Already three days since Americans voted in record numbers for their next president, but late Friday afternoon, the result remained unknown, even if Joe Biden appeared very close to beating Donald Trump. Why such a wait before the winner is announced? This delay has heightened tensions in an already deeply divided country, the US president denouncing, without supporting evidence, an election “Stolen”. But the US states, which oversee the election, had warned for weeks that the end result could be slow to be known.
It was barely a few minutes after the closing of polling stations in California on Tuesday evening that the American media gave victory to Joe Biden in this progressive state, with nearly 40 million inhabitants. But these kinds of media estimates aren’t an official result, and in states deeply divided between Republicans and Democrats, where the margins are very narrow, the verdict takes longer to fall even with far fewer residents. “The tighter the election, the longer it takes”, explained Kathy Boockvar, secretary of state for Pennsylvania, responsible for overseeing the electoral process in this key state.
Different states in the United States also have different rules on the deadlines for receiving mail-in ballots, including those sent by military personnel and other US citizens living abroad.
North Carolina is another of those pivotal states that could swing from party to party, and hence where the election is played out. However, she has stopped counting at least 171,000 provisional ballots or those arrived by mail which could make the difference in the presidential result. Why? North Carolina will accept all mail-in votes until Nov. 12 as long as they are mailed by election day, Nov. 3. However, some local authorities, who can decide how the counting will take place, prefer to wait until all the ballots have arrived before starting the count.
In Nevada, another crucial state where the race is tight, ballots arriving through November 10 will be counted, provided they have been mailed by November 3.
The so-called “provisional” bulletins also cause delays. They are provided to voters when doubts exist about their registrations, and must therefore be verified afterwards.
65 million postal votes
Additionally, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, states that were not used to processing ballots by mail received an avalanche of ballots sent out by citizens who preferred to avoid polling stations. Of the 160 million Americans who voted this year, a record 65.2 million did so by mail, according to an estimate from the US Elections Project.
In Pennsylvania, Republicans hold a majority in the state assembly. They were the ones who rejected a proposal to allow postal ballot counting to begin before election day, unlike other states.
And the situation is still complicated in some counties, such as Chatham, in the state of Georgia, where the duel is extremely close between Joe Biden and Donald Trump: two different authorities must monitor the counting process.
The team of Republican President Donald Trump denounces these delays and demanded to stop the counting in certain states where he appears behind Joe Biden, in particular in Pennsylvania where the Republican Party has even turned to the Supreme Court. Republicans had been trying for months to prevent Pennsylvania from taking into account, as originally planned, ballots mailed by election day but arrived until Friday.
In Wisconsin, where Joe Biden was declared the winner on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that only ballots arriving before November 3 would count.
Finally, most states allow parties to observe results, but litigation has also delayed the process. In Philadelphia in particular, supporters of Donald Trump have demanded to be able to approach closer to the limit set at 4.5 meters, because of the risk of the spread of Covid-19.
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