Americans waited Thursday to see if vote count updates from several states would make clear the winner of the presidential election, a day after wins in two battleground states put former Vice President Joe Biden within reach of victory and President Donald Trump’s campaign launched a series of legal challenges.
U.S. news organizations have yet to project winners in six states: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Projections on Wednesday put Biden as the winner in Michigan and Wisconsin, two states Trump won in the 2016 election.
“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won. But I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Biden said Wednesday afternoon.
Biden could reach the 270 Electoral College vote threshold needed to win the election if he holds onto his leads in Arizona and Nevada.
In the U.S. Electoral College system, 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.
States do not declare a winner before all votes are counted, but news organizations project winners when they conclude there are not enough uncounted votes remaining to change the outcome.
Biden also led in the national popular vote with 71.6 million votes as of Thursday morning, compared to 68.1 million votes cast for Trump, according to Edison Research and The Associated Press. With the heavy early voting, the total 2020 count, by some estimates, could reach a U.S. record of 150 million or more.
Trump, however, still has a path to victory if he can take back any one of the states where Biden is leading. The president is leading in other states that have not yet been called: Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska. By sweeping these, but not flipping a Biden-leaning state, Trump would end up with 268 Electoral College votes, just short of the total needed to win.
In Pennsylvania, more than 1 million mail-in ballots are currently being counted. The Biden campaign said it has been winning 78% of the votes-by-mail in Pennsylvania. The results in that state are not expected until Thursday or Friday.
The Biden campaign had urged supporters to vote by mail to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump has, without evidence, denounced mail-in voting as fraudulent and a scam.
The Trump campaign said Wednesday it will request a vote recount in Wisconsin, where Biden leads by about 20,000 votes, and has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the count in Michigan, where Biden is ahead by over 35,000 votes. The president’s surrogates in Pennsylvania, where Trump led at one point by about 389,000 votes, are also mounting legal challenges to stop the counting of mail-in ballots.
The Trump campaign also filed a lawsuit in Georgia on Wednesday asking a judge to order state election officials to follow the law in storing and counting absentee ballots, according to The Associated Press.
Early Wednesday morning, Trump claimed victory in the election, despite the fact the vote count was ongoing, and made unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud.
“We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list,” Trump said.
Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission and now with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said he expects legal disputes to contest “the counting of ballots, the rejection of absentee ballots, the extension of time for absentee ballots.”
In Pennsylvania, he said, Trump’s team will likely challenge the legality of a state Supreme Court ruling that mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day can be counted if the Post Office delivers them in the days that follow.
Whoever wins the presidency could face a divided Congress.
Democrats have failed, so far, in their efforts to win control of the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority.
Democrats picked up seats in Colorado and Arizona, but lost a Democratic seat in Alabama, and failed to unseat what were expected to be vulnerable Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.
Three Senate races remain close, but the outcomes in some states, such as Georgia, which will hold a run-off election in January to choose a senator, will likely not be known for some time.
Democrats will retain control of the House of Representatives but did not expand their majority as projected by polls prior to the election.
If Trump wins a second term, it is unlikely there “will be much chance of bipartisanship,” as the president has had a contentious relationship with congressional Democrats, said John Aldrich, a professor of politics at Duke University.
Biden may be able to reach across the aisle, as he has emphasized in his campaign the need to heal the deep partisan divide in the nation, Aldrich said.
“To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. We are not enemies,” Biden said on Wednesday.