It was unclear early Wednesday whether President Trump or Democrat Joe Biden had won the presidential election — and there was reason to anticipate the outcome might not be known for some time. The final result may hinge on the count of mail-in ballots in several Midwestern states, something that could require days to complete. If so, it’s essential that Americans remain calm and patient — and that attempts by Mr. Trump and other Republicans to disrupt or discredit the vote count be rejected.
In early results, Mr. Trump performed relatively well, leading the hotly contested states of Florida, North Carolina and Texas. But he was still well short of an electoral college majority, and Mr. Biden was leading in Arizona, a formerly red state. In the potentially decisive states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump was ahead — and in tweets early Wednesday he claimed “a big WIN” and charged that Democrats “are trying to STEAL the Election.” In fact, hundreds of thousands of valid votes are outstanding in those states, and counting them is not theft, but democracy. Mr. Trump’s motive is transparent: A substantial majority of the untabulated mail-in votes come from Democrats.
According to official figures, registered Democrats outvoted registered Republicans by a margin of more than 1 million in the 2.5 million mail-in ballots Pennsylvania received as of Tuesday. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin together reported receiving 6.5 million mail ballots as of Election Day, and did not begin counting them until then. It should be no surprise if they are not finished by Wednesday. Early Wednesday, Mr. Biden rightly called for patience as all the votes are counted and predicted that he would win the Midwestern battlegrounds when they were.