By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The US Election 2020 appears to be inching closer to an outcome, with Democrat Joe Biden appeared to be a step away from winning the US presidential election as the latest count of votes from a handful of battleground states indicated that the re-election chances of incumbent Republican President Donald Trump are getting slim by the hour ago.
It should be noted that US presidential elections are not won by the national popular vote. The winner in each state collects its electoral college votes and needs a total of 270 to take the White House.
Mainly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, large numbers of voters – about 68% of the total, compared with 34% in 2016 – cast their ballots early, including by post.
Counting postal votes is slower because voter, witness signatures and addresses must be checked, and ballots smoothed out before being fed into counting machines. Some states start that verification process long before election day, meaning the count itself can get underway as soon as polls close.
There was no early processing in multiple key battleground states this year, however, because Republican-led state legislatures refused urgent requests from local elections officials to pass new laws to allow extra time for ballot processing. Such a refusal in Pennsylvania produced enormous backlogs in cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, which has gone from counting about 6,000 mail-in ballots in 2016 to more than 350,000 this year.
Five states have yet to be called: Alaska, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and Fox News’ decision desk, have called Arizona for Joe Biden. The Trump campaign is arguing, however, that call was made too early.
The race is extremely tight in Georgia. The latest batch of votes returned from Clayton County, part of the Atlanta metropolitan area, saw votes break heavily for Biden and putting him 917 votes ahead with nearly 20,000 absentee ballots plus further provisional ballots still to be counted.
The Democratic challenger is ahead in Nevada, with only Democratic-leaning late postal ballots left to tally. But by state law, ballots postmarked on election day can be counted as long as they are received by 5pm on 10 November, which means counting in the state could continue through the weekend.
In North Carolina, while Trump is the clear favourite, the state accepts postal ballots until 12 November – although that is expected to make little difference.
Biden cut Trump’s lead to just over 18,000 in Pennsylvania in the early hours of Friday. He’s been winning the mail-in ballot counts by huge margins, and could very well take the state. Pennsylvania officials say they expect most votes will be counted by later on Friday.
There have also reportedly been an increase in the number of provisional ballots cast by people who asked for a postal vote but then decided to go to the polling station in person instead. These need careful checking to make sure no one has voted twice.