PHILADELPHIA (CN) — Pennsylvania is steadily pushing Joe Biden over the threshold to victory in the 2020 presidential race, but the race is still too close to call Friday night with thousands of votes still to count.
Just after 9 p.m., the latest tally from the Keystone State had Biden with 3,324,316 votes to President Donald Trump's 3,304,153 votes. With every tranche of mail-in ballots carefully tabulated, that gap widens.
Earlier this morning, Trump was clinging to his initial Election Day lead by some 20,000 votes. Now, Biden leads the president by just over 20,000 votes. The state's 20 electoral votes would put Biden at 273, sealing his win.
Pennsylvania says 3.89% of mail ballots remain to be counted, with some 60,000 ballots remaining in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.
Philadelphia City Commissioner Chair Lisa Deeley said Friday afternoon it may take several more days to complete the count.
“This is by far the largest number of mail-in ballots in the city’s history,” Deeley said at a press conference, noting it is the first time people in the city have been able to vote by mail with no excuse. “They’ve been working around the clock since Tuesday and before.”
The former vice president, slated to deliver a prime-time address this evening, is reportedly serene about the wait.
"Stay calm. The process is working," Biden said Thursday in an address from Wilmington, Delaware. "The count is being completed. And we'll know very soon."
At Friday's conference in Philadelphia, meanwhile, Mayor Jim Kenney repeated the mantra that counting ballots “is democracy pure and simple.”
“In the days ahead, please remember this is not about a victory for a single candidate, or a victory for a single party, but a victory for our democracy,” he said.
Pennsylvania has continued counting its ballots through multiple lawsuits filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign here and across the country to stop a process that he claims without evidence is fraudulently manipulating the vote.
In the latest advancement of this, Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to grant an emergency injunction that would stop every county in the state from counting any more ballots. This challenge hinges on whether county election boards have been segregating mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day from those that arrived on or before Election Day.
Justice Samuel Alito told Pennsylvania board of elections officials to comply with ballot separation in a two page order, Friday. Alito noted the high court hadn’t been informed of the ballot segregation decision until the Republican application was filed.
“The application received today also informs the court that neither the applicant nor the secretary has been able to verify that all boards are complying with the applicant nor the secretary’s guidance, which, it is allege, is not legally binding on them,” Alito wrote.
Whether there was any duty to segregate at all is disputed, as state law permits ballots to be counted so long as they are postmarked by Tuesday. Even if all ballots that arrived between Wednesday and Friday are thrown out, Biden still looks likely to win Pennsylvania and take the election.
In addition to Pennsylvania, Biden is expected to take Nevada, Arizona and, rather remarkably, Georgia, where his chances have been improving by the hour. The remaining votes to be counted in all of the states are mostly mail-in ballots, which have massively favored Democrats so far.
For Trump, however, the 270-vote threshold for electoral college victory would remain out of reach even if he secured all three states where early returns put him in the lead, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia. He would also need an upset in either Nevada or Arizona.
Another of the Trump campaign’s lawsuits led to a brief halt in the counting of ballots Thursday morning in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold where county officials had restricted access to vote-counting operations in the interest of privacy and safety.
Earlier that morning, a judge found that the observation area that the county had designated was too far from the action. She said Covid-19 safety protocols justified letting poll watchers get within 6 feet of anything they wanted to observe, but the ruling was put on hold as Democrats and the county appeal.
There is no word yet on that appeal from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Meanwhile a federal judge denied the campaign an emergency injunction Thursday night.
Trump has been critical of Pennsylvania's handling of the election ever since it extended the deadline for mail-in ballots to include anything postmarked on Election Day that arrives as late as Friday.
Before the election, and before Justice Amy Coney Barret began hearing cases, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to speed up its consideration of that issue in the case with the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
The Republicans' latest filing says it is only a matter of when, not if, the justices take up their challenge. Saying there are four justices in agreement, the application also says there is “‘a fair prospect’ that the court will then reverse the decision below.”
“Three justices have also stated that ‘there is a strong likelihood that the [Pennsylvania] Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,’" the filing continues.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf condemned Trump’s efforts to stop the vote count before every eligible vote is counted Thursday in a statement, vowing his state would “count every vote” regardless of any intimidation.
“As a country and a commonwealth we must reject efforts to intimidate election workers and prevent votes from being counted,” Wolf said. “The planned attacks on our elections this morning are undemocratic and all elected officials must denounce them. Pennsylvania will be prepared to protect our election workers and our votes."
Trump has cited transparency as a basis to stop all vote counting in Pennsylvania, even as Philadelphia streams the ballot-canvassing process live on Youtube. During Trump’s first presidential campaign in 2016, he said that he will embrace election results “if I win” but contest or file a challenge if he loses.