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Where the Key States Stand in a Possible Day of Decision for Biden

Counting votes in Atlanta on Thursday. Joe Biden took the lead in Georgia overnight.Credit...Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York Times

He now leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania, and it seems just a matter of time before the race in Pennsylvania is put out of reach.

Joe Biden now leads in states worth 306 electoral votes. Here’s the state of play in the places that matter most on Friday.

Pennsylvania Mr. Biden has taken a narrow lead in Pennsylvania, as absentee votes are slowly being tabulated this morning.

According to the Pennsylvania secretary of state, 163,501 absentee ballots remain to be counted. This number is about 37,000 votes behind, as it does not appear to include the most recent wave of mail absentee ballots that gave Mr. Biden the lead.

There seems no reason to doubt that he will hold a comfortable lead once all of the absentee votes are counted. So far, absentee ballots have backed Mr. Biden by a margin of 76 percent to 23 percent. If the remaining ballots break the same way, he will end up ahead by about 70,000 votes statewide.

Mr. Biden might win these votes by an even wider margin because the preponderance of the outstanding vote is in Philadelphia and Allegheny (Pittsburgh) Counties — the state’s two most Democratic jurisdictions. He would win the absentee vote by an even wider 81-18 margin if the remaining vote broke the same way as the absentee voting has gone in each county so far. That would be enough for Mr. Biden to net 100,000 votes out of the remaining mail ballots, putting him ahead by 80,000 votes over all.

One factor that could mitigate the president’s losses in the remaining absentee count: the prospect that his campaign could successfully challenge some absentee ballots received after the election. The state legislature set the deadline for receiving mail ballots as Election Day, but the state Supreme Court moved it to Nov. 6 (Friday). There’s at least some reason to wonder if the U.S. Supreme Court will side with the Republicans and invalidate ballots received since Election Day, now that Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed to the court.

But even a favorable Supreme Court ruling would do little for Mr. Trump. Fewer than 30,000 ballots have been added to the state’s tally since election night. It’s possible that some of these ballots wouldn’t be subject to legal challenge, and might have been received on Election Day, either in the mail or in the drop boxes, and just weren’t processed until later.

Even if all 30,000 were invalidated, Mr. Biden’s advantage would withstand those losses. Mr. Biden has additional opportunities to increase his lead beyond the absentee vote. The only Election Day precincts remaining, according to the state’s data, are in the city of Philadelphia, where Mr. Biden won the Election Day vote.

Then there are the provisional ballots, votes cast by people who couldn’t initially be verified as eligible when they showed up to vote. We don’t know how many exist in the state, but these ballots are usually disproportionately in Philadelphia and tend to pad the Democratic lead by tens of thousands of votes.

This year, two factors complicate an easy analysis of the provisional ballots. Mr. Trump might be helped because the Election Day vote was more Republican this year. On the other hand, the provisional ballot count includes a new group this year: people who received an absentee ballot in the mail but showed up to vote in person and did not surrender their absentee ballot at the polling place. These voters had to vote provisionally to ensure their votes weren’t counted twice.

It is hard to know how many votes fall into this category, but given the consternation about the reliability of mail voting — on both sides — it could be a lot. These ballots may not be as favorable for Democrats as the overall absentee ballot count, since Democrats had a higher mail ballot return rate than Republicans — perhaps reflecting the president’s criticism of the method. But Democrats still outnumbered Republicans, 52 percent to 34 percent, among mail ballots that hadn’t been returned heading into the election.

At this point, the only serious question is whether the networks will make a projection in Pennsylvania with Mr. Biden holding a nominal edge, or whether they’ll wait for him to build a more significant lead. Sometimes, they wait for a candidate to build a lead outside of the range of a recount — 0.5 of a point in Pennsylvania — before making a projection. There was a similar situation in Michigan on Wednesday, as Mr. Biden took a lead that was sure to grow, but the networks didn’t call the state until Mr. Biden led by a full point. He now leads there by around three points.

If all of the absentee votes are counted, Mr. Biden ought to lead by over a percentage point before provisional ballots report — which ought to be enough for a call. Who knows when we’ll get there.

Mr. Biden will be president-elect if he’s declared the projected winner in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes). The decisive electoral vote threshold is 270.

Arizona Mr. Biden’s lead in Arizona is down to 1.6 points, or about 50,000 votes, as more late absentee mail ballots are counted.

This is the only state where late mail votes have broken toward Mr. Trump, and in a twist, that too is a reflection of Democratic enthusiasm for mail voting. Arizona has a list of permanent absentee voters, who lean Republican, but this year Democrats rushed to return their ballots early, leaving a very Republican group of voters to return theirs closer to the election (or on a more typical time frame, if you prefer).

On Thursday, Mr. Trump won the new votes cast in Arizona by about 15 points — that’s a bit worse than how he fared in the ballots on Wednesday, and it’s probably a tiny bit short of what he needs to take the state. But it was enough to keep his hopes alive: He would need to win the remaining vote by 17 points to edge ahead of Mr. Biden, which is only slightly better than what he scored Thursday.

The challenge for Mr. Trump is that there are more reasons to think he fares worse from here rather than the other way around. There are two buckets of remaining mail votes in Arizona: the ballots that were received in the mail in the few days before the election, and the mail ballots that were dropped off at polling places on Election Day. In general, Democrats do better in the Election Day drop-off votes; in general, those ballots are counted last. That may help explain why Mr. Biden did a little bit better in Thursday’s votes than the day before, though it’s not exactly clear what kind of votes were counted or remain.

Beyond that, there are the provisional ballots. There might be something short of 30,000 of them in the state, given that there were 18,000 in Maricopa County, according to The Arizona Republic. (Maricopa includes a majority of the state population.) These ballots tend to be Democratic, though the more heavily Republican Election Day vote this year does complicate that conclusion as it does elsewhere.

The bottom line: Arizona may continue to tighten, and there’s no basis to call the state at this time. But Mr. Trump is not quite on track to overtake Mr. Biden. He’ll need to do better than what he has done so far.

More late ballot results from Maricopa will be released at 11 a.m. Eastern, and we’ll see whether Mr. Trump can hit his target today and keep his chances alive. Mr. Biden will be president-elect if he’s declared the projected winner in both Arizona and Nevada.

Georgia You’ve probably heard that we have a new leader here this morning. Mr. Biden has edged ahead by just over one thousand votes.

There’s not much counting from here. There’s a scattering of absentee votes across the state, and the absentee vote has been pretty solid for Mr. Biden in Georgia — including in Republican counties. He’s likelier to pad his lead at this point than not. Beyond that, we have the extraneous vote: overseas, military, “cured” and provisional ballots.

If the Twitter chatter is any indication, Mr. Trump’s hopes seem to rest on the military and overseas ballots. I don’t think there’s much here. Most of the overseas and military ballots have been counted already, along with all of the other absentee ballots. But military and overseas ballots can still arrive until today, and there were about 8,000 requests that hadn’t yet been returned. This is the group of votes — the very-late-arriving overseas ballots — that’s still left to go.

We have no idea how many of these votes will materialize (there isn’t much reason to assume many). It’s also not obvious that Mr. Trump is favored to win these ballots: Even if Mr. Trump might be favored among military members, the cosmopolitan globe-trotter vote might be quite Democratic.

The pool of remaining provisional ballots is probably much larger. According to the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there were approximately 5,500 provisional ballots in heavily Democratic Fulton and DeKalb Counties alone. We don’t know how many exist statewide, and we don’t know how many will ultimately be accepted. But they will probably lean Democratic, as they do elsewhere — with the proviso about this year’s relatively Republican Election Day vote that we’ve added elsewhere.

The pool of potentially fixable but currently rejected absentee ballots may also be meaningful. There were 2,000 rejected absentee ballots statewide, and voters had until today to “cure” their ballots and fix whatever merited a rejection, like a missing signature. No one knows how many will do so, but we do know the absentee vote here was overwhelmingly for Mr. Biden.

All together, Mr. Biden has a very slim but nonetheless clear edge in the state. There’s just not much vote left, and on balance what’s out would tend to pad his lead. Still, don’t expect a call soon. It’s within the margin of a recount. This one might not be called until the results are certified.

Nevada Mr. Biden expanded his lead to about a percentage point on Thursday, or 9,000 votes, as a variety of late mail and provisional ballots broke his way by a comfortable 14-point margin. (Mail ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive by Nov. 10 are accepted.) His lead should grow further today. According to the Nevada secretary of state, 190,000 votes are left to be counted, and 90 percent of them are in heavily Democratic Clark County. Thursday’s ballots from there went for Mr. Biden by an even wider margin than 14 points. For good measure, the preponderance of the remaining vote — 124,000 — is mail absentee, which has gone for Mr. Biden by a wide margin in the state.

This one could be called in the next wave of data today. A Nevada call (six electoral votes) would not be enough for Mr. Biden to win the presidency.

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