What happened in key battleground states on election night?
Did multiple states where Donald Trump was winning really stop counting votes on election night?
It’s one of the most oft-repeated claims among supporters of the President as evidence of nefarious activity by Democrats.
But while multiple fact checks have debunked some aspects of the narrative, and the President’s wild allegations of mass voter fraud remain unproven, it’s fair to say there is still some murkiness around the issue.
At least one purported reason for stopping the vote count given by election officials on the night – the “burst pipe” at Georgia’s State Farm Arena – has since been called into question.
Despite the after-the-fact explanations and debunkings, it’s worth revisiting the actual night as it happened to highlight that there was a fair amount of confusion at the time.
As Mr Trump walked out to speak to the media in the early hours of November 4, TV news tickers showed the President with a comfortable lead over Joe Biden in nearly every key battleground state.
Pennsylvania, 56-43, a lead of just under 700,000 votes. Georgia, 51-48, a lead of nearly 120,000. Michigan, 53-45, a lead of nearly 295,000. Wisconsin, 51-47, a lead of more than 116,000. North Carolina, 50-49, a lead of nearly 77,000.
At that point, Mr Biden had leads in Arizona and Nevada, of nearly 155,000 and more than 29,000 respectively.
RELATED: Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani holds wild press conference
“We were winning everything and all of a sudden if was just called off,” Mr Trump told the assembled crowd, having earlier tweeted that Democrats were trying to “steal the election”.
“We won states and all of a sudden I said, ‘What happened to the election? It’s off.’ We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”
Hours earlier, Mr Biden had fronted a press conference to declare “we believe we’re on track to win this election”.
“It ain’t over until every vote is counted, but we’re feeling good about where we are,” he said.
“We’re still in the game in Georgia. And we’re feeling real good about Wisconsin and Michigan. It’s going to take time to count the votes, but we’re going to win Pennsylvania. I’ve been talking to folks in Philly, Allegheny County and Scranton, and they’re really encouraged by the turnout and what they see.”
So what actually happened? Did roughly half a dozen swing states all suddenly stop counting?
Well, sort of. Some did and some didn’t, but not for reasons the Trump campaign believes.
North Carolina stopped because “there were no more votes to count” on the night, officials said – but they then had to wait around for any that arrived in the mail, up until November 12.
Nevada announced it was done for the night around 2.45am.
Explaining the reason for the pause, election officials said all in-person mail-in ballots received up until November 2 had been counted, but not those received on election day.
They said they would continue counting those received on election day and up until November 10, but would not be releasing any more results until 9am on November 5.
RELATED: Trump campaign pays $4 million for Wisconsin recount
Nevada officials said the number of ballots outstanding was “difficult to estimate in Nevada because every voter was sent a mail ballot” and “obviously, not all will vote”.
They stressed that the state had never intended to announce a final result on election night.
In Pennsylvania, multiple counties announced a pause in either counting or reporting of results late on election night.
Philadelphia election officials announced at around 11pm that they had counted an estimated 76,000 absentee ballots and would not be reporting any more results until 9am the next morning.
This was widely interpreted to mean they had “stopped counting”, sparking outrage online.
A Philadelphia official then fronted the media to set the record straight. “Thirty minutes ago Twitter said that we stopped counting, but we literally have a live feed in the room, showing everyone from here to London to Moscow that we’re counting votes in that room,” he said.
“So the idea that we stopped counting is totally inaccurate, and you can see it for yourself.”
But over in Allegheny County, which takes in the second-largest city Pittsburgh, officials did announce just before 2am that they would be suspending counting until the next day.
“Crews remain to process and flatten the remaining ballots which should take about an hour,” local news reporter Aaron Martin tweeted. “The scanning will resume around 10am. The county expects it will go quickly from there.”
That came shortly after the county had reported technical issues updating precinct information.
In neighbouring Butler County, part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, officials stopped counting mail-in ballots at 8pm after getting nearly “50 per cent” through.
Butler County officials said “mechanical issues” with the ballot scanner meant the process had been “slower than anticipated” and that they planned to resume at 8.30am.
Michigan, despite widespread claims, did not actually stop counting.
Officials there had warned the results would not be known on election night due to the large number of absentee ballots, with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson saying likely the following evening.
“At no point has the counting process stopped since it began at 7am yesterday morning, which was when, per Michigan election law, it could begin,” a spokeswoman for Ms Benson said on Wednesday.
The Trump campaign cried foul after a large “dump” of votes in the early hours of the morning from Wayne County, which takes in the heavily Democratic Detroit, saw Mr Biden close the gap by nearly 135,000.
This was later identified as a clerical error and corrected.
Wisconsin saw a similar phenomenon, although in that case it was correct – and had been expected.
Like Michigan, the state also never stopped counting. The spike came at around 3.30am as Milwaukee completed its mail-in vote tally and reported them all at once.
“That led to a long-predicted spike in Biden’s favour since Democrats are more likely to use vote absentee and Milwaukee is a heavily Democratic area,” Politifact wrote.
RELATED: Trump sacks DHS official who rejected voter fraud claims
Georgia, meanwhile, saw vote counting stop in a number of areas on election night – most notably in Fulton County, which takes in the capital and most populous city Atlanta.
Fulton County election officials abruptly announced to observers and the media that due to a burst water pipe, they were closing down the State Farm Arena tabulation centre at 10.30pm and would resume counting absentee ballots in the morning.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper noted at the time that “no official could explain before press time why Fulton was stopping its count of absentee ballots at that time, only saying that was the procedure”.
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer later alleged that after their observers left, election officials continued counting ballots “in secret until 1am”.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement on Sunday that the “issue remains under investigation”.
“Late in the evening of election night, a few Fulton County election workers completed their duties and left,” he said. “As they left, some allegedly stated that they were ‘done counting for the night’. Some party observers have stated they were told they needed to go.”
Text messages released under freedom-of-information laws last week cast doubt on the “burst pipe” excuse, with one senior stadium employee describing it as “highly exaggerated”.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s second most populous county, Gwinnett County in the Atlanta suburbs, also stopped counting absentee ballots on election night, citing issues with its Dominion scanner.
Mr Biden was declared the presumptive winner after edging ahead of Mr Trump in several key battleground states in the days following the election, as absentee ballots continued to be counted.
The President has so far refused to concede to Mr Biden.
At a wild press conference in Washington DC on Thursday, his legal team made sweeping, unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, with lawyer Sidney Powell doubling down on wild claims about Dominion Voting Systems.
“The Dominion Voting Systems, the Smartmatic software and the software that goes in other computerised voting systems here as well, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost another election,” she said.
RELATED: Claims of dead people voting in the US election debunked
“We have one very strong witness who has explained how it all works. It is a stunning, detailed affidavit because he was with Hugo Chavez while he was being briefed on how it worked, he saw it operate to make sure the election came out his way. That was the express purpose of creating the software.”
Ms Powell said as soon as the witness “saw multiple states shut down the (counting) on the night of the election, he knew the same thing was happening here”. She alleged that “one of its most characteristic features is its ability to flip votes”.
“It can set and run an algorithm, that probably ran all over the country, to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to Biden, which we might never have uncovered had the votes for President Trump not been so overwhelming in so many of these states that it broke the algorithm that had been plugged into the system,” she said.
“That’s what caused them to have to shut down in the states they shut down in, that’s when they came in the back door with all the mail-in ballots, many of which they had actually fabricated.”
Dominion and Smartmatic have vehemently denied the allegations as baseless conspiracy theories.
Speaking to reporters in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday afternoon, Mr Biden said Mr Trump was showing “incredible irresponsibility” by refusing to concede.
“Incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,” he said. “It think it is uh, um … well, I don’t know his motive but I just think it’s totally irresponsible.”