Just before 3am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, the Associated Press declared Joe Biden the US presidential election winner in Arizona, awarding the state’s 11 electoral college votes to the Democrat.
It was a significant moment for Mr Biden and the Democrats, giving the former US vice-president his first “flip” victory in a state that Donald Trump won four years earlier. In 2016 Mr Trump won the state by a 3.5-point margin over Hillary Clinton.
Fast-forward to Thursday morning, however, and most of the major US television networks have yet to call Arizona for Mr Biden, and poll workers are still counting ballots in several parts of the state, including in Maricopa county, which contains the city of Phoenix and more than half of Arizona’s population.
As of Thursday morning, Mr Biden remained ahead in Arizona by some 68,000 votes. The race there has tightened as more ballots have been counted, but the Biden campaign has said it remains optimistic that the former vice-president will be the winner when all of the votes are tallied.
On a call with reporters on Thursday morning, however, a senior adviser on Mr Trump’s campaign said the president was “on pace” to win in Arizona, and called on the AP to reverse its call.
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The Financial Times, like many other news organisations, relies on the non-partisan Associated Press as its primary source for data on the outcome of races up and down the ballot in the US. As a result, the FT’s live results page, as well as our news reports, assume Mr Biden currently has 264 electoral college votes, compared with Donald Trump’s 214. A candidate needs 270 votes to win the White House.
The AP employs a team of election analysts and researchers to “call” races based on independent survey data and actual votes cast, and says it only does so when their experts are “fully confident” a race has been won, that is, when a “trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory”. Calls do not require every single ballot to have been counted.
The news agency has stuck by its verdict in Arizona, even as many US broadcast networks, which run their own “decision desks”, maintain the race is too close to call.
“The Associated Press stands by its race call in Arizona,” the agency told the FT.
Fox is the only major TV network that has decisively called Arizona in Mr Biden’s favour, and it has also stood firm in its call, despite repeated criticisms from the Trump campaign. Fox also relies on its own independent data set to inform its calls.
The other major TV networks — including ABC, NBC and CBS, as well as the cable channel CNN — operate their own decision desks, but are all part of the National Election Pool, a group that relies on Edison Research, a third-party group, to collect exit poll data. They all have yet to declare a victor in Arizona.
Meanwhile, in Maricopa county, ballots are still being counted, and local authorities are expected to provide an update on vote totals on Thursday evening. The Biden campaign said that results in Pima county, the state’s second most-populous county, which includes Tucson, may not report final results until Friday.
Additional reporting by Anna Nicolaou in New York
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