Biden Appears to Hold Edge in the Key Votes Left to Be Counted


A pile of ballots in the Luzerne County Government Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.Credit...Robert Nickelsberg for The New York Times


The tabulations continue in the states too close to call, but some things are becoming clearer.


Joe Biden looks to be on the cusp of winning the election. Here’s a look at where the vote count stands in the key states.


Pennsylvania


President Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania has plummeted to two percentage points as of Thursday morning, as the mail absentee ballot count proceeded briskly across the state.

There is every indication that Mr. Biden remains on track to pull ahead when all of the votes are in and counted, whenever that may be.


So far, Mr. Biden has been winning absentee votes, 77 percent to 22 percent, according to the Pennsylvania secretary of state. At that pace, he needs only 288,000 more mail votes before taking the lead. By my count, there are about 500,000 mail ballots left. The secretary of state reported a total of 2.6 million absentee ballots cast as of Tuesday, and so far 2.1 million absentee votes have been counted. If Mr. Biden won those 500,000 ballots by the same 77-22 pace, he would end with a lead of about 100,000 votes in the state. That’s a pretty decent cushion.


That estimate may also be conservative. For one, the remaining mail ballots are disproportionately in Democratic counties, so he’ll probably do better than 77-22. Another factor: There are more remaining absentee votes than estimated here; the state tally as of Tuesday does not include mail ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrived afterward (and I’m not entirely sure whether it includes mail ballots placed in Election Day drop boxes, but I’m assuming so out of caution).


To that point, the Pennsylvania election web page says there are 763,000 mail ballots left to be counted. I think that’s mainly because it’s out of date, and additional mail ballots have been counted since the page was last updated. But it may also reflect additional mail ballots. It might also be both.


And finally, there are still Election Day ballots left in Philadelphia, as well as provisional ballots — votes cast by people who couldn’t initially be verified as eligible voters when they showed up to cast a ballot, like someone who went to the wrong precinct — that will cushion Mr. Biden.


The provisional count might be especially large here this year, since voters who requested a mail ballot but decided to vote in person (and didn’t surrender their mail ballot in person) were also forced to vote provisionally, so as to make sure their votes weren’t double-counted.


If you want a gut check on the big picture, look at the swing map on our results page, which shows how things have changed since 2016 in the counties where we think the vote is done. In the places where the count has mostly wrapped up, Mr. Biden is mostly running ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 showing — and often by a significant margin.


Now take that logic statewide: If Mr. Biden runs ahead of her 2016 performance by a modest margin statewide, he carries the state. And that’s before the provisional vote count.

If Mr. Biden is the projected winner in Pennsylvania, he’ll be the president-elect.

Update: The York County provisional ballot results are no longer on the state website. Those results appeared to show Mr. Biden winning them handily. We’ve removed our reporting on it until we can get clarity on that data.


Arizona


Joe Biden’s lead in Arizona fell to 2.4 points Wednesday night, as late mail ballots broke toward Mr. Trump by a significant margin. This runs counter to the pattern we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, but it was expected, or at least not a surprise.


Why are late mail ballots better for Mr. Trump here? Unlike most other states, Arizona has a huge number of permanent absentee mail votes, and they’re slightly Republican by registration. This year, the Democratic absentee voters rushed in their ballots, giving Democrats an unusual lead in the state’s early mail vote. As a consequence, the group of voters who had received but not returned mail ballots was disproportionately Republican heading into the weekend before the election.


Over all, Mr. Trump won the ballots counted in Arizona on Wednesday night by about 23 points. It’s hard to say whether that pace will be enough for Mr. Trump to win, since it depends on exactly how many ballots are left (we don’t know this with the precision necessary for a close race). It also depends on what kinds of late mail ballots are left, and what kinds of votes were counted Wednesday night.


There are two kinds of late mail ballots in Arizona: those that arrived in the mail in the days ahead of the election, and those that were dropped off at a polling place on Election Day. These two kinds often lean differently politically, and they can be counted at different times, too. Without knowing which of these ballots we saw Wednesday night, it’s hard to be too sure whether Mr. Trump’s on track for something close to a comeback.


In general, the Election Day drop-off mail ballots are usually better for Democrats. If those ballots weren’t included in Wednesday’s count, that’s good news for Mr. Biden.


No matter how you cut the data, it’s hard not to arrive at the conclusion that Mr. Biden’s lead will withstand the late vote. But there’s also enough uncertainty with the number and kind of ballots left that it would be a mistake to be too sure about it. Certainly, it is too soon to project the state for Mr. Biden.


Georgia


The president’s lead in the state all but vanished overnight. Mr. Trump now leads by four-tenths of a percentage point — just under 19,000 votes — after heavily Democratic ballots in the Atlanta area were finally counted. There are still more absentee ballots left for Mr. Biden.

It’s not clear how many ballots there are and where. We received conflicting information this morning, and things are so close that even modest differences will be decisive.


This morning, the Georgia secretary of state initially said there were 25,000 ballots remaining. If so, Mr. Biden’s push might fall just short of victory, though he’d still have a chance with provisional ballots. Then, later in the morning, the secretary of state said it was 50,000 ballots. And now, The New York Times is reporting that the state voting system implementation manager says there are 61,367 remaining ballots. The latter numbers come a lot closer to our estimates, and that would be enough for Mr. Biden to be a favorite. But caution is warranted, given the mixed messaging.


We also don’t have a number on the provisional ballot count, but we’re in the territory where those could be a crucial factor. And if you’re wondering, our election night forecaster, the needle, did assume some number of provisional ballots would break heavily for Mr. Biden, helping to make him a very narrow favorite to win the state.


Some of you have wondered where our three needles went. They’re turned off. We're not staffed to monitor them 24/7: We depend on hundreds of feeds that we don’t control, and if they did something unexpected it would have big consequences for needle movement in a close race.


Nonetheless, the needle lives on internally here at The Times, and Mr. Biden still leads in Georgia by the same narrow margin that he did when we turned it off. But again, this all depends on exactly how many ballots are left, including provisionals.


Nevada

We didn’t get any new ballots, and Mr. Biden still holds a lead. The remaining vote: mail ballots received on Election Day and provisionals. There’s reason to expect these will pad Mr. Biden’s lead: Democrats were outpacing Republicans by a two-to-one margin in the state’s mail ballot returns, and provisionals lean Democratic just about everywhere. But we’ll wait to be sure. We should get more data today.

North Carolina

We’re still waiting to see how many mail ballots arrived after the election, and whether they’re enough to overcome the president’s lead. There’s not much reason to expect it, but here again we’ll wait to be sure.



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