President Donald Trump on Thursday evening listed a string of unfounded conspiracy theories to accuse state election officials of plotting to steal the election from him. Taking the White House lectern for his first public address since election night, Trump offered no evidence for his assertions that officials are rigging the tallies or for his characterization of mail-in ballots as somehow illegitimate. The address came as his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, expands his lead to secure the presidency and as Trump’s path to a second term hinges on winning four key states. Those states have yet to finish counting their ballots amid an unprecedented number of mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said. “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, but a lot of votes came in late.” State elections officials have resoundingly denied they are counting “illegal votes“ and have assured voters that this year’s election was hardly the chaos many feared due to Covid-19. Despite the occasional technical glitch and extended polling-site hours, there were no reports of major issues or interference. Though counting is taking longer this year, there is no support for the position that mailed-in ballots were part of a mass fraud.
Tensions over the still undecided U.S. presidential election are prompting some state and local officials to increase security for those charged with counting the remaining votes. Supporters of Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden have increasingly focused their attention on states like Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, where slim margins have made calling the race nearly impossible. And the tensions have grown as allegations of irregularities in the vote-counting process have sparked protests outside buildings where the tally is going on. “I am concerned for the safety of my staff,” said Joe Gloria, registrar of voters in Clark County, Nevada, on November 5, after about 75 people, some wearing Trump T-shirts, chanted “Stop the Steal” and protested outside the county’s election center the night before.