President Donald Trump has declared victory in North Carolina – but election officials in the state said on Wednesday they did not expect vote totals reported by the state to change for more than a week.
State officials have been processing some 5.5 million ballots, but there are 117,000 outstanding mail-in ballots – many of which may not have been cast – and an undetermined number of provisional ballots still in the mix.
Trump currently holds a 1.4 percent lead over Joe Biden in the state with 94 percent of the votes tallied.
As of 5pm EST Wednesday, Trump had a 76,000 vote-lead over Biden, almost a day after the state’s 2,600 polling booths shut on Election Day.
A final result may not be known until next week at the latest given North Carolina is accepting mail-in ballots through November 12 – as long as they are postmarked by November 3.
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‘With very few exceptions, North Carolina’s election results will not change until Nov. 12 or 13, when all mail-in ballots are received and counted by each county,’ Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state Board of Elections, told a news conference
So far, Biden is outperforming Trump when it comes to mail ballots.
Of the mail-in ballots, some of those voters could have voted in person on Election Day or not voted at all.
There are 15 electoral votes at stake in North Carolina.
Election results were partly delayed across the state on Tuesday night after the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted Tuesday to keep 10 polling places open beyond their initially scheduled closure because they opened late or had technical difficulties.
The extensions ranged between 17 and 45 minutes and matched the extra time it took to get them open.
The delays were at least partly due to issues with printers or other electronic equipment.
Trump, who is locked in a tight battle with Biden to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, prematurely claimed in the early hours of Wednesday that he had won the state.
Volunteers verify the contents of a ballot box at the O.P. Owens Agricultural Center before bringing the information to across the Robeson County Board of Elections in Lumberton, North Carolina on Tuesday night
‘We’ve clearly won North Carolina, where we’re up 1.7 percent, 77,000 votes with only approximately 5 percent left. They can’t catch us,’ he said during an appearance at the White House.
Trump also said he planned to contest the US presidential election before the Supreme Court.
It was unclear, exactly, what legal action he might pursue.
At midday on Wednesday he took to Twitter to vent his frustration, writing: ‘They are finding Biden votes all over the place — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our Country!’
He added: ‘They are working hard to make up 500,000 vote advantage in Pennsylvania disappear — ASAP. Likewise, Michigan and others!’
Biden campaigned heavily in North Carolina but Trump is still leading due to support in rural and suburban counties.
Biden is trying to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Barack Obama in 2008.
Trump beat Hillary Clinton in North Carolina by 3.6 percentage points in 2016.
The key presidential battleground also has a hotly contested US Senate race.
In the Senate race, Republican Senator Thom Tillis declared victory on Tuesday evening, but Democrat Cal Cunningham has not conceded. Tillis’ lead of 48.7% to 46.9% is considered too slim to call the race.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was reelected, defeating Republican challenger Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
How Biden or Trump could both still win fair and square TODAY without election ending up in court
Donald Trump and Joe Biden have plausible paths to claiming victory in the White House race on Wednesday and on Thursday without going to court – or the need to win Pennsylvania.
As of 10 am Joe Biden was on 238 Electoral College votes and Donald Trump on 213.
That leaves Georgia (16 votes), North Carolina (15), Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16), a single vote from Maine’s undeclared Congressional district and the big prize of Pennsylvania with 20 votes. But Pennsylvania’s results will not be known until Friday, officials say. Despite that it is possible for Biden and Trump to both win Wednesday and Thursday.
Undecided Nevada – widely expected to break for Biden – is not announcing more results until Thursday. Alaska is seen as safely in Trump’s column. That would put Biden on 244 and Trump on 216.
Here are the ways that the election could be decided on – without any court battles and without involving Pennsylvania.
HOW TRUMP CAN WIN ON WEDNESDAY
If Trump takes all four of the states on the table – Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia – without touching Pennsylvania, it is game over for Biden. Trump would get 273 votes.
HOW BIDEN CAN WIN ON WEDNESDAY
Without Nevada, Biden starts on 238 votes Wednesday morning.
To get to 270, he needs three of the four states counting. If he wins Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, he take 42 votes – taking him to 272 votes regardless of any other states. That is an outright win.
HOW BIDEN CAN WIN ON THURSDAY
SCENARIO ONE: MICHIGAN AND WISCONSIN GO FOR BIDEN, NEVADA IN THE BAG
This is the ending to the election which involves the fewest states and could break most rapidly.
Combined the two mid-western states have 26 votes. That would put Joe Biden on the vital 270 figure. Wisconsin’s results could come as early as 9am Wednesday.
Michigan’s results are less clear but the Secretary of State said Tuesday that she hopes to provide ‘a very clear picture, if not a final picture’ by Wednesday night.
As of 6am Biden was slightly behind Trump, at 51.3% to 47%.
Currently almost 20% of votes are still to be counted and they are mail-in ballots, which are expected to favor Biden.
Detroit, the state’s biggest city and a hub of Democratic voters, won’t have its results known until sometime Wednesday as it experiences record levels of turnout, a good sign for Biden.
Turnout in Motor City, where Biden campaigned with Barack Obama on Friday, is expected to hit 55 per cent – that’s up seven points over the 48 per cent who voted in 2016.
The record number of votes means full results will be known Wednesday, City Clerk Janice Winfrey announced Tuesday night.
Statewide, 3.3 million absentee ballots had been cast, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said, but results will take time.
‘We’re on track to be in a position to potentially see a full result of every tabulation in the next 24 hours,’ she announced.
Trump won the state by taking the suburbs – the Macomb and Monroe counties outside of Detroit – but he also won working-class areas in like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which has many white working-class voters.
Biden has concentrated on winning African American voters in the state in urban areas like Flint.
If that tactic eventually pays off there could be a victory for Biden declared rapidly – on Wednesday night.
But the state governor Gretchen Whitmer has also warned that results could take days more.
SCENARIO TWO: BIDEN TAKES THE SOUTH AND NEVADA
This appears the least likely scenario given that North Carolina is trending slightly towards Trump.
But if Joe Biden takes Georgia and North Carolina, that would get him a total of 31 votes. That puts him on 275.
Poll workers process absentee ballots the night of Election Day at Milwaukee Central Count
Georgia Secretary of State has said he expected Georgia to have all its results on Wednesday.
Trump was narrowly ahead of Biden by 5am but with a substantial number of votes still to be counted from Atlanta where poll workers went home to rest.
But North Carolina’s results are in greater doubt. Trump was ahead as of 5am, 50.1% to 48.7%, with 95% of the vote reported.
On its own that seems to make the scenario unlikely for Biden.
But mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be accepted until November 12.
If mail-in ballots skew Democratic, that may make it impossible to know the outcome before November 12 even if it is in Biden’s favor.
BUT THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO: IT’S ALL ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA SO THERE WILL BE NO RESULT ON WEDNESDAY
Pennsylvania’s results probably won’t be known until Friday.
But its 20 electoral college votes would offer a clear path to victory for whoever gets them.
If Biden takes the 20, he needs to pick up any one of the other states to get over 270.
For Trump the path is trickier but Pennsylvania would undoubtedly help.
With 226 votes secured, he could then win with the two southern states and Michigan – leaving Wisconsin untouched.
But Pennsylvania is the most challenging state for both parties because of the huge uncertainties which surround its votes.
Compounding the problem are lawsuits expected over disputed ballots, which could drag out the results of the election even longer. Republicans have made it clear they will sue when and where they see necessary.
In Pennsylvania, state law forbids officials from counting mail-in ballots until Election Day. Additionally, the Supreme Court allowed the state to count ballots for three days after Nov. 3 so long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
Only 25 per cent of the early votes have been counted.
In Philadelphia officials said around 350,000 votes were cast, but only 76,000 were tallied during the day Tuesday. The rest won’t be counted until Wednesday.
‘The counties are working really hard to get [the results] in as soon as possible,’ Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said Tuesday. ‘It’s going to take time.’
Biden’s biggest strongholds in the Keystone State are in Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh – where he and VP nominee Kamala Harris held rallies with Lady Gaga and John Legend Monday night.
Philadelphia in particular is a Democratic stronghold with more than 1.1 million registered voters, which is more than 10 per cent of all the voters in the state.
But Trump has campaigned heavily in the state – he held four rallies there on Saturday alone – and wants to repeat his stunning 2016 win there.
Election workers in Luzerne County, a northeastern county near Scranton, stopped counting mail-in ballots on Tuesday evening and will resume Wednesday, according to county manager David Pedri. He said the county had counted about 26,000 mail-in ballots of the about 60,000 cast.
Election officials begin counting ballots Tuesday night in York County, Pennsylvania, where mail-in ballots cannot be counted until Election Day
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, on Tuesday called on residents to remain calm and patient as they await results.
In a brief one-and-a-half-minute video, he urged Pennsylvanians to ‘take a breath.’
‘Across the state, dedicated county workers are ready to tirelessly make sure everyone’s vote counts,’ the Pennsylvania governor said. ‘But counting that tremendous number of ballots will take more time than we are used to.’
‘We may not know the results today,’ he acknowledged, ‘but I encourage all of us to take a deep breath and be patient.’
‘What is most important is that we have accurate results – even if that takes a little longer,’ Wolf added.
Pennsylvania saw about 2.5 million of its 9 million registered voters request absentee ballots. As of Tuesday morning, 81 per cent of them had been returned.
Any ballot post marked by Election Day and received by November 6 will be counted.