President Donald Trump and about half the voters in this country aren’t happy about the fact they don’t know whether Trump has won a second term. This is only the third time in the last 40 years that a winner hasn’t been declared the day after the election.
The longest wait came in 2000 when George W. Bush wasn’t declared the winner until after a 36-day recount and a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave him the election. It took an extra day in 2004 to declare Bush had won a second term.
The Associated Press reported early Wednesday that this year’s outcome hinged on three familiar battleground states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Democrat Joe Biden held a small lead in Wisconsin and Michigan, but it was too early to declare a winner in those states.
Pennsylvania could hold the key to the outcome. It and several other states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday.
Gov. Tom Wolf said his state had over 1 million ballots to be counted and he “promised Pennsylvania that we would count every vote and that’s what we’re going to do.”
States largely set election rules, but Trump has threatened to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to have it stop the vote count. Legal experts say that’s a long shot. Biden said it is the voters’ decision, not his or Trump’s, to declare who won.
Republican Ronald Reagan became the nation’s 40th president when he won the 1980 election with a landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter. Reagan won with 384 electoral votes, many more than the 270 needed to win. Carter’s had 87.
The AP reported Nov. 5, the day after the election, that “polls were still open in the West when Carter acknowledged that his presidency was finished…”
Reagan claimed a runaway reelection victory in 1984 over Democrat Walter Mondale, and the result was announced the day after the election. Reagan won 46 states with 505 electoral votes and led in two more with 17.
Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush won the Nov. 8, 1988, election. The AP announced the next day that with only 58 percent of the vote counted, Bush had 295 electoral votes to 34 for Democrat Michael Dukakis. Bush eventually won 40 states with 426 electoral votes.
Bill Clinton became the nation’s 42nd president in 1992. Clinton’s victory was announced Nov. 4, the day after the election. His victory also ended 12 years of divided government in Washington, D.C., when Democrats took control of both houses of Congress.
Clinton won re-election in 1996 over Republican Bob Dole. He polled strongly in every region for a coastto-coast victory that made him the first Democratic president to be re-elected since Franklin D. Roosevelt won his second term with a landslide victory in 1936.
Texas Republican Gov. George W. Bush faced Democratic Vice President Al Gore in 2000. The AP reported on Nov. 8, the day after the election, that the two men were in “an agonizingly close presidential election that gave voters a choice of four more years of Democratic rule or a Republican ‘fresh start.’”
The result all came down to the electoral vote in Florida. Bush claimed victory there, but Gore said “not so fast.” A recount started, but Republicans went to federal court in a bid to stop the recount.
The Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 8, ordered an immediate hand recount of about 45,000 disputed ballots that put Gore within 154 votes of Bush. However, the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 9 ordered a temporary halt to the Florida recount.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia said the court’s 5-4 decision suggested Bush stood a “substantial probability of success” in the case next week. He was correct as the high court on Dec. 12 reversed the state court’s recount decision in what was said to be “all but transforming George W. Bush into president-elect.”
The AP said, “Al Gore surrendered his epic, 36-day court battle for the highest prize of his life’s work in politics.” Gore conceded, saying he did it “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy.”
Gore said, “Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be on doubt. While I strongly disagree with the court’s position, I accept it.”
President Trump appears to be determined to follow the Republicans’ lead in 2000 by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the vote-counting. Florida isn’t in play this year because Trump has already been declared the winner there. However, if issues surface in other states, they could end up in the Supreme Court.
By noon Wednesday, Biden had 248 electoral votes to 214 for Trump. The winner needs 270 electoral votes.
All we can do now is wait for a decision and hope there isn’t a repeat of what happened in 2000.