Hollywood Cautiously Hopeful as Stars Urge Patience for Full Vote Count

Joe Biden and Donald Trump
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Amid election uncertainty, prominent figures continue to push the message of counting every vote Wednesday: "Waiting is hard, but democracy is worth waiting for."

On the eve of the 2020 presidential election, Michael Moore — who famously foresaw a Donald Trump victory in 2016 — was not making any predictions about how the race between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden would go. "I don’t think people are complacent this time, and I think most people are not taking a victory for granted until the deal is actually sealed," he told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday night.

Tuesday night's historic voter turnout proved the first part of his prediction and, by Wednesday morning, the latter was also ringing true.

The morning after the election — as many analysts had cautioned going into Election Day — a winner still had not been declared in the presidential race. The Democrats had what is shaping up to be a disappointing night in seeking Senate control. But the tightly contested face-off between Trump and Biden, revealed overnight to be much closer than had been predicted by the polls, was hanging in the balance as millions of mail-in ballots remained to be counted among the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — as well as North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada — which had all yet to be called.

On Wednesday afternoon, the first of those key states would be declared for Biden: Wisconsin, with the Democratic nominee flipping the state after Trump's narrow 2016 win. Biden also won Michigan, while Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia are still undetermined.

Neither candidate has secured the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure a victory, as has been reported by The Associated Press. But the Michigan win brings Biden to 264 electoral votes, while Trump currently has 214.

Despite the uncertain results, President Trump falsely and prematurely declared victory in a Tuesday night speech, where he also threatened court action over what he called "a fraud on the American republic." He said, "We'll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop, we don't want them to find any ballots at 4 o'clock in the morning and add them to the list. It's a very sad moment."

Trump's claims resulted in a swift response from the Biden campaign — calling Trump's words about trying to shut down the counting of ballots "outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect" — and sparked social media outcry from Hollywood stars and figures, many whom had taken to Twitter to voice a collective unease after polls closed.

On Wednesday afternoon, Biden and his vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris, spoke in a brief press conference where they offered a message of unity. "Yesterday once again proved that democracy is the heartbeat of this nation,” Biden began. “Our government of, by, and for the people is very much alive, very much alive in America."

Biden stressed, likely in response to Trump's earlier declaration of victory, that "power can’t be taken or asserted, it flows from the people. It is their will that determines who will be the president of the United States and their will alone."

Biden did not declare victory. But, in a show of confidence, said, "I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners."

Once the election is finalized, Biden — who stressed that every vote needs to be counted — vowed to "put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign behind us, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to one another, to hear each other again and respect and care for one another," Biden concluded. "So let me be clear, we are campaigning as Democrats, but I will govern as an American president."

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Hollywood mood had shifted to being more hopeful — cautiously so, after memories of 2016 election night — as the counting in the remaining states that had paused late in the night was set to restart. The novel coronavirus pandemic led to a historic number of absentee mail-in ballots; an unprecedented 103.2 million people voted early, according to the AP. Emerging data on the key remaining states revealed what political experts had believed ahead of the election, that Democrats would vote disproportionately by mail, while Republicans would vote disproportionately in person.

As Mark Ruffalo put it, "This #RedMirage is about to 'turn the corner' into a #BlueWall. Take a breath and get centered in yourself for the next coming days."

As stars continued to stress the growing rally cry to "Count Every Vote" and urge patience so that every ballot can be processed, some, like activist and actress Alyssa Milano, began to throw their support behind the group Protect the Results, which is "building a coalition of voters ready to mobilize if Trump undermines the results of the 2020 presidential election."

Moore, in his own morning-after take on Facebook, shouted out the group while urging voters to join the movement and demand that every single vote be counted. Leading up to the election, Hollywood activists had stressed patience on social media and via election PSAs. "The only vote thief here will be Trump," the filmmaker wrote.

Moore's post — titled, "There's no crying in Trump removal" — spoke directly to anxious Democrats and explained why the results are indeed not over.

"I am writing this at 7:45 a.m. on Nov. 4 and here’s how I see it. First, I just slept like a baby in my chair with the TV blaring. For three hours. That’s cause I dozed off at 4:30 a.m. knowing this: Millions of ballots — all of them from early and mail-in voting which the majority of Democrats did — had not been counted!" he wrote, citing that the majority of the 2.2 million then-uncounted ballots from Pennsylvania were from registered Democrats.

He also praised Biden for flipping Arizona, which hasn't gone to a Democrat since the 1996 presidential election, and winning the 2nd Congressional district of Nebraska, which had gone for Trump in 2016: "Trump has not flipped a single state that Hillary won! Only Biden is flipping states and electors that Trump won in 2016. And he will flip more today as the ballots continue to be counted."

He continued, "TV last night provided Trump with the graphic map he needed — all those states in blood red — so Trump came out and stood in the middle of the night in front of a hundred American flags and declared victory and ordered the counting of all the ballots to cease. … We had been warned about not being fooled by all the early 'red' on the map — the 'red mirage.'" But on Wednesday morning, he noted that as the ballot counters  restarted their work, "every 10 minutes, for the last hour, Biden has continued to gain on Trump."

Earlier in the night, as votes were still being counted in most states, Kerry Washington had tweeted a #CountEveryVote video, noting that in 2016 only a few thousand votes decided Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Debra Messing, Chelsea Handler, Katy Perry, Gabrielle Union, Josh Gad, John Legend and Uzo Aduba are just some of the stars who posted similar messages.

After Trump's speech Tuesday night, the #CountEveryVote movement grew louder from Hollywood. "Trump is scared. He knows he is going to lose. If he even dares try to steal this election before every vote is counted, we take to the streets in numbers never witnessed before," cautioned Gad, a sentiment that has been echoed from some of his Hollywood peers.

And on Wednesday, the wait-and-see messaging remained strong, especially from figures who had been pushing get-out-the-vote campaigns and voter awareness leading up to Election Day.

"Every single vote in this country matters, will be counted and will matter! It is the emblem of our democracy!" wrote Lady Gaga. "Waiting for mail in votes to be counted is a sign that our democracy is working the way it should," cautioned America Ferrera. "This ain't over!" wrote Michael Keaton. Lin-Manuel Miranda shared Leslie Odom Jr.'s #WaitForIt PSA, tweeting, "Encore …". Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mark Ruffalo also tweeted, urging to count every vote.

"Waiting is hard, but democracy is worth waiting for," noted showrunner Shonda Rhimes.

Later, in an election protection briefing to reporters that was shared by Biden on social media, his campaign manager Jen O'Malley then made her own prediction: "Joe Biden is on track to win this election and he will be the next president of the United States. We believe we are on a clear path to victory by this afternoon."

As Wisconsin and Michigan began to shade blue Wednesday afternoon — with Biden projected by the cable and broadcast news anchors as having narrow leads in those states — Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing "irregularities in several Wisconsin counties." The Trump campaign also filed suits to stop the vote counts in both Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to the AP.

All three states have been spotlighted by Hollywood in 2020. Wisconsin — which Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 — was the target of a handful of film and TV reunions, organized by Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. The fundraiser events — which reunited casts from the Princess Bride and Superbad to Veep, Happy Days and The West Wing — raised millions of dollars and courted hundreds of volunteers for the Wisconsin Democrats in the run-up to Nov. 3. The Democratic Party of Michigan, meanwhile, benefited from reunion events with the casts of Homeland and Fright Night; while the Pennsylvania Democrats hosted a Spinal Tap virtual reunion.

Nov. 4, 10:15 a.m. Updated to include Trump to request a Wisconsin recount.
11:15 a.m. Updated to include Trump campaign's Michigan, Pennsylvania suits.
1:30 p.m. Updated to include Biden's speech.