No winner was determined on Election Day in three of the most important states for this year's presidential contest: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
That means neither President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden has clinched the election. And there's a good chance that it will be several days before one of them does.
Wisconsin says there's no way they are announcing a winner tonight
Michigan needs until Friday
Pennsylvania isn't coming out anytime soon, either
Per officials in those states
— Saleha Mohsin (@SalehaMohsin) November 4, 2020
This is not an unexpected outcome! In fact, it is exactly the sort of scenario that political scientists and media outlets—including Reason—have been highlighting for months as a serious possibility. Three major factors that combined to delay a result: a large number of absentee ballots, high turnout, and a neck-to-neck race in several swing states.
In Pennsylvania, for example, state law prohibited election officials from even beginning to count the estimated 2 million mail-in ballots until polls closed on Tuesday. Some counties decided to hold off on opening those ballots until Wednesday morning. Unless in-person votes cast on Tuesday gave either Biden or Trump an unexpectedly insurmountable lead, there was never much hope that Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes would be decided on Election Day itself.
Wisconsin is in a similar situation, with state officials forbidden from counting mail-in ballots early, as most other states do. About 1.9 million absentee ballots have been returned in Wisconsin, so unless in-person votes cast on Tuesday gave either Biden or Trump an unexpectedly insurmountable lead…well, you get the point.
In Michigan, some mail-in ballots were processed ahead of Election Day, but Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tells Politico that it will likely take until Friday for counting to be completed.
As of 12:45 on Wednesday morning, neither Biden nor Trump had declared victory or conceded the race. In brief remarks delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said he was "feeling good about where we are" but urged patience as the votes are counted.
"We knew this was gonna go long, but who knew it was going to go into tomorrow morning—maybe longer?" Biden said.
Around the same time, Trump tweeted (Twitter quickly flagged as "misleading") an unfounded allegation that the election was being stolen.
We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
Early results on Tuesday seemingly shut the door on the possibility of a Biden landslide, but the Democratic challenger also hasn't lost any states that were essential to his most likely paths to an Electoral College victory. With more than a dozen states still up for grabs, the only state that appears to have "flipped" from its 2016 result is Arizona, which some outlets have called for Biden.
The Arizona results could be telling, since the state was one that processed mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day. Biden supporters hoping for a "blue shift" in results as mail-in ballots are counted in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin may take heart from the outcome in Arizona.
On the other hand, losing Arizona's 11 electoral votes is not a critical blow to Trump's campaign either. He seems to have avoided a wipeout by holding Florida and possibly Georgia—and Republicans appear on track to hold the Senate as well.
So the outcome will take a while to be settled. Assume good will on the part of election officials and volunteers facing unprecedented circumstances. Let all the votes be counted. Have patience.
UPDATE: This post was updated to clarify the current status of Trump's tweet regarding the election.