Joe Biden, the US Democratic presidential challenger, has edged closer to the White House after dramatically overtaking Donald Trump’s vote tally in Georgia for the first time and further closing the gap in Pennsylvania.
By Friday morning in the US, Biden had moved to a 917-vote advantage in Georgia with thousands of ballots still left to be counted – many in counties where the former vice-president was in the lead.
The Georgia secretary of state reported late on Thursday there were about 10,000 ballots still to be counted in the state, a must-win for Trump in order to keep any chances of re-election alive in the race for the 270 electoral college votes that will determine the presidency.
Biden’s narrow lead late in the Georgia count came as he urged calm on Thursday night, after an inflammatory and falsehood-filled Trump address from the White House where the president once again claimed he had won.
The latest voting figures were disclosed as an increasingly frantic Trump and his campaign continued to undermine confidence in the election, threatening a rash of litigation amid unfounded claims of election rigging.
With Georgia slipping away from his grasp, Trump’s path to a victory in the electoral college appeared to be closing as election workers in undeclared states including Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona continued to count ballots.
“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win, Trump wrongly claimed. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.
“If you count the votes that came in late, we’re looking at them very strongly, a lot of votes came in late,” he said.
Several TV networks cut away during his remarks, with anchors saying they needed to correct his statements.
There remains no evidence that illegal or late votes were being counted, or that the election is being stolen.
Officials in Pennsylvania said they expect counting – where Biden has been steadily eroding Trump’s early lead – to be completed on Friday.
Biden has been steadily chipping away at the Republican incumbent’s lead in the state.
The Democrat’s deficit had shrunk to just over 18,000 by early on Friday, and was expected to continue falling. Many of the ballots still to be counted are in from Democratic areas, and Biden is expected by some to overtake Trump there later on Friday.
Biden also maintains slim advantages in Arizona and Nevada. In Arizona, his lead narrowed to about 47,000 early on Friday and in Nevada he was ahead by about 11,500 votes.
Trump had seen his lead steadily shrink in Georgia, a southern state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1992, as officials worked through tens of thousands of uncounted votes, many from Democratic strongholds such as Atlanta.
For his part Biden urged calm even as it was revealed that the US Secret Service was sending extra officers to Delaware to join his security detail.
“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters – not anyone else – who chooses the president of the United States of America.”
While Biden’s victories in the upper-midwest put him in a strong position, Trump showed no sign of giving up. He was back on Twitter at about 2.30am on Friday, insisting the “US Supreme Court should decide!”.
While many high-profile Republicans have not commented on Trump’s latest comments, several GOP lawmakers denounced his baseless allegations about fraud, with Paul Mitchell, a Michigan congressman, saying that every vote would be counted, adding that “anything less harms the integrity of our elections and is dangerous for our democracy”.
Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois GOP congressman, tweeted: “Stop spreading debunked misinformation… This is getting insane.”