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As US Witnesses Huge Increase in Mail-in Ballots, HRW Says COVID-19 Pandemic Adds to Normal Delays in Vote Tally

A global rights group, Human Rights Watch says a huge increase in mail-in ballots in the US because of the COVID-19 pandemic added to normal delays in the vote tally, with results in several states too early to call.

Early in the morning of November 4 President Donald Trump falsely claimed that he had won the election and raised unsubstantiated and reckless allegations of fraud, the rights group said.

CBS News report this Saturday morning, however, has it that Joe Biden declared that “we’re going to win this race” in a late-night address on Friday. The address came after a rollercoaster day that began with Biden taking the lead in two key states — but as vote counts trickled in throughout the day, there was not yet enough information to project a winner,

Biden urged faith in the counting process, as President Trump continued to baselessly claim that the election was being stolen from him.

“Democracy works — your vote will be counted”, Biden said. “I don’t care how hard people try to stop it. I will not let it happen. People will be heard. Our journey is toward a more perfect union”

Much of the focus was on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, enough at this stage to win Biden the presidency. Biden surpassed the president in Pennsylvania Friday morning, and as of 11 p.m. ET led by more than 28,000 votes. But with more than 6.5 million ballots already counted and nearly 100,000 ballots still outstanding, the lead was too small to declare a winner for the state.

CBS News still considers GeorgiaPennsylvania and North Carolina toss-ups, while Nevada is likely Democratic and Arizona is leaning toward Biden. President Trump made up ground in Arizona, while Biden slightly expanded his lead in Nevada.

Trump spent the day out of public view but vowed not to concede. His team selected David Bossie, a longtime political adviser, to lead the effort to challenge the results in several states.

The balance of power in the Senate is 48 to 48, with the vice president able to break a tie. Control of the Senate may not be determined until January, since both Georgia Senate elections are likely to go to a runoff.

Biden took the stage at Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, for a late-night address Friday to the nation. He declared “look at the national numbers: We’re going to win this race with a clear majority of the nation behind us.”

“We don’t have a final declaration, a victory yet, but the numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: we’re going to win this race,” Biden said with Senator Kamala Harris on stage to his right.

Biden ran through some of the numbers that look promising for him in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania.

“We’ve rebuilt the blue wall”, Biden said, speaking of “heartland” states like Wisconsin and Michigan. He also touted victories in Arizona, which has been won by a Democrat in 24 years, and Georgia, which has been won by a Democrat in 28 years.

Biden also urged patience, as the nation closes the third day of counting votes without a declared winner.

The former vice president said voters “made it clear” they want the country to come together.

Biden said he’s been holding meetings on the pandemic and economic crisis. On “day one,” a Biden administration would move forward to do everything possible to halt COVID-19, he said.

“I want people to know we’re not waiting to get the work done”, Biden said, and urged “calm,” and said every vote will be counted.

In the meantime, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, says “millions of US voters turned out to cast their ballots in recent weeks and during a day of largely trouble-free voting.

“Politicians don’t decide who wins. Election officials are carrying out an impartial and transparent counting process so that the will of the people decides.”

Social media platforms should take down, label, or limit the spread of election-related disinformation and misinformation in accordance with their content policies while respecting freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. News organisations should be critical in their reporting on election-related disinformation and misinformation and provide necessary context.

Demonstrations occurred overnight and more are expected in the coming days from all sides of the political spectrum. In recent letters to state and local officials, Human Rights Watch and other organisations urged them to ensure that law enforcement – including local police and sheriffs, National Guard and other military units, and federal agents – permit demonstrators to peacefully assemble in accordance with international standards.

Governments and international organizations should be cautious in making any pronouncements about the outcome of the election until a clear winner is determined, Human Rights Watch said.

Foreign leaders and international human rights bodies should reaffirm that the institutional process of determining the winner of the US presidential election is ongoing and monitor the human rights situation in the country with a view to speaking out if necessary in support of the rights to vote, freedom of expression, and to peaceful assembly.

“Giving local election officials the time to ensure a rights-respecting ballot count is essential to democratic accountability and respect for human rights in the US”, Roth said. “Law enforcement needs to respect and protect peaceful demonstrations. And traditional and social media have a responsibility to counter voting disinformation and incitement on their platforms.”

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