The outcome of the United States presidential election remained in the balance late 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 Thursday night or Friday are Georgia with 16 electoral votes, North Carolina with 15, and Nevada with 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.
Nevada, where Biden is favoured, could put him precisely at the number needed to win, if he keeps Arizona. With more than 89 percent of the vote counted, Biden was leading by less than 11,500 votes.
In North Carolina, Trump had a comfortable lead of around 77,000 votes with 95 percent of the ballots, about 5.38 million, tabulated.
In Georgia, Trump’s razor thin lead over Biden has been steadily slipping away to less than 2,500 votes, with about 98 percent counted.
Biden could pull in the lion’s share of the final votes being counted — less than 19,000 remained as of Thursday evening — which include thousands in Democratic-leaning areas.
Georgia has not chosen a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992.
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.
As of Thursday evening, Trump’s lead had dwindled to about 50,000 votes, with 92 percent of the ballots counted.
One wild card that could upset these calculations: Arizona. Fox News and The Associated Press have already called the state’s race in Biden’s favour, but other networks including CNN and NBC have said it’s 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 evening, Biden had a lead of about 46,000 votes with about 90 percent of the ballots counted.
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 afterwards 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.-AFP