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Joe Biden and Donald Trump
Illustration Callum Abbott

A guide to what’s happened in the US election so far

Trump has falsely claimed victory despite millions of votes not being counted yet, a dead man appears to have won a seat in North Dakota, and more bizarre events from the ongoing presidential election

Despite what Donald Trump would like you to believe, the 2020 US presidential election isn’t over yet. At the time of writing, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is leading the race, with 238 electoral votes to Trump’s 213. With millions of votes still to be counted, and many key swing states yet to be called, speculation is growing that the result may not be known for days.

The presidential candidates must win at least 270 votes in the electoral college in order to win. Currently, it’s neck and neck, due to Americans turning out in record numbers to vote – in fact, voter participation is on track to be its highest in over a century.

When it comes to the states that could have the biggest influence on the results, Trump managed to hold Florida – the battleground state with the most electoral college votes – and Ohio, both of which have sided with the eventual winner for almost all the presidential elections. However, Biden has taken back Arizona from the Republicans (though this is contested by different media outlets), and is currently leading in Wisconsin and Nevada. All eyes are now on Pennsylvania, where there are 20 electoral college votes up for grabs. Trump is currently leading in the state, but postal votes are yet to be counted, with Biden expected to pick up a majority of those.

Statistics aside, there have already been a number of notable moments from the ongoing election, including Trump falsely claiming both fraud and victory, a dead man winning a seat in North Dakota, and concern over mail votes being rejected. Here, Dazed outlines everything you need to know about election night so far.

TRUMP FALSELY CLAIMS VICTORY

In what journalist Andrew Neil described as “the most remarkable statement by an incumbent president on an election night in America’s history”, Trump falsely declared victory in a speech to his supporters at the White House last night. “This is a fraud on the American public,” the president said. “This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

Having already claimed to have won in states that hadn’t finished counting their votes yet, Trump went on to add: “We want the law to be used in a proper manner, so we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. OK? It’s a very sad moment. We will win this. As far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”

This year has seen a surge in postal ballots, largely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Despite Trump’s claims that postal voting increases the likelihood of fraud – arising from the fact that postal votes are expected to heavily favour the Democrats – the rate of voting fraud in the US is actually less than 0.0009 per cent.

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, has condemned Trump’s speech, describing it as “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens”. She added that “counting will not stop until every duly cast vote is counted, because that is what our laws – the laws that protect every American’s constitutional right to vote – require”.

Trump also had a tweet hidden by Twitter after he posted that his opponents “are trying to steal the election”. His supporters said the move was part of a “campaign to censor and silence the president”. Facebook has said it has warned users of false information, running notifications on both Facebook and Instagram to tell people “that votes are still being counted and a winner is not projected”. It’s worth noting, however, that both of these platforms have a sordid history of enabling the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

A DEAD MAN HAS WON A SEAT

In arguably the weirdest news of the night, a man who died from COVID-19 appears to have won a seat in North Dakota. 55-year-old David Andahl passed away on October 5, but his name couldn’t be removed from the election ballot. The Republican candidate won 35 per cent of the vote, winning alongside fellow Republican David Nehring. Last month, state attorney general Wayne Stenehjem said in a statement that “votes cast for the deceased candidate would be counted” – the Republicans are expected to appoint a replacement.

THE FIRST OPENLY TRANS STATE SENATOR HAS BEEN ELECTED

This is a unique election for many reasons. See: Kanye West’s candidacy, the unprecedented disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that whoever ends up winning will be the oldest US president to ever be elected (Trump is 74 years old and Biden is 77, nearly 10 years older than the current record holder, Ronald Reagan, who won in 1981 aged 69). 

But there is some good news among all the noise. In a historical first, Democrat Sarah McBride won the race in her state’s first Senate district, meaning she will become the first openly transgender senator in US history. “We did it,” McBride wrote on Twitter when announcing her win. “We won the general election. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She added: “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ+ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”

POSTAL VOTES ARE BEING REJECTED

US voters have been angrily taking to Twitter to reveal that their mail-in votes have been rejected. According to The New York Times, in battleground states North Carolina and Florida, absentee ballots cast by people of colour and young people are being rejected at a rate far above the average. The newspaper also reports that postal service delays worsened by the coronavirus pandemic mean that many mail votes won’t make it to their destination in time to be counted.

More than 7,900 ballots by Black, Hispanic, and Asian voters in Florida and Georgia, another key state, have been marked for “voter errors” at higher rates than those of white voters, according to NBC News. The outlet reports that ballots have been rejected in Florida mainly because voters have not signed their envelope correctly. They have until Thursday to rectify their vote.

People have been posting advice on Twitter to those who think their vote has been rendered null. One user wrote: “If you are from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, please check the status of your ballot and make sure it was counted. If it was not, call immediately and correct it by verifying your identity. Just Google ‘your state’ and ‘check ballot status’.”

REMEMBER: IT’S NOT OVER YET

The election is still too close to call, with millions of votes yet to be counted. Key results, including North Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, are expected in the next few hours – though Pennsylvania’s postal vote results may come on Friday – and might offer a clearer picture about which way the election will sway. But for now, don’t panic – though the race is close (and Trump is threatening legal action), Biden could still take the title. In a speech to his supporters last night, the Democratic nominee said he believes “we’re on track to win this election”, and urged his supporters to “keep the faith”.

In the meantime, just be thankful that Kanye West didn’t win.