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Editorial: Fight to the last vote

In a cliff-hanger of an election, challenger Joe Biden seems poised to become the next US President.

Editorial: Fight to the last vote
Joe Biden; Donald Trump


Assuming that Arizona, which several news outlets have already called in his favour, is in the bag, all the Democratic nominee needs is to sew up one more state to reach the magic electoral college number of 270. With Georgia, which is locked in a dead heat, and Nevada, where he is marginally ahead, due to late declaration on Thursday evening, we may have a winner by the time this newspaper is in your hands. At the time of writing, Trump’s chances are theoretically open, but the pathway to victory is extremely narrow, depending as it does on victories in most of the outstanding states and Pennsylvania, which has still to count a huge number of mail ballots (which have generally favoured Biden).

Of course, with a petulant President Donald Trump declaring he would legally challenge the counting process in three states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia – the results of this election could hang in a judicial balance for a while. At the heart of the issue is mass postal ballots, which were allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While several States counted these before election day, in Pennsylvania, for example, ballots mailed on election day and received three days after November 3 are regarded as valid. As things stand, the grounds for legal challenge – in the absence of specific evidence of voter fraud – seem very thin. If the challenge is defeated, Trump risks going down as a very sore and disgruntled loser.

The most striking feature of the election is how close and divided the nation is over the choice between the two candidates. The vast majority of the opinion polls, many of which were put out by respected news channels, got it horribly wrong. Biden appears to have narrowly won the popular vote, but the overall margin of his projected lead as well as his performance in specific states were grossly exaggerated by the psephologists. This is closer and messier than most people predicted.

US elections have been messy before; in 2000, punch-card ballots used in Florida resulted in incompletely punched holes (“hanging chads”) and a huge controversy about their validity. Eventually, the Supreme Court stepped in to prevent a recount, resulting in the state’s election being declared in favour of George W Bush by a slender 537 votes, enough to secure the presidency. Trump has been alleging there has been mass scale cheating with mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania for months now, but failed to provide specific instances of how this could have happened.

While he is far ahead of Biden in the State as of now, a large number of yet uncounted mailed in ballots could see this lead evaporate. But of course, Pennsylvania need not even come into play. With Biden having flipped two critical blue wall states (Wisconsin and Michigan), all he may need to do is maintain his lead in Arizona and surge ahead of Trump in Georgia, which is possible given that absentee ballots are yet to be counted. Biden vowed to fight till the last vote is counted in this narrow election. But there is a likelihood he may not have to wait that long.

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