America's antiquated electoral system has delivered the worst case scenario as many feared it would.

The best hope going in was that the count would deliver a decisive victory in the electoral college for the candidate who topped the popular vote in a result that was clear on the night.

As election night became the morning after, it was clear it had delivered none of the above.

Whoever ends up being sworn in next January, his opponent is unlikely to accept the legitimacy of the result.

Biden said he was on track to win. Trump said he had won. There's no reconciling those two positions.

But there was still an outside chance they could both be wrong. If Biden ended up winning Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan and Trump held on in Nebraska's 2nd Congressional district then the electoral college would be tied on 269-269 and the decision thrown to the House of Representatives.


At the time of writing Trump was ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

On paper you would have assumed by big enough margins that he could be sure of winning.

But in each of these states there were overwhelmingly Democratic cities still to report, cities big enough, in theory to flip the outcomes.

This is a strategy, not an accident. Postal votes overwhelmingly favour Democrats but they don't want to appear like they are relying on them to win as it plays into Republican narrative the election is being stolen.

So as long as there were counties still to report, the media would hesitate from calling these states, which suits them fine.

Trump's speech last night was an attempt to turn this strategy against them by suggesting it was motivated by fraud.

But last night you would rather be Donald Trump than Joe Biden, which is why some Republicans were clearly of the view the President didn't need to jump straight to the accusations of stealing.

As for the Democrats? Their man was still a chance to get there but they would be disappointed at the result regardless.

Both sides made little effort to win over the undecideds.

This was an election that was all about who was better at getting "their" people to the polls.

The Democrat strategy was to get the urban voters who failed to turn out for Hillary Clinton to vote for Biden.

That plus college-educated whites was meant to be enough to get them over the line.

The Republican strategy was to get more of Trump's base - white people without college degrees who live outside big cities - enrolled and to the polls to make up for the fact Biden wasn't as unpopular as Hillary Clinton.

They also aimed to eat away at the Democrats advantages with conservative Hispanic voters and African-American men - votes Biden couldn't win without.

It looked to have worked. Trump's numbers in rural areas surged and while Biden was winning cities, his margin of victory didn't look big enough.

Trump will, however, lose the popular vote, which if he was re-elected would give him the dubious distinction of the only president to lose it twice.

james.campbell@news.com.au

Originally published as America's electoral system causes headaches for both sides


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