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Race stalls at finish line: presidential winner may be unclear for days

President Donald Trump falsely declared victory early Wednesday morning — when nine states were yet to finish tallying their ballots — and attempted to discredit mail-in ballots as the electoral map remained too close to call.

The results of the Nov. 3 Presidential election are undetermined as of election night. GRAPHIC BY LAURYN ALLEN | DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Speaking to a White House East Room packed with unmasked supporters, the president said he planned to present the election to the Supreme Court and demand a stop to ongoing ballot counting.

“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” Trump said during a 2:20 a.m. address. “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”

The president falsely claimed victory in Georgia and North Carolina, two states where margins are tightening as ballots are counted.

Trump also claimed decisive leads in Michigan and Pennsylvania — both of which had reported roughly one-third of expected ballots uncounted at the time of his address.

“Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said as a chorus of cheers erupted from the room. “So, our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. This is a very big moment.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden won Massachusetts minutes after the state’s polls closed.

Biden was the first to address supporters, speaking at a drive-in rally in Wilmington, Del. shortly after 12:40 a.m.

“It ain’t over till every vote is counted, every ballot is counted,” Biden said. “But we’re feeling good.”

Standing next to First Lady Melania Trump and pausing frequently to wink, he said delays have been expected and emphasized patience as mail-in votes continue to be tallied.

The former vice president concluded his address with a quote from his grandfather.

“Every time I walked out of my grandpa’s house up in Scranton, he’d yell, ‘Joey, keep the faith,’” Biden shouted over a harmony of cheers and car horns. “Keep the faith, guys. We’re going to win this.”

Trump won key states Florida, Ohio and Texas — all of which Democrats had hoped to sway.

Results are not expected in key swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania until later this week.

“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” Trump tweeted following Biden’s address. Twitter placed a misinformation warning on the tweet, in which he falsely claimed votes cannot be cast after polls close.

Ten minutes later, Biden tweeted it was neither his nor Trump’s place to call the election. 

Trump allegedly told confidants that he would declare victory if he appeared to be ahead on Tuesday, Axios reported Sunday. This decision would likely hinge on the delayed count of mail-in ballots in key states like Pennsylvania.

Peter Ubertaccio, an associate professor of political science at Stonehill College, said in an interview with The Daily Free Press Monday that he expected Trump to claim victory before the election had been called.

“[Trump] declaring victory is not a legal or a constitutional action, but he’s going to do it,” Ubertaccio said. “And I suspect there would be pressure on Biden to do it as well in order to gain public opinion, or to kind of move public opinion to his side.”

But on a phone call with Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, the president said he would declare victory “only when there’s victory.”

“I think the polls are, you know, suppression polls. I think we’ll have victory,” Trump said. “There’s no reason to play games.”

While preliminary data tended to favor a Biden win nationally, many voters had expressed apprehension toward trusting polls after the 2016 election, which saw Hillary Clinton ultimately lose to Trump despite maintaining a clear lead in the polls.

Ubertaccio said Massachusetts is typically called early into election night. He added that the Associated Press, which calls elections for some major news sources, studies individual precincts based on their tallying and voting histories.

Massachusetts has not been taken by a Republican candidate since 1984, when Ronald Reagan won just over 51 percent of the vote.

The state will count until Friday mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, but Ubertaccio said late-coming ballots are unlikely to influence the election’s outcome.

Although tallying in Massachusetts could not begin until polls closed at 8 p.m., local election officials were able to begin processing ballots — removing them from envelopes and running them through tabulators — as early as Oct. 25.

Ubertaccio said national delays may stem from the logistics of opening and sorting mail-in ballots as well as higher voter turnout overall. He added, however, that he did not anticipate mail-in voting to contribute to significant delays.

While the media often calls races on election night, it takes days or weeks for results to be certified by election officials, Debra O’Malley, spokesperson for Massachusetts Secretary of State, wrote in an email.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin expected a turnout of at least 3.6 million, 300,000 more than in 2016, according to O’Malley. She added Galvin anticipated that “almost all ballots” would be reflected in Tuesday’s count.

“The final results are unlikely to change due to ballots counted after Election Day, except in the case of a very close race for a small district office,” O’Malley wrote.

More than 2.3 million Massachusetts residents cast their vote before Election Day, making up 69.6 percent of the state’s total 2016 voter turnout, according to preliminary numbers released Tuesday morning. Nearly 1.4 million of those ballots were returned by mail.

Early in-person voting in Massachusetts started Oct. 17 and concluded Monday.

No cases of voter fraud were reported in Massachusetts throughout that period, O’Malley wrote.

Although claims of fraud are likely to echo throughout social and partisan media, the tabulation process itself is largely “insulated” from outside interference, Nick Beauchamp, assistant professor of political science at Northeastern University, wrote in an email.

He added that older, mostly conservative voters tend to share more misinformation online.

“Most of the voter disenfranchisement has already happened,” Beauchamp wrote, “in the form of ex-felon disenfranchisement, polling place reductions, strict mail ballot rules, etc.” 

Ubertaccio said this year is likely to set a new precedent for how American elections are conducted.

The normalization of an “election season” would likely change the nature of campaigning, Ubertaccio  said, adding that voters will likely want to maintain the flexibility they’d been extended this election.

“It’d have to be a really good reason to say, ‘No, we’re going to go back to, essentially, that one day of voting,” Ubertaccio said. “I don’t see what the strong rationale would be for that.”

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