Democratic nominee keeps lead in 4 key states
WILMINGTON, Delaware – Joe Biden, inching closer to victory after a bitter presidential election, appealed Friday to Americans to turn the page on divisions as a seething President Donald Trump warned him not to declare victory.
As trickling returns from Pennsylvania and three other states made Trump’s path to a second term increasingly unlikely, Biden repeated that he believed he would win but said he would wait for the process to complete.
Instead, Biden delivered a late-night address with the tone of a president-elect and vowed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as new cases Friday hit a new high of more than 127,000 cases.
“We must put the anger – and the demonization – behind us. It’s time for us to come together as a nation and heal,” Biden said in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware accompanied by his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
“My responsibility as president will be to represent the whole nation,” he said, drawing a stark contrast with Trump’s nearly four years of rule by provocation.
Biden spoke as US media began reporting that White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, 61, had contracted the virus – underscoring the criticism directed at the president for months over his administration’s handling of the crisis.
Meadows first tested positive on Wednesday, a day after the election, according to The New York Times.
Biden said he and Harris had already been meeting experts on how to control the “skyrocketing” cases of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 230,000 lives in the United States, more than in any other country.
“I want everyone to know that on Day One, we are going to put our plan to control this virus into action, Biden said.
“That can’t save any of the lives that have been lost, but it will save a lot of lives in the months ahead.”
Biden keeps lead in 4 key states
Biden maintained his lead as elections officials in four key states plowed through ballots Friday, but enough ballots remained outstanding that it was too soon to definitively call a win in any of the states.
His lead was tightest in Georgia, where he was separated from Trump by just 4,020 votes early Saturday, close enough that the race will likely be headed for a recount.
In Pennsylvania, his erstwhile home state, Biden’s lead was at 28,877 early Saturday, bolstered by results from Philadelphia that came in during the day. He also led in Nevada, where he was ahead of Trump by 22,657 votes early Saturday.
Biden’s lead in Arizona, which has shrunk somewhat as ballots were counted, was 29,861 as of early Saturday.
While Biden spoke to the nation Friday night, Trump made no public remarks but made vague accusations regarding military ballots and other voting procedures on Twitter.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the president,” Trump tweeted. “I could make that claim also.”
Mail-in voting law slows results
A new law that sent ballots to all registered voters because of the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the slow pace of election results in Nevada, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state said Friday.
Nevada has historically favored in-person voting, said the spokeswoman, Jennifer Russell. In the 2016 election, only 6% of voters cast mail-in ballots, according to state data.
This year, however, at least 46% of voters voted using mail ballots, according to data put out by the state on Friday. Only 10% of the ballots so far emerged from Election Day turnout. The rest were cast in-person, but early. Those breakdowns are likely to change as ballots postmarked Election Day continue to arrive and be processed.
All this means a lot of paper for the state’s first crack at the new system, with every mail-in ballot requiring a meticulous review and tabulation process.
In Clark County, home to Las Vegas and 90% of the state’s currently uncounted 124,500 votes, the process includes a digital scan, signature verification, and reviews by bipartisan pairs of election officials of ballots with legibility or other issues.
Mail-in ballots are cross-checked with other counties and even other states to ensure no vote is counted twice. Dealing with a barrage of lawsuits from the Trump campaign has also taken up time for county officials.
Seeking court action
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Republicans made a last-ditch pitch for emergency intervention by the US Supreme Court to halt vote counting in the state as late ballots went to Biden.
Justice Samuel Alito, considered a conservative, declined to order an immediate halt but said the full court would consider the challenge on Saturday.
He ordered Pennsylvania to keep late-arriving ballots separate, affirming a policy already put in place by state election authorities.
In another tweet, Trump complained that he had “such a big lead” on election night, “only to see the leads miraculously disappear” later in the week.
Trump has now said falsely several times that ballots are being either invented for Biden or stolen from him.
But the unprecedented attacks on US election integrity by a president ignore a simple fact about the different types of ballots cast.
Votes cast in person on Election Day and counted first largely favored Trump, who has questioned mail-in ballots and actions to halt COVID-19.
Later counting turned to the avalanche of votes mailed in by Americans who did not want to go to crowded polling stations in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic – disproportionately Biden voters.
Anger from Trump backers
As Trump unleashed his offensive, his supporters vented anger outside election offices in several cities.
The protests were largely peaceful but in Philadelphia, prosecutors said they were charging two men who drove with weapons to the convention center where votes are being tabulated.
In Atlanta, an election worker went into hiding after facing death threats, with his car’s license plate number exposed on the internet, after he was falsely accused of throwing out a ballot.
The worker was seen on video tossing a sheet, which was in fact an instruction sheet mailed back by a voter, said Richard Barron, Fulton County’s elections supervisor.
Most of Trump’s Republican Party stood squarely behind him.
“Far from over,” tweeted Representative Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives.
“Republicans will not back down from this battle.”
But Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican member of the Senate to vote to convict the president at his impeachment trial earlier this year, said Trump’s charge of a stolen election “damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions,” Romney said.