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Where It Stands: Election Hinges On Key States, Final Results May Take A While

Although Democratic nominee Joe Biden has an early edge, key battleground states such as Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida remain in play.
Marc Piscotty
Getty Images
Although Democratic nominee Joe Biden has an early edge, key battleground states such as Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida remain in play.

Updated Nov. 4 at 3:20 a.m. ET

As polls have closed across the United States in this pivotal presidential election, one thing is clear: The conclusion will not be a swift one.

President Trump has secured the swing states of Ohio, Iowa, Texas and, crucially, Florida, according to The Associated Press.

Tallying the states that have been called so far, Biden holds 238 electoral votes, while Trump has 213, with 87 electoral votes yet to be called. A candidate needs 270 votes to secure the presidency.

Key swing states — including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina — remain either too close or too early to call. Local officials in Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee have warned that vote counting will stretch well into Wednesday.

In Allegheny County, Pa., which includes Pittsburgh, election officials paused the count before 2 a.m. ET and said they planned to resume around 10 a.m. ET, reporter Lucy Perkins of member station WESA reports. Votes in Philadelphia continue to be counted but are not expected to be reported until mid-morning.

Wisconsin officials always expected their vote tallying to stretch well into Wednesday, while the counting in Michigan could take until Friday. Those timetables were predicted in advance based on the unusual volumes of mail-in ballots to be processed. In many states, even if those ballots were received well in advance of Election Day, they could not be counted until Tuesday.

Florida, however, was able to get a head start on counting those early votes. That's one reason it was closely watched as the first results rolled in on Tuesday night. An early, definitive Trump loss in the Sunshine State would have made the president's path to reelection extremely difficult and would have boosted Democratic hopes for a blue wave and an early night.

That "blue tsunami" scenario was quickly eliminated as the state leaned red, driven by Biden's underperformance with Latino voters. The Democratic Party's moonshot hopes for a remarkable blue shift in Texas withered away, too, as the state remained reliably red.

Biden sounded confident speaking shortly before 1 a.m. ET. He said he believed he was "on track" to win the election, citing the votes remaining to be counted in Pennsylvania. The Associated Press later called heavily contested Arizona for Biden, making him the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1996.

During Biden's speech, the president said baselessly that Democrats were "trying to STEAL the Election," a post that Twitter soon labeled as potentially misleading. He also tweeted, "A big WIN!"

Trump went on to falsely claim victory in remarks delivered from the White House around 2:30 a.m. ET. The president wrongly asserted he won several states — including Georgia and North Carolina — in which he has a higher vote total of the votes tallied so far than Biden, but many legitimate ballots remain to be counted and AP has not called the race.

Without elaborating or backing up his claim, Trump said "a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise" the people who voted for him. He also called the election a "fraud" and embarrassment.

The presidential race and some key states Trump spoke about have not been called by AP as of 3 a.m. ET. In a tweet posted shortly after Trump's speech, the AP saidit is "not calling the presidential race yet because neither candidate has secured the 270 electoral votes needed to claim victory."

With several key states still up for grabs, the election could go either way, and it could be days before the final result is known for sure.

Remember: Patience is essential this week.

Three other key themes from this Election Day:

  • Voting was largely uneventful, despite concerns about unrest or voter intimidation campaigns. There were isolated altercations but no massive disruptions to voting processes.
  • A tremendous shift toward early voting, driven largely by the coronavirus, has reshaped the pace of the election. As of Election Day morning, more than 100 million Americans had voted early. What that means for ballot counting varies by state, but in states where votes cannot begin to be counted until Election Day, the abundance of mail-in votes is expected to contribute to a delay in final results.
  • How will President Trump respond to the delay in the results? Axios reported earlier this week that Trump told confidants he would claim victory prematurely if he appeared to be leading. On Tuesday, during an interview on Fox & Friends, Trump said he would declare victory "when there's victory" and that "there's no reason to play games." Observers have worried that a close race, with an extended period of uncertainty, could enable the spread of disinformation — or set up an election resolved through litigation rather than by vote counts.
  • Trump and Biden were watching the election results from their respective residences — Trump at the White House and Biden at his family home in Delaware.

    The last U.S. polls closed at 1 a.m. ET when Alaska wrapped up voting.

    In other developments:

  • Iowa Sen. Joni Erst, a Republican, won reelection, defeating a Democratic challenger who waged a surprisingly competitive race.
  • A special election for a Senate seat in Georgia is headed to a runoff, as expected; Georgia's other Senate race has not yet been called.
  • Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham won his reelection campaign in South Carolina, despite a well-funded challenge from Jaime Harrison.
  • In Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn won reelection, stymieing Democratic hopes for a major upset in a longtime Republican stronghold.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has won his reelection bid against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in Kentucky.
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene, who once endorsed the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, has won a seat in Georgia's 14th Congressional District
  • Delaware's Sarah McBride has become the nation's first openly transgender state senator.
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, securing Democrats their first Senate seat pickup of the night.
  • Florida voters opted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
  • Colorado and Louisiana went in opposite directions on abortion-related ballot measures.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

    Corrected: November 3, 2020 at 12:00 AM EST
    A previous version of this story said that as of the morning of Nov. 3, more than 1 million Americans had voted early. In fact, more than 100 million had done so.
    Alana Wise
    Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
    Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
    Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.