Democrat Joe Biden edged closer to victory in the U.S. presidential race on Thursday as election officials tallied votes in the handful of states that will determine the outcome and protesters took to the streets.
President Donald Trump alleged fraud without providing evidence, filed lawsuits and called for recounts in a race yet to be decided two days after polls closed. He tweeted this evening, “STOP THE COUNT!”.
The race was coming down to close contests in five states. Biden held narrow leads in Nevada and Arizona while Trump was watching his slim advantage fade in must-win states Pennsylvania and Georgia as mail-in and absentee votes were being counted. The Republican president clung to a narrow lead in North Carolina as well, another must-win for him.
Trump had to win the states where he was still ahead plus either Arizona or Nevada to triumph and avoid becoming the first incumbent U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Edison Research gave Biden a 243 to 213 lead in Electoral College votes, which are largely based on a state’s population. Other networks said Biden had won Wisconsin, which would give him another 10 votes. To win, a candidate needs 270 votes.
The counting and court challenges set the stage for days if not weeks of uncertainty before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14 and the next president is sworn in on Jan. 20.
With tensions rising, about 200 of Trump’s supporters, some armed with rifles and handguns, gathered outside an election office in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday following unsubstantiated rumors that votes were not being counted.
In Detroit, officials blocked about 30 people, mostly Republicans, from entering a vote-counting facility amid unfounded claims that the vote count in Michigan was fraudulent.
Anti-Trump protesters in other cities demanded that vote counting continue. Police arrested 11 people and seized weapons in Portland, Oregon after reports of rioting, while arrests were also made in New York, Denver and Minneapolis. Over 100 events are planned across the country between Wednesday and Saturday.
By early Thursday, Biden had 3.6 million more votes than Trump nationwide, but margins were razor-thin in several states. In Wisconsin, Biden led Trump by roughly 21,000 votes out of 3.3 million cast. In Georgia, Trump led by 19,000 votes out of nearly 5 million cast.
Biden, 77, predicted victory on Wednesday and launched a website to begin the transition to a Democratic-controlled White House.
Trump, 74, has long sought to undermine the credibility of the voting process if he lost. Since Tuesday’s Election Day, he has falsely declared victory, accused Democrats of trying to steal the election without evidence and vowed to fight states in court.