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The United States remained in electoral purgatory on Wednesday afternoon as officials scrambled to count the millions of votes still outstanding after Tuesday's presidential election.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden sustained an overall Electoral College lead after being projected as the winner in key Midwestern battlegrounds Wisconsin and Michigan. President Donald Trump vowed to take legal action in both states, as well as in Pennsylvania, where over 1 million ballots remained uncounted.
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Biden now has more votes than any presidential candidate in history
Biden has now won more votes than any presidential candidate in American history as of Wednesday afternoon, passing Obama's 2008 record of more than 69.4 million ballots cast in his name.
With more than 20 million expected votes left to count, according to an NBC News projection, Biden's final total should go well beyond Obama's 2008 mark. Trump, too, is on track to win the second-highest vote total in U.S. history. He should pass Obama's 2008 total in the coming days, but it looks unlikely that he will surpass Biden.
Key Georgia county reports issue counting estimated 80,000 absentee ballots
Election officials in a suburban Georgia county that could help determine whether Biden or Trump takes the state have flagged an issue affecting up to 80,000 hand-marked absentee ballots scanned by a new voting system.
The votes, cast in Gwinnett County, are scanned in batches, and 3,200 of the batches, with each batch containing a maximum of 25 ballots, had at least one ballot that needed review, county spokeswoman Heather Sawyer said in an email.
The batches must remain together, so the county temporarily approved the problematic ballots and re-scanned the batches, but will go back to review the ballots that previously couldn’t be scanned, which will change final vote tallies, Sawyer said.
Unique in Georgia, the county, with a population of 936,250, uses a two-page absentee ballot printed in English and Spanish. The multipage ballot could have been an issue if new users didn’t have adequate training, Eddie Perez, an analyst for election technology advocacy group OSET, told NBC News in an email. NBC News has collaborated with the OSET Institute since 2016 to monitor U.S. election-technology and voting issues.
Dominion, provider of the new $150 million voting system in place across Georgia, declined to comment.
Democrat Sara Gideon concedes to Republican Sen. Susan Collins
Republican incumbent Susan Collins is the apparent winner in Maine's Senate race, NBC News projects.
Democrat challenger Sara Gideon conceded to Collins, a top target of Democrats this election cycle, earlier Wednesday.
"We came up short," Gideon told supporters Wednesday afternoon. She said she'd called Collins to wish her well.
"I congratulated her on winning this election and told her I'll always be available to help serve the people of Maine," Gideon said.
Collins called the call "very gracious." "We had a good talk," she said.
The race was the most expensive in Maine history. Collins raised more than $26.5 million and spent over $23 million, while Gideon brought in more than $68.5 million and spent nearly $48 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Judge furious that Postal Service didn't sweep mail-sorting facilities for ballots as ordered
A federal judge blasted the Postal Service on Wednesday because it did not follow his court order to perform a sweep of mail-sorting facilities Tuesday afternoon for any undelivered ballots.
“It just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth for the clock to run out, game’s over and then we find out that there was not compliance with a very important court order,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said during a hearing Wednesday.
Joseph Borson, a Justice Department attorney representing the Postal Service, said that the agency had told him after Tuesday's order that there was not enough time for it to fulfill the court's order, as Postal Service agents were not in position to sweep its 220 facilities across the United States.
“I wish we knew that earlier, so we could convey that,” Borson said, but he noted that the Postal Service had conducted sweeps beginning at 7 a.m. on Election Day that continued throughout the day. Only 13 undelivered ballots were found.
The overarching issue is about 300,000 mailed ballots that were not scanned by the Postal Service.
Voter advocates and the Postal Service both warn that just because the 300,000 ballots were not scanned does not mean they were not delivered. Both sides emphasized that in rushing ballots in the final week prior to the election, the Postal Service sacrificed tracking to ensure ballots’ quick delivery. Instead, some were pulled from circulation and prioritized.
Lawyers in the lawsuit maintain, however, that the Postal Service has not acted transparently and they want to certify that all of the agency’s facilities have been swept.
Fact check: Trump's false, misleading claims about ballot counting in key states
President Trump on Wednesday continued to promote false claims about the election and ballot processing after vote tallies in key states appeared to move in Joe Biden's favor in the early morning hours.
Twitter flagged a series of the president's tweets as "misleading," including one in which he said, in part, that his leads "started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted." There were no "surprise" ballot dumps in the states Trump appears to be referencing — states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan that NBC News has characterized as too close to call and will be pivotal to deciding who wins the White House.
Valid ballots are still being tabulated in those states, and rules restricting when officials in key states could begin processing mail ballots have delayed the vote count into Wednesday, at least.
In another tweet, Trump claimed, "They are finding Biden votes all over the place — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our Country!"
This is an incorrect characterization, since officials are not "finding" Biden ballots. More Democrats voted by mail this year than did Republicans, and as more mail ballots are processed, the totals are changing.
In one of the earlier tweets that Twitter labeled as misleading, Trump also appeared to suggest that Democratic officials are corruptly influencing the elections in their states. There's no evidence for this. Republicans also hold control of at least one part of the legislature in Michigan and Wisconsin, two states where Trump was leading last night but where valid mail ballots have caused the tallies to shift narrowly in Biden's favor with 97 percent of the expected vote in.
In fact, the president's party and his campaign bear some responsibility for the counting delays Trump is using to cast doubt on the validity of the results. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania sought to change the rules to enable the processing of mail-in ballots prior to Nov. 3, but negotiations broke down between the state's Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled House; each side blamed the other.
In Michigan, Republicans in the state Legislature only agreed to allow larger jurisdictions to get a 10-hour head start on pre-canvassing ballots, even as election officials pushed for more time. In Wisconsin, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson pushed the state's Republican Legislature to allow the processing of mail ballots ahead of Election Day, but the it did not act.
Trump, Biden wait as vote counting continues in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON/DETROIT — The presidential election remained undecided Wednesday, turning the nation's attention to a handful of battleground states that continue to tabulate the crush of mail-in ballots that will decide if Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be victorious.
NBC News has projected the outcome in 42 states, giving Biden a narrow lead over Trump in the Electoral College count. But both remain shy of the 270 delegates needed to win, with many critical battleground states still either too early or too close to call.
As of Wednesday morning, NBC News has yet to project a winner in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Biden leads in Arizona. Some of these states have indicated that enough of their vote total could be in by the end of the day in order for a winner to be projected.
Trump's campaign manager says they will 'immediately' call for a Wisconsin recount
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien on Wednesday said the campaign will "immediately" request a recount in Wisconsin.
"The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so," he said.
As it stands, Biden holds a lead of more than 20,000 votes over Trump in Wisconsin with virtually all of the vote having been reported.
Wisconsin election law allows for candidates to request a recount if the margin in the race is 1 percent or less. Biden is currently up by 0.6 points over Trump.
But former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, warned that the effort could be futile.
"After recount in 2011 race for WI Supreme Court, there was a swing of 300 votes," Walker tweeted. "After recount in 2016 Presidential race in WI, @realDonaldTrump numbers went up by 131. As I said, 20,000 is a high hurdle."
Dow soars by more than 800 points, as investors regroup without 'blue wave'
Wall Street continued to climb Wednesday, recording some of the biggest gains since April, even as investors braced for a lengthy wait to determine the winner of the presidential election.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed by around 800 points, with the S&P 500 trading higher by around 3.4 percent as traders ditched infrastructure and industrial stocks in favor of tech stocks. The rebound came as traders reassessed the possibility of a "blue wave" that would have accelerated the passing of a stimulus package.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped by as much as 4.5 percent, as investors sought out safer havens in a sector that has performed well under stay-at-home orders. Shares in Facebook were up 8 percent, Alphabet was higher by 7 percent, and Amazon gained by around 6 percent.
Many investors see continued Republican control in the Senate as good for markets, with lower prospects of new taxes or regulation hitting their bottom line.
Georgia still has at least 240,000 votes left to count, secretary of state says
In Georgia, where the presidential race is too close to call, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday morning “our job isn’t done yet” and that they still need to count 200,000 mail-in ballots and between 40,000 and 50,000 early in-person votes.
He said that the counties covering the Atlanta metro area, DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb, as well as Forsyth County, are still counting all of those votes and then will need to move on to counting ballots returned by overseas and military voters.
Raffensperger said his team across the state is trying to finish counting the votes by the end of the day.
"Every legal ballot will be counted,” he said.
Partisan observers fuel tension as Detroit election workers tally absentee ballots
DETROIT — As the nation anxiously awaits the final vote tally in Michigan, the state's political attention is turning to a massive convention center basement in downtown Detroit.
Hundreds of election workers have been working in shifts here since Monday to process an unprecedented flood of absentee ballots in Detroit that will be crucial to determining whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden won this battleground state, and whether Democrat Gary Peters has held onto his seat in the Senate.
Both political parties are here in large numbers, with scores of partisan observers representing major political parties as well as organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Election Integrity Fund, an organization affiliated with the conservative Thomas More Society that sued the state over the summer over its absentee ballot procedures.
The counting process has mostly been peaceful but poll challengers say they've seen some tense exchanges.
"There's been some aggressive conduct and sharp disputes," Democratic challenger Ralph Simpson, a Detroit lawyer and political activist, said. "Things like 'show me the ballots,' and 'should those be counted?'"
But ballot counting has continued.
Michigan secretary of state says major cities to complete count within hours
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday she expects for the remaining, uncounted vote in places such as Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids to come in later in the day.
The country will have a "much better picture [of Michigan] by the end of today," she told reporters at news conference.
Benson said the reason the count has been lengthy is because election workers are tasked with confirming the validity of every ballot. Tens of thousands, she added, remain outstanding.
"You all can trust the results as an accurate reflection as a will of the people," she said.
As it stands, Biden holds a more than 30,000 vote advantage over Trump in the Wolverine State as he seeks to flip the state Trump carried in 2016. Much of the remaining vote in Michigan comes from areas that lean Democratic, like Detroit.