The US election result remains on a knife's edge.

While Donald Trump falsely claimed victory late on Tuesday night (local time), the way things sit right now, the tide has most certainly turned towards Joe Biden and the Democrats with a seemingly clear path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the presidency. So what's going to happen next and how messy will it get?

 

Q: SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

A: We did not have a result on Tuesday night, and the official result may not be known until as late as Friday (perhaps later if there are the expected legal challenges).

Basically, we count the votes. It's as simple as that. And although Donald Trump may rage against the process and want the count to stop, that's democracy. What's slowing things up, is the sheer number of votes that still need to be counted.

The difference between this election and 2016 is the staggering number of early voting and postal voting. At least 100 million Americans voted before election day. Counting of early and postal votes, which in some states such as battlegrounds Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada doesn't start until the polls close, will take days. It's a waiting game.

Q: IS A RECOUNT POSSIBLE?

A: Yes, the Trump or Biden campaigns - what is termed the "aggrieved" party - have every right to request a recount. They are entitled to it, but it will not always be granted. As of Wednesday (local time), the Trump campaign has requestered a recount into the battleground state of Wisconsin which was narrowly projected as a Biden win. But, according to political experts in the US, recounts don't generally change the result.

 

Q: CAN THE RESULT BE CONTESTED IN COURT?

A: You need only to look at the 2000 election result between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The Bush/Gore election came down to a recount of 537 votes after 37 days of legal fighting that ultimately reached the Supreme Court. With results in Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin close, we could be headed back to court.

Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS AN ELECTORAL COLLEGE DRAW?

A: As we know, to become president, a candidate needs to reach 270 electoral votes.

With the vote between Joe Biden and Donald Trump so close, there is a possibility they could each reach 269 votes.

If so, this is what happens:

* If Donald Trump and Joe Biden each win 269 electoral college votes rather than the 270 they need to take power, the first attempt to settle the election will come in five weeks with a vote in the House of Representatives.

* Each state delegation would get one vote for president and a candidate would need to win a majority of states, at least 26, in order to win.

 

* The House of Representatives is currently held by Democrats.

* The election for vice president would be decided by a vote in the Senate and each senator would get a vote, with the winner taking the majority, or more than 51 votes.

* Republicans currently hold the Senate.

* These so called "electors" would meet on December 14.

* Only about half the states legally require their electors to cast their votes for the popular vote winner, leaving the potential for a vote along party lines.

* If there is no winner in mid-December, then a new vote is held when Congress is recalled on January 5, 2021.

* This vote is two days after the swearing in of the new Congress on January 3, which has been decided by the November 3 election.

* Therefore, the new House would vote for the president, and the new Senate for the vice president.

* Nancy Pelosi, the current house speaker, has said she would run for Speaker if the Democrats retain the House.

- with additional reporting by Sarah Blake

Originally published as US election battle: What happens next


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