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The vote counting has slowed to a crawl across three critical states.

The vote count slowed to a crawl across the states most likely to decide the presidency, leaving Joseph R. Biden Jr. tantalizingly close to the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president-elect, but without a clear sense of when he might reach that number.

The Keystone State remains Mr. Biden’s clearest path to victory; a win there would be enough to call the entire race in his favor. He slowly built a lead of more than 28,800 votes by Saturday morning, with about 100,000 absentee ballots still to count. He has won more than three-quarters of the absentee votes counted so far.

There’s no obvious path to victory for Mr. Trump in the state, so it is not clear why the networks have not called the state in Mr. Biden’s favor. One possibility is that the networks are waiting, as they often do, for Mr. Biden to build a lead outside the margin of a recount — in Pennsylvania, that is half a percentage point. That level of caution may be particularly appropriate in the case of mail-in ballots, which could conceivably be rejected or segregated.

The networks will also consider the state’s 100,000 or so provisional ballots, cast by people who could not be verified as eligible when they showed up to vote, before making a projection. Typically, these ballots lean overwhelmingly Democratic, but that is at least somewhat complicated by the unusually heavy Republican vote on Election Day this year.

There’s no telling how quickly Mr. Biden will amass a large enough lead for news organizations to call him the winner in Pennsylvania. But he has another path to a victory if Pennsylvania’s count continues to drag out: If he wins both Nevada and Arizona, he does not need Pennsylvania to reach 270 electoral votes.

Mr. Biden already has a nearly two-point lead over Mr. Trump in Nevada, and the outstanding vote — most of it in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas — appears likely to break toward Mr. Biden. The Nevada secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, said that many of the remaining votes were mail-in ballots, which have so far broken to Mr. Biden by a wide margin. The rest are a mix of provisional ballots and ballots from same-day registrants, which could be more competitive but seem unlikely to help Mr. Trump eat into Mr. Biden’s lead.

In Arizona, Mr. Biden leads by roughly 29,860 votes, with about 140,000 votes to count. But it is tight: Mr. Trump will need to win what’s left by approximately 20 percent to overtake Mr. Biden, and he has led by nearly as much in the late count.

Most of the remaining votes are in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. Mr. Biden fared better in Friday’s Maricopa ballots than he did Thursday’s, perhaps reflecting a gradual shift toward counting ballots that were dropped off on Election Day, which have tended to be more Democratic. If Mr. Biden continues to improve in the count, Mr. Trump’s path to win the state will start to narrow — possibly enough to allow a projection.

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