US election: Biden extends lead but Trump refusing to concede

Democrat to address the nation as he closes in on presidency on fourth day of counting

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden moved closer to victory on Friday night, even as America faced the possibility of a protracted legal battle over the results of the presidential election.

Mr Biden increased his lead in the key swing state of Pennsylvania – a victory that would secure him the requisite 270 electoral votes – as votes were counted through the day.

But the race remains too close to call, amid delays in counting, uncertainty about the number of outstanding ballots still to be tabulated in the state, and a Republican legal intervention that could end up in the supreme court.

Mr Biden was preparing to give an address on Friday night in Delaware, according to his campaign, and jubilant scenes played out in the streets of Philadelphia as triumphant Democrat supporters claimed victory.


But incumbent Donald Trump indicated that he would continue to mount legal challenges in several states, following his unsubstantiated claims on Thursday night that the election process was flawed and corrupt.

Several Republicans warned that the process was not over as the counting process continued in a handful of swing states, suggesting that litigation was a real possibility. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the most senior Republican in the House of Representatives, tweeted: “Far from over. Republicans will not back down from this battle.” Republicans in Pennsylvania asked the supreme court to issue an order to ensure that local officials ensure late-arriving ballots are separated and left uncounted, in the event the court steps in and they need to be identified.

In Washington, Mr Trump remained in the White House throughout the day, issuing a statement via his campaign team declaring: “This election is not over.”

"The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final. Georgia is headed for a recount, where we are confident we will find ballots improperly harvested, and where president Trump will ultimately prevail," he said.

Nonetheless, Mr Biden holds a virtually unassailable lead in the race to secure 270 electoral college votes. But the prospect that Mr Trump might not concede even if the race is called for Mr Biden, may set the stage for an unprecedented stand-off that could prevent an official result emerging for some time.

As counting continued for a fourth day, a handful of states still had no conclusive outcome, even as Mr Biden was leading. While the former vice-president was ahead in Georgia, the secretary of state announced a recount because of the razor-tight margin.

“Out of the 5 million votes cast, we have a margin of a few thousand,” Brad Raffensperger said, also noting that overseas ballots were still outstanding.

Arizona was also too close to call, even though Mr Trump's hopes of winning the state appeared to be fading after votes tabulated in Maricopa County were less favourable to the president than his campaign had expected.

In neighbouring Nevada, the momentum also appeared to be with Mr Biden. The latest tranche of ballots reported from Clark County, home of Las Vegas, increased the former vice-president’s lead in the state. Mr Trump would need to win all four outstanding states – Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia – to win the election.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence that Mr Biden would be the next US president.

“This morning it is clear that the Biden-Harris ticket will win the White House,” she said at a mid-morning press conference in the US Capitol.

But she urged: “be calm, be confident, be patient,” as the voting process continues.

The unprecedented number of absentee ballots used by voters in this year’s presidential election has led to a protracted counting process. Some states were not permitted to process or count absentee votes until after polls closed, leading to a longer vote-counting time. Under the US constitution, the next president will be inaugurated on January 20th.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent