States still in play and what makes them that way

Examine the reasons why these states could still go to either Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Joe Biden

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A handful of pivotal states remained in play Thursday in the tightly contested U.S. presidential race. Here, The Associated Press reviews them and examines the reasons why they could still go to either Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Joe Biden:

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GEORGIA: Outstanding ballots left to be counted in counties where Biden has performed well.

THE BACKGROUND: Early Wednesday, Trump prematurely claimed he carried Georgia.

“It’s … clear that we have won Georgia. We’re up by 2.5%, or 117,000 (votes) with only 7% (of the vote) left” to count, Trump said during an early morning appearance at the White House. He also said he planned to contest the U.S. presidential election before the Supreme Court. It was unclear exactly what legal action he might pursue.

Read More: Keisha Lance Bottoms on election: ‘I knew the South would have something to say’

The race is too early to call. With an estimated 99% of the vote counted there, Trump’s lead over Biden has shrunk to about 18,000 votes. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Thursday morning that there were approximately 61,000 ballots still outstanding.

That includes mailed ballots from population-dense counties in the Atlanta metro region that lean Democratic. Biden is overperforming Hillary Clinton’s 2016 showing in those counties, including in their more upscale suburban reaches.

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NEVADA: Race too early to call.

THE BACKGROUND: About 75% of the votes are in and Biden leads by less than 8,000 votes.

Democratic and Republican representatives review absentee ballots at the Fulton County Election preparation Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

But there are outstanding ballots left to be counted in the coming days. Under state law, they can still be accepted so long as they were postmarked by Election Day, on Nov. 3.

Trump narrowly lost Nevada in 2016 as the state has trended toward the Democrats in the past decade. The last Republican presidential contender to win the state was George W. Bush in 2004.

NORTH CAROLINA: Race too early to call. Ballots left to count.

THE BACKGROUND: Trump prematurely claimed early Wednesday that he won the state.

“We’ve clearly won North Carolina, where we’re up 1.7%, 77,000 votes with only approximately 5% left. They can’t catch us,” he said during an appearance at the White House. Trump also said he planned to contest the U.S. presidential election before the Supreme Court. It was unclear, exactly, what legal action he might pursue.

Though Trump is correct that he held a nearly 77,000-vote lead, which he maintained Thursday morning, the race is too early to call with up to 116,000 mail ballots left to count, as well as the potential of thousands of provisional ballots.

As long as those ballots are postmarked by Nov. 3, state election officials have until Nov. 12 to count them. And when it comes to mail ballots, Biden was outperforming Trump. That means the ballots yet to be counted could give Biden a lead.

Luzerne County officials continue to count mail in ballots in a courtroom at the Luzerne County Penn Place building Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Mark Moran/The Citizens’ Voice via AP)

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PENNSYLVANIA: Hundreds of thousands of votes left to be counted.

THE BACKGROUND: Pennsylvania is among a handful of battleground states Trump and Biden are narrowly contesting, and there were hundreds of thousands of votes left to be counted Thursday morning.

Trump, who held a 675,000-vote lead early Wednesday, prematurely declared victory in the state.

“We’re winning Pennsylvania by a tremendous amount. We’re up 690,000 votes in Pennsylvania. These aren’t even close. It’s not like, ‘Oh, it’s close,’” Trump said during an appearance at the White House.

A woman stands in line to vote as the sun rises above the Main Street Branch Library vote center Tuesday in Huntington Beach, California. The passage of Proposition 17 in California means more than 50,000 formerly incarcerated felons there will have their voting rights restored. (Photo by Apu Gomes/Getty Images)

By Thursday morning, his lead had slipped to about 136,000 — and the race is destined to get tighter.

One reason is because elections officials are not allowed to process mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law. It’s a form of voting that has skewed heavily in Biden’s favor after Trump spent months claiming without proof that voting by mail would lead to widespread voter fraud.

Mail ballots from across the state that were counted by late Wednesday overwhelming broke Biden’s direction.

Read More: Trump supporters crowd polling station demanding election officials to stop counting ballots

A final vote total may not be clear for days because the use of mail-in ballots, which take more time to process, has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats had long considered Pennsylvania a part of their “blue wall” — a trifecta that also includes Wisconsin and Michigan — that for years had served as a bulwark in presidential elections. In 2016, Trump won each by less than a percentage point.

Biden, who was born in Scranton, claims favorite-son status in the state and has long played up the idea that he was Pennsylvania’s “third senator” during his decades representing neighboring Delaware. He’s also campaigned extensively in the state from his home in Delaware.

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