The Slatest

Slate Election Live Blog, Day 4

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are seen in front of protest signs reading "Stop the Steal" and "Count Every Vote"
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, Chris McGrath/Getty Images, and Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images.

Welcome to Day 4 of Slate’s election live blog.

Where We Stand With the Electoral College

Biden 253 (California 55, Colorado 9, Connecticut 7, Delaware 3, District of Columbia 3, Hawaii 4, Illinois 20, Maine 2, Maine (1) 1, Maryland 10, Massachusetts 11, Michigan 16, Minnesota 10, Nebraska (2) 1, New Hampshire 4, New Jersey 14, New Mexico 5, New York 29, Oregon 7, Rhode Island 4, Vermont 3, Virginia 13, Washington 12, Wisconsin 10)  vs. Trump 214 (Alabama 9, Arkansas 6, Florida 29, Idaho 4, Indiana 11, Iowa 6, Kansas 6, Kentucky 8, Louisiana 8, Maine (2) 1, Mississippi 6, Missouri 10, Montana 3, Nebraska 2, Nebraska (1) 1, Nebraska (3) 1, North Dakota 3, Ohio 18, Oklahoma 7, South Carolina 9, South Dakota 3, Tennessee 11, Texas 38, Utah 6, West Virginia 5, Wyoming 3). And 71 outstanding. Arizona 11, Alaska 3, Georgia 16, Nevada 6, North Carolina 15, Pennsylvania 20 (Calls by the Associated Press except for Arizona, which has been taken out of Biden’s column in this post because there are additional votes to be counted and multiple networks have determined it is too early to call.)

4:27 p.m.: Pennsylvania Republicans Go Back to SCOTUS

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania went back to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, asking the justices to mandate the segregation of ballots that arrive after Election Day and forbid counties from tabulating these ballots.

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But Pennsylvania is already segregating late-arriving ballots. There is an open dispute over the validity of ballots that were mailed by Election Day and arrive by Nov. 6. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered these ballots to be counted. Republicans want them tossed. To avoid postelection chaos, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar ordered every county to segregate these late-arriving ballots from those returned by Election Day.*

Republicans now want SCOTUS to issue an order forcing counties to follow Boockvar’s directive. But they have no proof that counties are not following it already. Their only alleged evidence is laughably thin: The Pennsylvania GOP sent letters to all 67 county election boards asking them to confirm that they’re segregating late-arriving ballots; most said yes, but 25 did not respond. Republicans claim this lack of response indicates that 25 counties may not be segregating ballots. (I wonder what could be keeping Pennsylvania’s county election boards so busy?) Thus, “an order from the Court is badly needed” to force these counties into compliance. Republicans also asked SCOTUS to prevent any county from even tabulating late-arriving ballots. Presumably, they fear that these ballots could swing the election from Trump to Biden and do not want to be seen demanding the nullification of votes that would decide the election against them.

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Boockvar has already announced that there will not be enough late-arriving ballots to change the outcome of the race. A Democratic campaign urging voters to hand-deliver their mail ballots appears to have succeeded. Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to intervene in a state’s election process—an egregious encroachment upon state sovereignty—over a figurative handful of votes.

Perhaps SCOTUS will still intervene, take over the Pennsylvania election, and, eventually, nullify every ballot that arrives after Nov. 3. That decision would be a radical departure from centuries of precedent. It would constitute an earthquake in election law jurisprudence, a signal that state courts are no longer allowed to protect voting rights against the legislature’s wishes. But it won’t be enough to give Trump a second term.

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—Mark Joseph Stern

1:50 p.m.: Why Hasn’t the Dang Thing Been Called?

Joe Biden has gone ahead in Pennsylvania, leading in the current count by about 13,000 votes. He’s not looking back. As we write, there are about 120,000 mail ballots outstanding in the state, as well as around 85,000 provisional votes. What’s left is only going to grow Biden’s margin, and he should win the state by a relatively comfortable number. This math has been a fact of life since Wednesday afternoon, the president’s incandescent and totally unfounded claims of fraud notwithstanding.

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Even if the networks decide against making a call in Nevada (which there’s also little reason not to call), Arizona, and Georgia, a Pennsylvania call would give Biden 273 electoral votes. He would be projected to win the election and would be the president-elect.

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So why aren’t the networks calling it? Election Twitter is getting restless.

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NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell said that NBC News would likely wait until Biden’s margin was 35,000 before calling the race. The Associated Press—which hasn’t retracted its Arizona call from election night, even though that state will likely end up closer than Pennsylvania—explained Friday, when Biden’s Pennsylvania margin stood at 0.15 percent, that “state law dictates that a recount must be held if the margin between the two candidates is less than 0.5%. There are tens of thousands of ballots left to count.”

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So once Biden’s margin in Pennsylvania crosses that 0.5 percent, we’ll see if the AP is ready to make a call. It could be sometime this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in the year 2076, when Pennsylvania is a colony of scavengers.

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The math, however, is the math. And it’s hard not to wonder if the president and his team’s baseless allegations of impropriety in counting are factoring into the AP’s and networks’ decisions to be extra-cautious before calling the presidency.

—Jim Newell

11:55 a.m.: Desert Guru Says It’s All Over but the Tears in Nevada

Clark County, Nevada, has reported another 30,000 ballots, and they’ve doubled Biden’s lead in the state. There are still ballots outstanding, but they’re mostly also in Clark, and universally respected state politics reporter Jon Ralston is calling it:

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If you believe that Arizona is irrevocably in Biden’s column, Nevada’s electoral votes would put him at 270. But we’re still waiting on non-Ralston media to formally call Nevada, and non-Fox/AP outlets still haven’t called Arizona despite the news out of Maricopa County this morning being positive for Biden as well. So the Champagne is still on ice.

—Ben Mathis-Lilley

11:02 a.m.: Could a Recount Help Trump?

Biden has taken a narrow lead in Georgia this morning, and we know that Trump has already asked for a recount in Wisconsin. With all these states so close, I took a look yesterday at the rules for recounts.

In Wisconsin, you have to finish within 1 percent of the other candidate to qualify for a recount. Trump’s there now, and if it stays at that margin, he’ll be cleared to do it.

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Georgia’s requirements are a bit stricter. A recount can happen only if the results are within 0.5 percent. That’s where the race stands, and Georgia’s Secretary of State confirmed Friday morning that the state would pursue a recount given the margin.

A special twist in Georgia: In the Senate race between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, Perdue is only 0.2 percent short of the 50 percent threshold he needs to avoid a runoff. I checked with experts, and he can’t invoke that 0.5 percent rule in that situation. So while it’s not impossible that there could be a recount—he could theoretically invoke that “discretionary recount”—it’s extremely unlikely.

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I wouldn’t get too worried that these recounts will change much. In 2016, recounts moved the numbers by just a few hundred votes. Trump would need thousands of votes. (Biden currently has a lead of about 20,500 votes in Wisconsin.) That seems unlikely to happen. There’s a universe in which a recount could move Georgia, where there are still provisional ballots to count, but with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for Biden, that doesn’t do anything for Trump.

—Molly Olmstead

10:45 a.m.: What’s Decision Desk HQ?

Just before 9 a.m. Eastern, the Twitter-based Decision Desk HQ became the first respected media entity to call the race for Joe Biden. In a piece posted this morning, I explained what Decision Desk HQ is and who’s behind it.

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Decision Desk HQ was launched by Brandon Finnigan, whom Ben Smith described as “a right-wing truck dispatcher” in a 2014 BuzzFeed profile. At that point, according to Smith, Finnigan was working as an election tracker for the conservative blog Ace of Spades HQ “along with his dozens of volunteer Google spreadsheet jockeys.”

Read the full piece to learn more about Decision Desk HQ and its self-described mission to bust through election night “jibber-jabber.”

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Josh Levin

9:15 a.m.: Joe Biden Is About to Be President-Elect

Joe Biden has pulled ahead in Pennsylvania, as has been expected for what feels like weeks now, and a Biden victory there is enough to get him over the 270-vote threshold to win the presidency. As media outlets crunch the latest batch of Pennsylvania returns, it seems likely we’ll get a call on the state soon. Decision Desk HQ has already made a call.

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Once outlets call Pennsylvania, they should simultaneously weigh in and name Joe Biden the winner—and Donald Trump the loser.

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Elliot Hannon

8:52 a.m.: Biden Takes the Lead in Pennsylvania!

This is not a drill. With the latest batch of results out of Pennsylvania, Biden has taken a 5,500-vote lead in Pennsylvania.

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Elliot Hannon

6:55 a.m.: Where the Race Stands Overnight and What to Expect for Friday

Here we are again, but today we have movement! After days of waiting and wondering, Joe Biden has at last pulled ahead of President Donald Trump in the state of Georgia. The margin remains thin, now just over 1,000 votes, but the trend lines are positive for Biden to notch Democrats’ first win in the state since 1992. With Biden’s new lead in Georgia, that means he now has leads in three of the four states that remain in play. Biden continues to maintain advantages in Nevada and Arizona, which would be enough for him to win the White House if those states hold. In Pennsylvania, Biden still trails Trump by 18,000 votes as of the wee hours, but that lead is plummeting and is expected to disappear altogether as early as this morning.

Biden’s electoral vote total still rests at 253, 17 shy of the 270 threshold needed to win the White House. He still has a number of ways to get there: Nevada (6 electoral votes), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), and Georgia (16). Any combination of two of those states would be enough for the win, as would a single victory in Pennsylvania. What does that mean for today? While Arizona appears to have stabilized for Biden, after Trump closed the gap in mail-in votes, and the trajectory of Nevada’s mail-in returns continue to make Biden the favorite there, calls do not appear imminent in either of those states because of how close they are. The same goes for Georgia. That leaves us where we started: all eyes on Pennsylvania.

Elliot Hannon

Correction, Nov. 6, 2020: This post originally misidentified Kathy Boockvar as the secretary of state of Pennsylvania. She is the secretary of the commonwealth.

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