Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Sunday President Donald Trump will not “steal” the election amid reports he planned to declare a premature victory on election night if early counts show him ahead, despite a mountain of mail-in votes that may take days or weeks to count.
The comments come amid the White House’s ongoing efforts to undermine an unprecedented level of absentee voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Polls have shown the president lagging behind Biden for months, and both Trump and top Republicans have spent the same time filing lawsuits to invalidate many ballots while sowing discord about what they claim is widespread electoral fraud (such claims are false, and there is no evidence to back them up).
On Sunday, Axios reported Trump had told those close to him he plans to declare victory on Tuesday night if the results show he’s “ahead.” That plan, the publication’s Jonathan Swan said, would go forward even if millions of ballots have yet to be counted.
The former vice president said that wouldn’t happen when asked about the reports on Sunday.
“My response is the president is not going to steal this election,” Biden told reporters, per The Hill.
The president has denied that he planned to declare an early victory.
“I think it’s a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it’s a terrible thing when states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over,” he said. “I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election.”
He continued. “We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”
With less than two days to go before the polls open for in-person voting, both Trump and Biden have hit the campaign trail and lobbed political grenades at a frenetic pace.
At least 93 million people have already voted in the 2020 election even though polls have yet to open, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Laws vary state-by-state as to when election officials can begin counting the mountain of early votes. Some states, including notable swing states like Pennsylvania, have already said they won’t have full results until “days” after the election.
“Nearly 2.4 million Pennsylvanians have already cast their ballot by mail,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday. “This is going to be 10 times as many as the last time we had a presidential election in Pennsylvania. So, yes, it will take longer. But having said that, I want to be clear that elections have never been called election night.”