by Peter Westmore
November 5, 2020: Watch for Updates
Despite relentless attacks on President Donald Trump by the U.S. media and opinion poll predictions of a Joe Biden landslide by 6-8 per cent, at the end of counting on election night, the outcome was still too close to call, with a number of states still in play due to the large number of mail-in and pre-poll ballots still to be counted.
In key battleground states, Donald Trump has won Florida and Ohio, and is ahead in tight contests in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
At the time of writing, the outcome will depend on close counts in eight states, including three crucial states across America’s so-called Rust Belt – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. All three have a large number of mail-in ballots that favour Mr Biden.
With 89 per cent of the vote counted in Pennsylvania Trump is leading 50.7 per cent to 48.1, according to the NBC TV network.
In Michigan, with 99 per cent counted, after an earlier lead by Trump, Biden now leads 50.7 per cent to 48 per cent.
And, in Wisconsin, the result is on a knife edge, with 99 per cent of the votes counted and Biden just ahead, 49.7 per cent to 49.1 per cent.
The late vote has certainly favoured the Democratic Party challenger but this is a very close race.
Following late swings to Biden in a number of states including Wisconsin and Georgia, which were earlier considered wins for Trump, the President’s lawyers have announced they have filed lawsuits challenging the vote in the courts.
The U.S. election system is quite different to the system in Australia, where there is a single Commonwealth Electoral Commission responsible for conducting the ballot across the country.
In the United States, elections are a state matter, so there are 50 different voting systems across the country, and the way that ballots are conducted is largely determined by state laws.
This means that the way that each state treats pre-election votes, absentee votes and postal votes will differ, and this potentially creates the grounds on which votes can be challenged.
Historically, there have been legal challenges to elections when the vote is close. The most recent challenge took place in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court was called on to adjudicate the election in Florida. The court ruled in favour of George W. Bush, who was declared President.
MANY ELECTIONS ON THE DAY
Apart from the election of the President, the people also vote for the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the Senate.
The Democrats, who won a majority of the two-party vote, will retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but with a smaller majority.
The Senate battle is interesting. The U.S. Senate, where the Republicans have a 53:47 majority, is important as presidential nominees for positions on the Supreme Court must be confirmed by the Senate.
Of the 35 Senate seats being contested, the majority were held by the Republican Party, giving the Democrats the chance to win not only the Presidency, but the Senate as well.
The Democrats, and wealthy allies like Michael Bloomberg, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into election propaganda to try to swing the Senate, but they failed.
At the close of counting on November 4, the day after polling day, it seemed that the Democrats might improve their position in the Senate by a single vote, leaving the Senate under Republican control.
If confirmed, a Republican Senate will be a significant restraint on the Democrats if Joe Biden wins the Presidency.
One major surprise in the election outcome was the failure of U.S. polling organisations to predict the result.
On election day, the consensus of the published polls, listed by RealClearPolitics.com, put Biden ahead by 7.2 per cent, which would have been an overwhelming win for the Democrats. Not one of the 13 polls predicted a Trump win. These predictions fed into the media narrative that Trump was facing a massive defeat.
One commentator, Professor W. Joseph Campbell, described it as “an embarrassing failure for election pollsters”.
The election has also become a referendum on the media as much as it was a judgement of four years of Donald Trump.
But if you are waiting for an apology for their extremely biased, anti-Trump coverage, you will have to wait forever.