(AFP) — The US presidential election could be settled Thursday as a handful of battleground states complete their vote counts.
Democrat Joe Biden has racked up at least 253 of the 270 electoral votes that he needs, according to US network projections — and 264 if Arizona is included, which Fox News and the Associated Press have called in his favour.
Donald Trump has amassed 214 electoral votes so far, and is still in contention in several states that would afford the Republican incumbent a path to re-election.
Expected to report final vote counts on Thursday are Georgia (16 electoral votes), North Carolina (15), and Nevada (6).
However, mail-in ballots sent on or before Election Day in North Carolina can be counted until November 12.
Biden could reach the magic number to gain the White House with a win in any of the three, if he keeps Arizona. Trump needs to capture all three to stay competitive.
Here is a look at the situation in the key states that are still up for grabs, and paths to victory for each candidate:
– Nevada –
Nevada, where Biden is favoured, could put him precisely at the number needed to win, if he keeps Arizona. With more than 87 per cent of the vote counted, Biden was leading by about 12,000 votes, according to CNN.
– North Carolina –
In North Carolina, Trump had a comfortable lead of about 77,000 votes with 95 per cent of the ballots, about 5.38 million, tabulated.
– Georgia –
In Georgia just after midday, Biden lagged Trump by just over 13,500 votes with about 98 per cent counted.
But he could pull in the lion’s share of the final votes being counted, which include thousands in Democratic-leaning areas.
Gabriel Sterling, who works for Georgia’s secretary of state, told reporters early Thursday that about 60,000 votes remained uncounted.
“Fast is great, and we appreciate fast. We more appreciate accuracy,” he said.
Georgia has not chosen a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992.
– Pennsylvania –
Pennsylvania is the biggest prize remaining, with 20 electoral votes. As in Georgia, Trump is currently leading, but the majority of votes left to be counted are in Democratic-leaning areas like greater Philadelphia.
At midday, Trump’s lead stood at about 116,000 votes, with 92 per cent of the ballots counted.
– Arizona –
One wild card that could upset these calculations: Arizona. Fox News and the Associated Press have already called the race in Biden’s favour, but other networks including CNN and NBC have said the race is still too close to call.
Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told ABC News that she did not expect a final count on Thursday — but also that she doesn’t expect a recount.
“It’s not looking like today, probably closer to tomorrow that we’ll be closer to getting through all those ballots,” Hobbs said.
On Thursday, Biden had a lead of about 69,000 votes with more than 86 per cent of the ballots counted.
– Paths to victory –
Much of the delay has resulted from a flood of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic — and those votes have tended to favour Democrats.
If Biden’s lead in Arizona holds, and he wins Nevada or Georgia, he would pass the threshold of 270 electoral votes.
Should Trump hold North Carolina and Georgia but lose Arizona, he must take Nevada as well as Pennsylvania to win.
Simply winning Pennsylvania — where Trump leads but faces a possible onslaught of pro-Biden mailed ballots — will not be enough for the president, even if he takes Alaska’s three electoral votes as expected.
Much to Trump’s chagrin, Pennsylvania has decided to allow mailed ballots sent by Election Day but received up to three days afterward to be counted. Authorities expect to complete the count by Friday.
Another factor that could keep the battle alive: the Trump campaign has unleashed a legal blitz in key states vital to the incumbent’s re-election.
It has sued to disqualify late-arriving ballots in Pennsylvania, sued in Nevada and Georgia over alleged irregularities, and has demanded a recount in Wisconsin.