We interrupt your regularly scheduled article to bring you this important message: Joe Biden has won the US Presidential Election. Instead of our usual recap of local, national and international news, this week For The Record will recap the final week of an election that at times seemed like it would never actually end – like many things in 2020.
Note: I’m going to assume you know how US elections work. In particular, I’m taking for granted nuances such as the Electoral College, the vote split in Maine and Nebraska, and how ‘projections’ by news companies aren’t actually confirmed results. If any of that isn’t true, maybe start with a quick Google.
Tuesday: Election Day
November 3rd saw millions of Americans go to the polls – although millions more had already voted. Indeed, by Tuesday over 100 million people had already voted either by mail-in or early in-person voting. Voting rules are largely down to individual state legislation, so while some states such as Texas had already reached 100% of their 2016 election turnout before Election Day even began, others such as Alabama had barely cast any votes at all.
The day itself was rather quiet, as far as election days go in the states. By and large, there were no major national stories of voter intimidation or problems at the polling stations, although there were of course minor incidents.
Trump finished the election cycle quietly, with little public appearance day-of. Biden was a little more active, moving between Pennsylvania and Delaware, but at this point campaigning was over. On Tuesday, the world waited.
It turned out the world would have to wait a while.
Polls closed in various states from 7pm EST (which was midnight here in the UK). Before the exit poll, the media had predicted a solid win for Joe Biden. He was up about 8 points in national polls, with a slimmer lead in battleground states, but things looked good. There was even talk of a potential blue wave, with states such as Texas and Florida in contention.
That did not happen on Tuesday night.
Wednesday: Arizona, Wisconsin & Michigan
As the UK passed into Wednesday, the narrative shifted strongly in favour of Trump. Biden seemed to be in real trouble, as results came in from Florida, Texas, North Carolina – all with strong leads for Trump. Florida and Texas were called for Trump in short order, and Georgia and North Carolina seemed to be next – although they weren’t called, as enough votes hadn’t come in yet. That turned out to be quite important.
When voting officially ended across the states, things mellowed slightly. Arizona posted strong results for Biden, and Fox News of all stations called it in his favour. The President lashed out at that decision online, as only 73% of the vote had been reported so far.
Other states, such as Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, were too close to call – even as Trump held what might have seemed an insurmountable advantage in many of them. Why were they too close to call?
President Trump, as we’ve mentioned in previous articles, told his voters not to vote by mail. Even as his campaign encouraged it, he claimed it would lead to massive fraud and a stolen election. The result? Mail-in votes, which were counted last in these states, massively favoured Joe Biden. His supporters turned out early, by mail, and Trump’s didn’t.
The President’s response to these votes eating away at his lead was nothing short of a dangerous attack on the legitimacy of American democracy. He called for the counting to stop in states he was winning, but keep going in those he was losing. He alleged massive fraud and warned the Democrats were stealing the election from him.
“A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise [those voters who voted for me] and we won’t stand for this … We’ll be going to the US Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4:00 in the morning and add them to the list … As far as I’m concerned we already have won this.”
Some things to note:
- No evidence of fraud on any meaningful scale has been presented to this day.
- The Democrats had lost seats in the House and were not on track to win the Senate when Trump made these comments. According to the President, blue states rigged the process – but just not very well?
Biden’s statement was short and sweet.
“Keep the faith.”
As the vote counting continued throughout the day, Biden flipped Wisconsin and Michigan. Mail-in votes gave him an edge, and thus he edged out Trump. These states were called by the Associated Press shortly after Biden took the lead, putting him at 264 electoral votes. This included Arizona, which other broadcasters were still yet to call.
At this point, Biden was clearly on track to win the election. He was leading in Nevada, which would have been sufficient to reach 270 in combination with the rest of Clinton’s 2016 states + Arizona + Nebraska’s 2nd district. He was also competitive in Georgia and Pennsylvania. There were multiple paths for Biden, and shrinking chances for Trump.
Still, the count went on. (Even as protestors in Arizona and lawsuits in Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania tried to stop it).
Thursday: Legal Challenges
On November 5th, Biden urged calm while Trump continued to claim voter fraud.
Legal cases in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania brought forward by the Trump team were dismissed. One case in Philadelphia was won, allowing Trump observers closer to the counting – this was immediately appealed by the County Board of Elections.
And… nothing much else happened.
Some broadcasters called states that AP and Fox had already forecast, but there were no major developments. Until-
Friday: Georgia, Nevada & Pennsylvania
Biden overtook Trump in the state of Georgia.
And then the state of Pennsylvania.
Even with tight margins and plenty of votes left to count, Biden winning the race in two more states and the clear sense that his lead would only grow led Decision Desk HQ to call the race in Joe Biden’s favour. He’d won. He was the President of the United States of America. Or was he?
Other broadcasters such as Fox, AP, and CNN said it was still too close to call. Trump could retake the lead in Arizona and Nevada, he could bring back Georgia in a likely mandatory recount, Pennsylvania still had too many votes left to count. It was too early to call.
Trump tweeted about it:
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!”
In an evening address, Biden said:
“What’s becoming clear each hour is that a record number of Americans of all races, faiths and religions, chose change over more of the same. They’ve given us a mandate for action on COVID, the economy, on climate change and systemic racism. They made it clear they want the country to come together not continue to pull apart.”
He stopped short of declaring victory, however.
Saturday: It’s Over (TBC)
Waking up on Saturday, it felt like the election might never end. Biden was leading in every necessary state to win, but the broadcasters weren’t calling. Why? It had become clear the day prior that Biden was on track to win in Pennsylvania – but not clear enough to avoid any doubt. Similarly in Nevada, where his lead was even slimmer.
By Saturday afternoon the doubt was gone.
Major broadcasters called the election in Pennsylvania, and thus the entire election.
Joe Biden won.
Of course, it’s never really over until it’s over. There are still votes to count, lawsuits to win, and recounts to finish. The electoral college still needs to convene and vote for the next President and Vice President, and Congress has to ratify the decision. Trump still has to concede – or be pulled out of the White House by the Secret Service on January 20th. Still, for all intents and purposes, as world leaders rush to congratulate Biden and Harris, the race is over.
So where does that leave us?
With a new US President-Elect, Joe Biden. With a new Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris – the first woman, first Black person, first Indian-American to hold the second highest office of the United States. With a new direction and a new politics.
Without Donald Trump. He’s fired.