WASHINGTON — With votes still being counted across the nation, President Donald Trump on Thursday made unsupported accusations from the White House about the integrity of the results in his race against Democrat Joe Biden.
Hours earlier, Biden offered reassurances that the counting could be trusted, projecting a more presidential appearance while urging patience from Americans.
The candidates’ sharply contrasting postures intensified a national moment of uncertainty as the nation and the world waited to learn which man would collect the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. Trump pursued legal options with little success, working the phones and escalating efforts to sow doubt about the outcome of the race.
His path to victory narrow, Trump pushed unsupported allegations of electoral misconduct in a series of tweets and insisted the ongoing vote count of ballots submitted before and on Election Day must cease.
Biden took a different tack, speaking briefly to reporters after attending a COVID-19 briefing to declare that “each ballot must be counted.”
“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” said Biden. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”
Biden’s victories in Michigan and Wisconsin put him in a commanding position, but Trump showed no sign of giving up. It could take several more days for the vote count to conclude and a clear winner emerge.
With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 72 million votes, the most in history.
Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.
Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits there Thursday.
Biden has already won Michigan and Wisconsin. The contests in Georgia and Pennsylvania, along with Nevada and North Carolina, were tight with votes still being tabulated.
The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.
“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”
Trump’s legal challenges faced long odds. He would have to win multiple suits in multiple states in order to stop vote counts, since more than one state was undeclared.
There were no obvious grounds for the Justice Department to attempt to intervene to stop a vote count at the state level, unless the federal government could somehow assert a violation of federal voting laws or the Constitution. The department could theoretically file a brief in support of a Trump campaign lawsuit if it believed there were federal concerns at stake, but that intervention would be extraordinary.
While Trump has insisted that ballot counting stop, it was unclear exactly what that would include. Counting for votes received by Nov. 3 was continuing, but roughly 20 states allow ballots to be counted if postmarked by Nov. 3 but received in the days after. In some states that is as long as nine days, or even longer. Some of the deadline changes were made as a result of the pandemic, but others are just routine parts of state election laws. Trump has fixated on Pennsylvania, where the Supreme Court refused to stop a court’s ruling that allowed for a three-day extension.
He also said he was taking fraud claims to court – but most of the lawsuits only demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted. A judge in Georgia dismissed the campaign’s suit there less than 12 hours after it was filed. And a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump lawsuit over whether enough GOP challengers had access to handling of absentee ballots
Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the suits were legally “meritless.” Their only purpose, he said “is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”
It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed cases as several states posted all-time highs. The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.
Beyond the presidency, Democrats had hoped the election would allow the party to reclaim the Senate and pad its majority in the House. But while the voting scrambled seats in the House and Senate, it ultimately left Congress much like it began — deeply divided.
DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is launching a media campaign to encourage people to act to reduce the state’s surging coronavirus infection numbers but won’t impose any mandates or enforce new rules.
Reynolds also said Thursday that the success of Republican candidates in the general election proves most Iowans support her decision to not require masks and quickly end most restrictions on businesses.
“I think the election reflects that Iowans somewhat agree with how we have handled not only COVID-19 but conservative fiscally responsible decisions that have been made,” she said.
The newspaper, television and radio advertising campaign will begin next week, Reynolds said. She didn’t specify how much it would cost nor the funding source.
Also Thursday, Iowa reported 4,562 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours and 20 more deaths.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks from 26% on Oct. 21 to over 39% on Nov. 4, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Iowa’s rate is second in the nation behind South Dakota.
Reynold attributed the rapid spread to Iowans growing weary of changing their lives to slow transmission.
“What is honestly happening is people are just experiencing pandemic fatigue,” she said.
The media campaign will stress that Iowans should take the necessary steps to stop the virus, such as wearing masks and adhering to social distancing recommendations, she said.
Reynolds said First Amendment rights to free speech must not be overridden in the quest for public safety, and she denied that Republicans are less likely to wear masks than Democrats. In recent weeks, she was photographed at Republican campaign events crowded with hundreds of people, largely without masks.
“We can’t prohibit First Amendment rights. People that are peacefully out there gathering and protesting, whatever it may be, not everybody is wearing a mask, so were going to continue to talk about the importance of doing that,” she said.
Mask mandates aren’t the right response, Reynolds said, adding that Iowans frequently tell her they want businesses kept open and children in school.
Two Des Moines doctors spoke briefly at the news conference to urge Iowans to wear masks, socially distance, avoid group gatherings and get a flu shot.
“We are at a critical point in our state’s fight against COVID-19, said Dr. Hijinio Carreon, chief medical officer at MercyOne in Des Moines.
Dr. Dave Williams, chief clinical officer of UnityPoint Health, said the state must stop the virus to protect hospital and clinic workers.
“We’ve been spending eight months taking care of you, taking care of your family, taking care of your friends. My plea to everybody watching this today is take care of my family. It’s time to take care of the healthcare workers,” he said.
Hospitals are planning for an onslaught of coronavirus patients.
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, the state’s largest critical care facility, was adding intensive care unit beds to handle patients transferred from other hospitals, and more staff to handle record numbers of patient calls.
The hospital also was reassigning some staff, including operating room workers, to help in the ICU, and some non-urgent procedures were being cut back. The hospital was also modifying its staff quarantine process to allow employees who may have been exposed to return to work if they have no symptoms and test negative.
Additional visitor limitations were being imposed, and the hospital was expanding work-from-home for non-clinical frontline staff. The changes were expected to begin by Nov. 16 and continue through Jan. 3.
“This is a critical moment in the pandemic,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “If COVID numbers in the state continue to rise unchecked, these may be only the first of many difficult decisions we will need to make over the coming weeks.”
State data shows 839 COVID-19 patients were being treated in hospitals, a new high.
In the past four days, 85 coronavirus-related deaths were reported in Iowa. In the past 30 days, 379 deaths were reported.
All 99 counties in Iowa have a positivity rate of 8% or more and 72 counties are above 15%.
WATERLOO — Area school attendance is not being impacted by COVID-19 at the same pace as positive cases are growing in Black Hawk County.
Leaders of eight public and private school systems released a joint statement Thursday acknowledging “rapid increases” in the positivity rate recently that now exceeds 20% for the county. Schools can seek a state waiver to shift to full online learning for a temporary period when that rate is more than 15% and there’s at least 10% student absenteeism.
“This is an option we will continue to monitor and explore as we move forward,” the statement said. “As the leaders of our local schools and districts, we are all working closely with the Black Hawk County Health Department to determine the best path forward for our students, staff and families.”
Signing the statement were Travis Fleshner, Union Community Schools; Brian L’Heureux, Valley Lutheran School; Lynn Hackett, St. Patrick Catholic School; Jane Lindaman, Waterloo Community Schools; Thomas Novotney, Cedar Valley Catholic Schools; Andy Pattee, Cedar Falls Community Schools; Justin Stockdale, Dike-New Hartford Community Schools; and Anthony Voss, Hudson Community Schools.
All eight officials said absenteeism has not reached a point currently that would allow them to pursue the move to completely online learning.
“It is worth noting that while the county is seeing a high positivity rate, our schools are not experiencing a similar increase at this time. For the most part, our districts’ absentee rates – especially those related to COVID-19 – are remaining steady,” the statement said.
A separate message posted Thursday on Waterloo Community Schools’ website noted just how few students and employees within its buildings have reported a positive test and have an active COVID-19 case.
“We currently have 0.29% positivity of our in-person students and 1.3% positivity of our staff. That means 99.71% of our students do not have COVID and 98.7% of our staff do not have COVID,” the message said.
The Waterloo Schools message noted that, although there are currently no plans to move to virtual learning, officials “continue to be prepared for all scenarios.” Parents were advised to be ready for the possibility of a temporary move to online education between now and the end of the school year.
The joint statement urged continued vigilance to stem the spread of the disease.
“We ask our community members, parents, staff and students to be diligent and follow all health and safety protocols inside and outside of school. Our schools all require face coverings when social distancing is not possible during the school day. Please wash your hands frequently and encourage students to do the same,” it said.
“This is a critical time in our community – one in which we all must do our part to protect the health and well being of others. By working together, we can give ourselves the best chance possible at continuing with in-person teaching and learning without significant disruptions. Please join us in these efforts.”
Collection of Dike-New Hartford state semifinal photos