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Paths to presidential victory narrow as ballot count continues

Presidential ballot count goes on

Burnet County Republican Party members watch election night results Nov. 3 at Trailblazer Grille in Burnet. While most races have been decided, the presidential winner is still up the air as key states count ballots. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Ballot counting goes on in battleground states as President Donald Trump prematurely declared victory and former Vice President Joe Biden holds out for key states yet to determine a winner. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, neither had eked out the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House.

Record-breaking turnout occurred in many states, including Texas and in Burnet County, specifically. Texas was the top state in voter turnout this year. In 2016, it ranked in the bottom five. Beyond the Lone Star State, which was called for Trump at about 11 p.m. Tuesday, ballot counting could continue for days or even weeks. 

Both parties are keeping a close eye on six particular states that could become the path to victory for either contender. They are Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Michigan were both declared for Biden on Wednesday afternoon. The Trump campaign called for a recount in Wisconsin and filed a lawsuit demanding the Michigan count be halted before Biden was declared the winner. 

In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, mail-in ballots can be received up until Nov. 6, whereas Ohio can receive mail-in ballots until Nov. 13. On Election Day, a federal judge ordered U.S. Postal Service inspectors to sweep post offices for any left-behind mail-in ballots. Those postmarked by the end of voting Nov. 3 can still be counted. Texas is one of the states included in that order. 

Even fast-counting states might have undecided races for several days if margins are close enough. Laws in several states, such as Pennsylvania, trigger automatic recalls if the margin is too close.

What’s more, results at the beginning and the end of election night have a tendency to be skewed in some places. 

Take North Carolina, where mail-in ballots are among those counted first. Biden supporters are expected to be more likely to vote using the mail-in method, so early numbers might skew in his favor and level out as in-person votes — which statistically favor President Trump — come in.

At any rate, hard deadlines in some states could also affect the outcome. All election results must be officially certified by state and local officials from Nov. 10 through Dec. 11, barring recounts. Electoral votes are officially cast on Dec. 14 this election season and must arrive in Washington, D.C., by Dec. 23, though a victor will almost certainly be determined before that time. 

The winner will be sworn into office on Jan. 21, 2021.