Four states that will decide election
JOE Biden is crawling to victory, easily beating Donald Trump in the popular vote and just six electoral college votes away from claiming the presidency.
As the Trump team intiaited legal action in several states - with the threat of more to come - Mr Biden took out three states that Hillary Clinton failed to win in 2016: the "rust belt" states of Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona.
Just four states remain in play: Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
A victory in any one of the four would enable Mr Biden to claim overall victory - although the prospect of legal action means nothing is certain.
It hasn't backed a Democrat candidate for President since Bill Clinton in 1992, but US electoral analysts said Georgia is on the cusp of becoming a swing state - and may in fact flip for Biden.
With 98 per cent of the vote counted as at 5pm AEDT, Donald Trump was leading with 49.6 per cent, but Biden was closing the gap on 49.1 per cent.
The near election of Stacey Abrams in the state's gubnertorial race in 2018 was a pivotal moment, said Elliott Brennan from the US Studies Centre.
"Abrams came incredibly close to the governorship, and she's now taken on a role with Get Out The Vote efforts in Georgia, and pushed back against widespread voter suppression," Dr Brennan said.
The Black Lives Matter movement had also been "an enormous factor" in voter turnout in 2020, he said.
"Once somebody has committed to a protest they're much more likely to engage with the political process. Huge social movements like (Black Lives Matter) set up a platform for Democrats to really pose a challenge in state like Georgia."
North Carolina has stuck faithfully with the Republicans in every presidential election since 1992, except for 2008 when it flipped for Barack Obama.
Dr Shaun Ratcliff from the US Studies Centre said North Carolina "has been close the last couple of elections" and it was close in 2020, but he expected Donald Trump would ultimately claim the state and its 15 electoral college votes.
As 5pm AEDT, 93 per cent of the vote had been counted, with Trump drawing 50.1 per cent of the vote. Biden was claiming 48.7 per cent.
"North Carolina has got a changing demographic, particularly around Raleigh and Durham - they've both quite Democrat," Dr Ratcliff said.
The state had experienced strong migration in recent years with people moving there from overseas and interstate, particularly for jobs in the tech and finance sectors, he said.
Pennsylvania has a history of being one of the slowest states to count votes, largely because of state laws that prevent mail ballots being processed until after polls close.
"We always expected Pennsylvania to be the last of the close states to finish counting," Dr Ratcliff said. "We'll know the result in Georgia sooner than Pennsylvania."
As of 5pm AEDT, 89 per cent of votes had been counted, with Biden on 48.1 per cent and Trump on 50.7 per cent.
That lead might look more convincing than the gap between the candidates in other states, but Dr Ratcliff said Pennsylvania was "getting close to line-ball".
Why? Because the counties where Biden is expected to perform strongly are the ones where counting has progressed more slowly. In Philadelphia County, just 70 per cent of ballots had been counted so far.
"The mail ballots are only being counted now, and they seem to be trending for Biden pretty heavily," Dt Ratcliff said. Even without court action, the voting count in Pennsylvania won't be known for another day or so, he said.
Despite Pennsylvania's reputation as the slow-counting state, the count in Nevada has been even more sluggish, with just 86 per cent counted before electoral officials announced they would not be updating their tally again until after 9am Thursday local time (4am Friday AEDT).
Home to glitzy Las Vegas, the state has backed the Democrat candidate for president in every election since 1992, except for 2000 and 2004 when it supported George W Bush.
Its six electoral college votes would give Joe Biden the 270 he needs to claim the presidency, and he is favoured to pick up the state, but Dr Ratcliff said it would be close.
"Biden is the favourite, but he's only about 8000 votes ahead which is a pretty small gap. Trump would have to take majority of remaining votes to win," Dr Ratcliff said.
Before the freeze on communications from state electoral authorities, Biden had attracted 49.3 per cent of the vote and Trump was on 48.7 per cent.
Originally published as Four states that will decide election