Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond election day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors meet. That’s set by federal law.
Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after election day, as long as they are postmarked on or before the election date. These states include Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by November 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days after the election.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf tweeted that his state had more than 1 million ballots yet to be counted and he “promised Pennsylvanians that we would count every vote and that’s what we’re going to do”.
Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome in the nation’s highest court. Legal experts questioned Trump’s declaration.
“I do not see a way that he could go directly to the Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes. There could be fights in specific states, and some of those could end up at the Supreme Court, but this is not the way things work,” said Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine.
Trump has appointed three of the high court’s nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.
Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while Republicans look to make up ground in election day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes – early or election day – were being reported by the states.
Throughout the campaign, Trump cast doubt about the integrity of the election and repeatedly suggested that mail-in ballots should not be counted. Both campaigns have teams of lawyers at the ready to move into battleground states if there are legal challenges.