Democrat Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to be a leader who “seeks not to divide, but to unify”.
Mr Biden’s victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed processing.
The democrat crossed the winning threshold of 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania to take control of a nation gripped by a historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
“I sought this office to restore the soul of America,” said Mr Biden in a prime-time victory speech not far from his Delaware home, “and to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home”.
Mr Trump refused to concede, threatening further legal action on ballot counting.
Mr Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanising a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Mr Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy.
The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, former Democratic bastions that had flipped to Mr Trump in 2016.
Kamala Harris made history as the first black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the US faces a reckoning on racial justice.
The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Mr Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Ms Harris introduced Mr Biden “as a president for all Americans” who would look to bridge a nation riven with partisanship and nodded to the historic nature of her ascension to the vice presidency.
“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before,” she said.
“You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth … you ushered in a new day for America.”
Mr Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than four million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Nonetheless, Mr Trump was not giving up.
Departing from long-standing democratic tradition and signalling a potentially turbulent transfer of power, he issued a combative statement saying his campaign would take unspecified legal actions.
He followed up with a bombastic, all-caps tweet in which he falsely declared, “I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES.” Twitter immediately flagged it as misleading.
Mr Trump has pointed to delays in processing the vote in some states to allege with no evidence that there was fraud and to argue that his rival was trying to seize power – an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
Mr Trump is the first incumbent president to lose re-election since Republican George HW Bush in 1992.