San Francisco Chronicle
States’ votes add to Biden momentum
Mail ballot counts slow — most favor Dem ticket
WASHINGTON — In a presidential election where nearly 150 million votes were cast, the nation was fixated late Thursday on a few thousand of them.
With protesters chanting outside their windows and livestream cameras trained on them inside, ballot counters worked overnight in key battleground states as vote results trickled in — sometimes in batches of mere hundreds at a time. But the trend in the numbers was steady: growing for Democrat Joe Biden and lessening the likelihood of President Trump’s reelection.
Most of the remaining suspense involved the votecounting processes in key battleground states.
But the contrast in leadership styles of the two candiKey
dates was also on display. Biden went before the cameras, as he has done each day since Tuesday, to project confidence but urge patience.
Trump, who had not spoken publicly since Tuesday, continued to spread false and unsubstantiated information about the election being “stolen” and “rigged” during a 15minute address Thursday in the White House briefing room.
Trump said that in the contested states that could decide the election, “the voting apparatus of those states are run in all cases by Democrats.” In fact, in Georgia and Nevada, the secretaries of state are both Republicans.
Trump said that “there’s no question about that in Philadelphia, observers have been kept far away, very far away. So far that people are using binoculars to try to see.” But in fact, the ballot counting in Philadelphia is being livestreamed, as it is in Maricopa County, the most populous county in Arizona.
“We think there’s going to be a lot of litigation, because we have so much evidence, so much proof and it’s going to end up, perhaps at the highest court in the land,” Trump said. “We can’t have an election stolen like this.”
The bipartisan National Council on Election Security, which includes Trump's former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, said “there is absolutely no basis for these irresponsible claims.”
“The president spent 15 minutes using the podium of the White House to make false claims that undermine the integrity of our elections and do a disservice to the hardworking election officials around the nation who have performed their duties admirably,” the group said in a statement. “Our constitutional process demands we count every vote.”
Tweeted former GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennyslvania: “President Trump’s White House statement tonight about voter fraud in PA was simply reprehensible. Truth is he suppressed his own vote by discouraging mail in voting. Self inflicted damage and political malpractice.”
Biden, by contrast, encouraged Americans to let the count proceed without interference.
In remarks in Delaware after receiving a briefing on the coronavirus Thursday, Biden said that “each ballot must be counted. And that’s what we’re going through now. And that’s how it should be.”
He continued: “Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years, the system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.”
Biden said that he had no doubt that he and his runnig mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, who stood nearby, “will be declared winners” when all the votes are counted.
He urged Americans to “stay calm,” saying, “The process is working.”
The states still being contested were Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina. Biden was in the lead in Nevada and Arizona and trailing in the others, though ongoing vote tabulations favored him in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
The latter states were working furiously Thursday to report results. Pennsylvania, which faced more than 1 million mailin ballots to count after election night, had narrowed that number into the low hundreds of thousands by Thursday afternoon. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told CNN the state was running ahead of schedule and hoped to have the “overwhelming majority” of outstanding ballots counted Thursday.
Georgia was working to count tens of thousands of votes after missing predicted deadlines to complete its tabulation, but work was slow. One pivotal county with 17,000 ballots remaining to be counted had only two scanners at its facility, CNN reported.
In both states, the trickle of data kept moving the needle in Biden’s direction.
In Georgia, Trump led Biden by fewer than 2,000 votes with 99% of all ballots counted. In Pennsylvania, with hundreds of thousands of ballots remaining uncounted, the margin was just under 23,000.
Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina were taking different approaches. Rather than steadily updated results, counting was progressing slowly and new totals released only in batches.
A Thursday morning update from Nevada showed Biden’s lead had grown to nearly 12,000 votes. A further release was not expected until Friday.
Arizona, on the other hand, had tightened in Trump’s favor late Wednesday night. The Associated Press projected Biden the winner of Arizona on Tuesday, though the Trump campaign insisted the president could still win it. Hundreds of thousands of ballots in the state remained to be counted, with Biden ahead by fewer than 70,000, mainly from Democratic areas. The nature of remaining ballots was unknown, however, and early results broke in Trump’s favor enough for him to close the gap.
Still, Biden’s campaign manager said Thursday that the former vice president’s team remained confident he would win the presidency in the end. She said the campaign’s data analysis showed Biden would win Pennsylvania, hold Nevada and Arizona, and possibly overtake Trump in Georgia. North Carolina, where Trump leads and updated vote totals are not being provided regularly, will probably go to Trump, the Biden campaign believed.
“Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years, the system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.” Joe Biden, Democratic presidential candidate during vote counting
The Trump campaign also claimed it would prevail, but rested that assertion on baseless claims of improper vote counting. Trump continued to use Twitter to make unspecific claims of “fraud” in voting results that were not based in facts; the social network limited many of his tweets with a warning about misinformation. Courts also began sorting through several legal challenges filed by the campaign, many demanding greater transparency in vote tabulation, with the courts dismissing some of them.
In states where Trump was behind and could come back, the president and his supporters demanded counting continue. In states where Biden was closing the gap, however, they demanded the tallying stop.
Following on the president’s angry missives on social media, the furor of his supporters and energized news conferences by his surrogates, groups of protesters gathered at key vote counting locations around the country. In Phoenix, after an angry group amassed Wednesday night, officials installed a fence in the parking lot with a sign declaring it a free speech zone.
Election officials in battleground states gave television interviews and held news conferences Thursday urging the public to remain calm and respect the process. They emphasized the importance of accuracy over speed and warned against demonstrations that could disrupt the counting process.
With slow counting and reporting of results and other delays — like legal challenges and particular procedures being required that was holding up counting of 30,000 votes from a key Pennsylvania county until Friday — no official determination of the presidential race appeared imminent Thursday.
Biden had several plausible paths to election, however, while Trump had few. If Biden holds his leads in Arizona and Nevada, he would reach the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win. If he overtook Trump in Pennsylvania, as many experts predict, that state alone would put him over 270. And a win in Georgia, in combination with victories in either Arizona or Nevada, would also give Biden the White House.
Whoever wins the presidential race will likely have to wait to see which party will control the Senate. Both Senate races in Georgia are projected to head to runoff elections on Jan. 5, while the parties are tied at 48 seats each. Two other races where Republican candidates lead remain uncalled.