden had won Wisconsin, which would give him another 10 votes.
The counting and court challenges set the stage for days if not weeks of uncertainty before December 8, the deadline to resolve election disputes. The president is sworn into office on January 20, 2021.
Meanwhile, legal experts in the US have said that the Supreme Court may not be the final arbiter in the US election. They said it was doubtful that courts would entertain a bid by Trump to stop the counting of ballots that were received before or on Election Day, or that any dispute a court might handle would change the trajectory of the race in closely fought states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.
A handful of closely contested states could decide the outcome in the coming hours or days, as a large number of mail-in ballots cast amid the coronavirus pandemic appears to have drawn out the process.
However, legal experts said that while there could be objections to particular ballots or voting and counting procedures, it was unclear if such disputes would determine the final outcome. Ned Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University, said the current election does not have the ingredients that would create a situation like in the 2000 presidential race, when the Supreme Court ended a recount in George W. Bush’s favour against Democrat Al Gore.
“It’s extremely early on but at the moment it doesn’t seem apparent how this would end up where the US Supreme Court would be decisive,” Foley said.
Both Republicans and Democrats have amassed armies of lawyers ready to go to the mat in a close race. Biden’s team includes Marc Elias, a top election attorney at the firm Perkins Coie, and former Solicitors General Donald Verrilli and Walter Dellinger. Trump’s lawyers include Matt Morgan, the president’s campaign general counsel, Supreme Court litigator William Consovoy, and Justin Clark, senior counsel to the campaign. Trump attorney Jenna Ellis on Wednesday defended Trump’s bid to challenge the vote count and evaluate his legal options.
“If we have to go through these legal challenges that are not unprecedented,” Ellis told Fox Business Network in an interview. “He wants to make sure that the election is not stolen.”
The case closest to being resolved by the Supreme Court is the Pennsylvania dispute in which Republicans are challenging a September ruling by Pennsylvania’s top court allowing mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and received up to three days later to be counted.
The Supreme Court previously declined to fast-track an appeal by Republicans. But three conservative justices left open the possibility of taking up the case again after Election Day. Even if the court were to take up the case and rule for Republicans, it may not determine the final vote in Pennsylvania, as the case only concerns mail-in ballots received after November 3. David Boies, who represented Gore in 2000, said it was unlikely that the Trump campaign would succeed in a possible third effort to block the extended deadline.