Trump racked up early victories in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa. But Biden appears to have more paths to 270 Electoral College votes than the president does: He has won two Midwest states that are likely to prove pivotal, Michigan and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is still counting, and could seal Biden’s victory.
There are other positive signs for Biden: He is ahead in Nevada and Arizona, although the race has tightened in Arizona. And as of Thursday evening, Biden is very close to potentially overtaking Trump in Georgia as the final votes are tallied. A win in two of these states would make him the next president, even without Pennsylvania.
Based on this outlook, Biden has projected optimism, saying on Thursday, “We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Sen. Harris and I will be declared the winners.”
Of course, continuing to count outstanding votes is a legal and necessary part of the process. Nevertheless, he spent much of Wednesday and Thursday tweeting attacks against election officials in swing states who’ve stated commitments to continuing the count, as well sharing conspiracy theories about improper ballot processing.
That vote counting is taking some time shouldn’t be surprising: Because of the myriad ways people have cast their ballots this year, it was expected that tallying votes could take longer. This was partly because far more votes were cast by mail than in past years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s also because there are simply more votes to count: Some estimates suggest 2020 voters may have had the highest participation in 120 years.
There’s no guarantee when we’ll know whether Trump or Biden won the election, but we should have a clearer picture by the end of the day Thursday. Meanwhile, you can track live results here, powered by our friends at Decision Desk.
You can follow Senate live results here and House live results here. Finally, here’s how Vox (and other media outlets) will be making calls.
How long could it take for us to know who won the election?
It’s tough to know, but it’s good to prepare for the possibility that we may not know the result for a little while longer. Here’s why:
There are six main battleground states whose voters will likely determine the outcome of the election: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop recently wrote, these states can be split into two groups — states that were expected to be able to count the vote quickly, and states where it was thought it could take much longer to know the outcome.
Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina fall into the first category. (Florida and Arizona, in particular, have used vote-by-mail extensively in the past and officials there are familiar with how the system works.) We already know the results from Florida, which was called relatively early for Trump on Tuesday. Arizona’s results aren’t fully in yet, and we may not know the results from North Carolina until next week, as they still have mail-in ballots to count.
In Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Republican state legislatures in all three refused to let election officials start processing ballots early (it should be noted that this isn’t a partisan issue everywhere, since Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina also have state legislatures controlled by Republicans). Because of this, counting was expected to take some time. Michigan and Wisconsin essentially finished their counts on Wednesday, but Pennsylvania still has many more votes to count.
In Wisconsin, Biden’s victory was by a relatively thin margin. The Trump campaign has announced it will request a recount (as it can do under the state law), but recent recounts have not shifted the result much. The Trump campaign is also suing to attempt to stop vote counting in Pennsylvania, and to let Republican observers watch over the count.
In the remaining swing states, there is a possibility in-person voting is making it appear a closer race for Trump than final totals will reflect. It’s good to keep in mind that it could take many hours — if not days — to count mail-in ballots and get the full picture of who has won.
Counting all the votes is not fraud
Heading into the election, it was pretty clear that President Trump was poised to engage in some shenanigans to try to cast doubt on any potential unfavorable outcomes to him, and even potentially falsely claim he’d won. And that’s what he did.
In remarks early Wednesday, Trump said he’d already won in Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, even though those states have not yet been called. He said the election reflected “major fraud in our nation.”
Twitter and Facebook wound up having to label his false claims that the election is being “stolen” and that no votes can be counted after the polls close. The Trump campaign’s lawsuits in multiple states are a continuation of this rhetoric.
To be clear, there is not widespread election fraud going on, nor is the election being stolen from the president. Candidates cannot claim states for themselves, as Trump suggested in a Wednesday tweet. States are just counting the votes, as they are legally obligated to do.
This isn’t to say that Trump still can’t win the presidency, or that Biden can’t. Obviously, it would be nice to have more clarity on the outcome right now. But we don’t, so we have to wait.