US election fight may be too close to call

As of 6am New York time yesterday, Biden had 238 electoral votes, while Trump had 213, leaving both shy of the 270

by BLOOMBERG / pic by AFP

WASHINGTON • Close contests in five key states mean the US presidential election may not be decided for days, or longer, even as US President Donald Trump’s falsely claimed victory over Democrat Joe Biden with millions of ballots still to be counted.

As of 6am New York time yesterday, Biden had 238 electoral votes, while Trump had 213, leaving both shy of the 270 needed to secure immediate victories.

In a middle of the night speech from the White House, Trump threatened to ask the US Supreme Court to intervene to stop what he called the disenfranchisement of Republican voters, without offering evidence that any wrongdoing had occurred.

“Frankly, we did win this election,” he said, noting that he held a lead in a number of states whose results were still uncertain. “So, we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what Trump meant, as states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Nevada were counting legally cast votes. It is routine for states to continue counting votes after Election Day, and Pennsylvania said results likely wouldn’t be finalised for several days.

Treasuries jumped with the dollar as traders bet the prospect of divided government would make it harder to pass fresh stimulus. Futures on the S&P 500 Index posted a gain in volatile trading.

The unusually large number of absentee ballots cast due to the coronavirus pandemic meant counting wasn’t complete. The unresolved outcome risks stoking tensions further in the US, beset by an economic downturn and the raging virus.

Despite the president’s claims, Biden ended Election Day with a strong chance of unseating the incumbent. A Biden win in the battleground state of Arizona — which Trump carried in 2016 — opened up a number of pathways to clinch a majority of Electoral College votes, primarily through Rust Belt states where both campaigns fought hard.

Trump tried to create doubt about the legitimacy of the vote count early yesterday after spending weeks warning without evidence of ballot tampering that would favour the former VP. Trump’s comments drew criticism from Biden’s campaign and at least one of the president’s allies.

Both men still have paths to victory, though it appears that Biden has more options than Trump does.