What happens next in the US election?

An election protest in Oregon
An election protest in Oregon (AP)
3:14am, Thu 05 Nov 2020
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Delays and potential legal battles are looming over the US presidential election, with the result still too close to call.

The contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden may remain on a knife-edge for days, with both men still in with a chance of winning enough Electoral College votes from the undeclared states to secure the presidency.

Key results are expected in coming hours in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, while other swing states are more likely to take several days to declare.

A large part of the delay can be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 people in the US.

Millions of people voted by post amid the pandemic, leading to delays due to the volume of ballots, how they are counted and the time taken to deliver them.

Mr Trump has already claimed victory in Pennsylvania, though the result is still some way off being officially declared, and has mounted legal action in the battleground states of Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

His Democratic challenger, meanwhile, has won Michigan and the critical Midwest state of Wisconsin.

Election 2020 Trump (AP)

Earlier, a crowd gathered outside an electoral centre in Detroit where Michigan absentee votes were being tallied, chanting “stop the count”.

Mr Biden only needs one of Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada or his home state Pennsylvania to win the presidency.

He was feeling confident early on Thursday morning as he tweeted: “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

He has a narrow lead in Nevada which is making its case as the state that could decide the race, with all in-person votes counted but counting of postal votes continuing and the state’s election authority not providing any updates until 5pm on Thursday.

Individual states largely set their own rules for when counting has to end, with federal law requiring all votes to be tabulated by mid-December.

But voters face a waiting game of various lengths depending on the state’s process for counting and how many votes had already been tabulated.

Officials in Pennsylvania, which has 20 Electoral College votes to be won, told The New York Times they expect to have counted most votes by Friday.

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Voters may still face a wait; as one of the most litigated presidential elections in US history, around 300 lawsuits relating to the race have already been filed.

Mr Trump, who has long-threatened to challenge the 2020 result, said there had been “massive fraud” in the election and has acted on his vow to take it into the courts.

After falsely claiming he had won, he said: “We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we will be going to the US Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop.”

Mr Biden’s team promised to challenge his efforts, calling Mr Trump’s statement “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens”.

Several states allow postal votes that arrive after November 3 to be accepted, as long as they were postmarked on or before election day.

But many of the legal challenges centre on whether these ballots that arrive in the days after polls close should be counted.

The Supreme Court upheld a decision to allow postal votes that arrive up to three days after the election to be counted in Pennsylvania.

US vice president visit to Ireland (PA Archive)

However, the ruling, which was a result of a 4-4 tie, came prior to the appointment of justice Amy Coney Barrett and left open the possibility of revisiting the decision.

State governor Tom Wolf said on Wednesday morning that the state had more than one million postal ballots still to count.

Whether postal votes in North Carolina that arrive after election day should be counted was also subject to a challenge in the Supreme Court and ultimately allowed by the justices.

As postal votes have largely favoured Mr Biden across the US, these votes could help him win the state and its 15 Electoral College votes.

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