MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden were locked in early Wednesday in a razor-thin run in Wisconsin as the vote count stretched to dawn and the nation’s eyes turned toward a battlefield in the Midwest that decided for the fourth election many years ago.
With nearly all of the votes counted, Biden leads Trump by less than three-tenths of a percentage point, a gap narrow enough to allow Trump to demand a recount if any.
More than 1.9 million people voted early, either by mail or in person, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those ballots extended the vote count past 4am Wednesday. Those ballots take longer than a regular ballot to process and counting cannot begin until polls open on Tuesday, delaying results reporting.
After totals from Milwaukee City and Milwaukee County were added, Biden led Trump with less than 8,000 votes out of nearly 3.2 million votes.
Trump took the lead earlier at night, prompted by the results of direct voting, but the remaining 169,000 votes from Milwaukee and votes from other cities broke Biden heavily. There are still a few thousand more votes waiting to be counted, mainly from the city of Green Bay.
“When all the votes are counted, we are confident that Joe Biden will win in Wisconsin,” tweeted Ben Winkler, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party.
Biden outperformed Hillary Clinton’s totals from 2016 in urban areas while Trump did better in small towns and rural areas than four years ago.
This is not the first time that absentee ballots from Milwaukee have made a difference in a prestigious race. Milwaukee absentee ballots delivered the 2018 run for governor to Democrat Tony Evers more than Walker late that night.
Regardless of who wins Wisconsin, 10 electoral votes won’t be enough to get Biden or Trump past the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Trump gave Wisconsin 23,000 fewer votes in 2016, and the race is set to end this year. There are no automatic re-statistics in Wisconsin. Only a candidate within 1% of the winner can claim a recount, which Trump can do in this case unless the narrow margin is widened when all the votes are already in it. .
Three out of five presidential elections in Wisconsin were decided by less than one percentage point. Trump, in 2016, was the first Republican presidential candidate to win in the state since 1984. Pre-election polls showed Biden a bigger lead, just as they had. for Clinton four years earlier.
In 2000, Al Gore won Wisconsin with only 5,708 votes compared to George W. Bush, a difference of only 0.22%. Trump’s win rate in 2016 was 0.77% and had to recount at the request of Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Milwaukee’s absentee ballot was among the 1.9 million ballots in the pre-Election Day record. Then, more than 1 million people voted directly Tuesday, although the increase in coronavirus infections in Wisconsin also caused the number of absentees to vote. The total number of votes is expected to break the record for the number of voters in the 2012 election.
Wisconsin decided the 2016 presidential election, and both campaigns made it headlines this year. Trump made four stops in Wisconsin during the last 10 days of the race, while Biden made one.
The total number of voters to vote is nearly 3.2 million, this is the highest level ever in Wisconsin. The previous high was over 3 million in 2012.