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America was holding its breath into Wednesday afternoon.

Election officials, meanwhile, were busy counting the historic flood of ballots that poured in — by mail and in person, for weeks before Election Day and just as polls closed Tuesday. It was another sign of how the coronavirus pandemic, which already cost millions of Americans their jobs and pushed the country into a recession, has upended this year. Now, at the political climax of 2020, the virus also cast aside any hopes for a swift election night.

Election challengers try enter the room where absentee ballots are counted in Detroit, Mich., on Wednesday. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Both campaigns were projecting confidence about the results, with several key pickups. The perennial swing states of Florida and Ohio were called for Trump, and Arizona appeared to break for Biden, possibly ending a decades-long losing streak for Democrats in the state. Yet many of the Northern battleground states that captured the nation’s attention after the 2016 race — Pennsylvania and Michigan — were still too close to call, possibly without a final result for hours or even days.

Poll workers gather for a meeting before counting ballots in Detroit, Mich. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

The day after

After a long night spent watching returns, Americans awoke to a race still too close to call. Outside the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza was nearly empty as the sun came up, save for scattered journalists setting up for early-morning newscasts.

As the day wore on, workers collected campaign signs, and the occasional demonstrator could be spotted in D.C. “The world is watching,” read a sign carried by one outside of Union Station.

The sun rises in the nation's capital on the day after Election Day, and Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington is almost empty, apart from a few journalists in front of the White House.
The sun rises in the nation’s capital on the day after Election Day, and Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington is almost empty, apart from a few journalists in front of the White House. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Biden, Trump address supporters

The last Biden supporters assembled last night for a socially distanced viewing party in Wilmington, Del., at the same site where he had accepted the Democratic nomination. Speaking after midnight beneath a nearly full moon, he encouraged the crowd to “keep the faith” and said he believed “we’re on track to win this election.” More than an hour later at the White House, Trump falsely claimed fraud in the election and declared himself the winner, even though millions of votes still need to be counted.


The scramble to tally ballots

Election authorities worked late into the evening to tally votes. Mail-in ballots in several battlegrounds, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, cannot be processed or counted until Election Day, even if they have been received days or weeks earlier. With many states having surpassed their 2016 vote totals before Tuesday, analysts say it could be weeks before all results are in.

The facility has the capacity to record 30,000 ballots an hour. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

A night of waiting – in Washington and around the country

In downtown Washington, that anxiety converged with anger as demonstrators gathered outside a heavily barricaded White House for what some protesters hoped would be a “going-away party” for the president. News reporters filmed just outside the gates, and an uneasy crowd of people watched returns come in. Although local and federal authorities have been bracing for the possibility of unrest, the atmosphere on Tuesday night featured only occasional friction between the crowds, law enforcement and a small minority of Trump supporters.

With returns still coming in early Wednesday, people tuning in around the country were stuck in a collective state of suspense. Many traditional election night watch parties were smaller this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But in living rooms, restaurants and chilly outdoor venues, Americans gathered to watch — and wait — together.

Scattered protests as returns come in

Although law enforcement officials were bracing for the possibility of widespread unrest on Tuesday night, the evening saw few major incidents of violence. Peaceful demonstrations began in New York, and Trump supporters in Miami celebrated the president’s unexpectedly strong showing there. In Graham, N.C., a crowd marching to the polls faced off with a small group defending Trump and a local Confederate monument. Police had arrested and pepper-sprayed participants in a separate march there on Saturday.

Source: .washingtonpost