The fate of the U.S. presidency hung in the balance on Wednesday as President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fought for the final battleground states. Biden was awarded Michigan and Wisconsin Wednesday, while victory remained up for grabs in Pennsylvania, a state that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House.
Trump’s campaign said on Wednesday it has filed a lawsuit trying to halt the vote count in Michigan.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement on Wednesday that the campaign “has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law.”
WATCH | Is there a case to halt counting in Michigan?
The campaign said it is also suing to temporarily stop the vote count in Pennsylvania, claiming lack of “transparency.”
Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement on Wednesday that the campaign is “suing to stop Democrat election officials from hiding the ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers.” He said the campaign wants “to temporarily halt counting until there is meaningful transparency and Republicans can ensure all counting is done above board and by the law.”
There have been no reports of fraud or any type of ballot concerns out of Pennsylvania. The state had more than 3.1 million mail-in ballots that take time to count, and an order allows them to be counted up until Friday if they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he had promised Pennsylvanians they would count every vote and that’s what they’re going to do.
WATCH | Pennsylvania officials say every vote will be counted:
Biden wins in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday afternoon brought the electoral college vote tally to 253 for Biden and 214 for Trump, with 270 needed to win the presidency.
Biden told reporters a short time later that he would not be declaring himself the winner of the election, but that he was confident when the counting was finished in all states, he would be ahead.
“Every vote must be counted,” he said from Wilmington, Del. “No one is going to take our democracy away from us.”
And he said his victory would be a victory for democracy.
“Here, the people rule. Power can’t be taken or asserted,” he said. “It flows from the people. It’s their will that determines who will be the president of the United States and theirs alone.”
WATCH | Biden says he won’t declare his victory, but the vote count will:
The margins were exceedingly tight in states across the country, with the candidates trading wins in battlegrounds. Trump held Florida, the largest of the swing states, along with Texas and Ohio.
The unsettled presidential race came as Democrats entered election night confident not only in Biden’s prospects, but also in the party’s chances of taking control of the Senate. However, the Republicans held several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas and Kansas. Disappointed Democrats lost House seats but were expected to retain control there.
The high-stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs.
Both candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future, including on racial justice, and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of election day.
Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he could try to pursue.
WATCH | ‘We did win this election,’ Trump tells supporters:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discounted the president’s quick claim of victory, saying it would take a while for states to conduct their vote counts. The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.”
The president stayed out of the public eye, but he took to Twitter to suggest, without evidence, that the election was being tainted by late-counted ballots. Twitter flagged a number of Trump’s tweets, noting some of the information shared was “disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond election day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors meet. That’s set by federal law.
WATCH | Protesters try to stop the vote count in one city — and fight for it in another:
Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome in court, but legal experts were dubious of his declaration. Trump has appointed three of the Supreme Court’s nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.
The Trump campaign on Wednesday pushed Republican donors to dig deeper into their pockets to help finance legal challenges. Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel spoke plainly during a donor call: “The fight’s not over. We’re in it.”
Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, made a pitch on Twitter to supporters to pitch in $5 to help pay for a fight that could “stretch on for weeks.”
Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the Republicans look to make up ground in election day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes — early or election day — were being reported by the states.
Throughout the campaign, Trump cast doubt about the integrity of the election and repeatedly suggested that mail-in ballots should not be counted. Both campaigns had teams of lawyers at the ready to move into battleground states if there were legal challenges.
WATCH | Politics professor calls situation ‘a full-blown constitutional crisis’: