WASHINGTON - Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s lead over U.S. President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania climbed from 5,000 votes early Friday to more than 30,000 by midday Saturday, and that margin is expected to grow as remaining ballots are counted. Taking this pivotal state would propel Biden over the required threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidential election.
Biden is also ahead in Georgia by more than 4,000 votes and maintains clear leads in Arizona and Nevada, although these races have not yet been called for either candidate.
Addressing supporters Friday, amid speculation he would be projected the winner in Pennsylvania, Biden stopped short of claiming victory.
“We don’t have a final declaration of victory yet, but the numbers tell us a clear and convincing story, we’re going to win this race,” said Biden.
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If Biden does take Pennsylvania, his Electoral College lead would increase to 273 votes over Trump’s current 214 vote total.
In this U.S. system of indirect democracy, the popular vote is used to determine official electors in each state, who are allocated based on state population.
A Biden win in Pennsylvania would also block Trump’s path to victory.
Trump is leading in the two remaining unresolved races in North Carolina and Alaska. Without winning Pennsylvania, Trump could not overtake Biden’s lead even if he sweeps all the other states that have yet to be called.
Biden surpassed Trump by 4 million votes in the national election. Biden won over 74 million votes to Trump’s 69 million, with more than 150 million votes cast overall, the most ever in a U.S. election.
Trump on Twitter Friday warned Biden not to claim early victory.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” he said in a tweet on Friday.
Trump made his claim of victory in a speech election night.
The Trump campaign is disputing the vote count in several states, saying in a statement Friday, “this election is not over.” The campaign says the president will ultimately win as a result of expected recounts in close state races and its legal challenges based on unsubstantiated allegations of vote fraud and irregularities.
Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday there will be a recount in that state because Biden’s lead there is less than 0.5% of the vote. Georgia officials said about 9,000 military and overseas ballots were still outstanding and could be accepted if they arrive on Friday and were postmarked on Tuesday or earlier.
The Trump campaign also called for a vote recount in Wisconsin, where Biden is winning by more than 20,000 votes.
Trump, without evidence, accused Democrats on Thursday of engineering massive fraud and irregularities to prevent him from winning reelection as president.
“This is a case where they are trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen,” he said during a White House news conference.
Trump accused state officials of barring his campaign from observing the vote count, called mail-in voting a “corrupt system” that lacks “any verification measures,” and said he expects contested election litigation to end up in the Supreme Court. He also spoke without offering evidence of a “corrupt voting apparatus” in states led by Democratic governors.
Trump’s unsubstantiated claims drew quick rebukes from some of the president’s fellow Republicans.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee who has been a Trump critic, said Friday on Twitter that Trump “is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen.” He added that “doing so damages the cause of freedom” and “recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions."
Benjamin Hovland, who serves on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, told VOA there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the country, which he said would be very difficult to pull off, and require, “a vast conspiracy of people willing to commit thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of felonies.”
Lawyers representing Trump and Republicans also filed lawsuits alleging vote counting irregularities and demanding that the counting of mail-in ballots be halted in Pennsylvania, where an early Trump lead evaporated as more mail-in ballots were counted.
Democrats had urged supporters to vote by mail to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while Trump called on his voters to show up in person on election day.
Earlier Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Biden’s election victory was “imminent,” but called for patience as votes are tallied.
“The right to vote is a sacred right in our country. And having that vote counted as cast, it is the fundamental foundation of our democracy,” Pelosi said during a news briefing Friday.
Biden also said Friday he is already anticipating assuming the presidency, and his team is prioritizing plans to contain the surging coronavirus pandemic in the country.
“On day one we are going to put our plan to control this virus into action,” Biden said.