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Joe Biden is closing in on victory in the U.S. presidential race, winning in Michigan and Wisconsin, as Donald Trump tries to stop vote counting in several races.

Vote counts in a number of crucial swing states Wednesday also showed the Democratic nominee ahead in Nevada and Arizona, and had shrunk the Republican President’s leads in Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.

If Mr. Biden were to win all of the states in which he is leading, he would reach 270 votes in the Electoral College, the minimum necessary to capture the presidency. Pennsylvania would add 20 votes, Georgia 16 and North Carolina 15. All of these states, except Nevada, went to Mr. Trump in 2016.

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“Every vote must be counted. No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever,” Mr. Biden told reporters in Delaware, flanked by vice-presidential running mate Kamala Harris. “I’m confident that we will emerge victorious.”

Mr. Trump built up comfortable leads in several swing states during early counting Tuesday. But those mostly evaporated as elections officials tallied more mail-in ballots, which largely favoured Mr. Biden. The Democrats had encouraged supporters to vote by mail, while Republicans pushed voters to cast ballots in person on election day.

The vote also saw turnout nearing 70 per cent, the highest proportion of eligible voters to cast ballots since William McKinley’s re-election in 1900.

It was not clear when the final states would report enough results to declare a winner. Nevada was expected to update its tally Thursday morning, but will accept mail-in votes until next Tuesday. Officials in Pennsylvania said they might not have a final count until Friday. Large numbers of the uncounted ballots were in Philadelphia and Las Vegas, which are expected to heavily favour Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump’s legal team sought a recount in Wisconsin Wednesday, and filed for court injunctions to stop vote counting in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The President’s campaign says the tabulation should stop until it can get more scrutineers into the counting centres. The Republicans already have staff posted inside the counting rooms. In some cases, the rooms are even under video surveillance, with the footage livestreamed on the internet.

As his rival began to gain on him Tuesday night, Mr. Trump claimed that the Democrats were committing voter fraud and said he wanted the Supreme Court to intervene and stop the counting of ballots.

On Wednesday, the President announced on Twitter that he had “claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes” Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina. Such a declaration has no effect, as votes are still being counted in those states. Over the course of the day, Mr. Trump’s campaign sent 15 e-mails and six text messages to supporters claiming the Democrats were trying to “STEAL this Election!!!” and soliciting donations to help fight back.

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“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE.”

The President is also planning lawsuits that would invalidate ballots in several states, including by challenging a Pennsylvania provision that allows mail-in votes to be counted if elections officials receive them up to three days after election day, provided they were mailed before polls closed.

Republicans themselves caused some of the delays in counting. Republican state legislators in Michigan and Wisconsin blocked plans to count advance votes before election day.

And cutbacks to the postal service by Postmaster-General Louis DeJoy, an ally of Mr. Trump’s, caused delays in mail delivery. The post office disclosed in court Wednesday that potentially thousands of mail-in ballots had not been delivered to election authorities, despite an order by a Washington, D.C. judge that postal officials in 15 states conduct “sweeps” of processing centres to gather up ballots and get them in before the polls closed.

Outside the Philadelphia Convention Center, where vote counting continued Wednesday, supporters and opponents of Mr. Trump faced off.

“I don’t think democracy could survive four more years of Trump,” said Tom McCarthy, 48, who carried a homemade sign reading “count my vote” in black sharpie. “The move to steal an election is not on the Democrats' part. It’s very telling that the Republicans don’t want people to vote, where Democrats actually do.”

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One group chanted “we refuse to accept a fascist America” and confronted the President’s supporters.

In Detroit, a crowd tried to barge into a downtown convention hall where election workers were counting ballots Wednesday. Video of the scene showed people chanting “stop the count!” and security guards blocking them from getting into the room.

Democratic groups were prepared to keep taking to the street if Mr. Trump did not honour the results of the vote. One, called Choose Democracy, has a “coup-o-meter” on its website indicating the likelihood Mr. Trump would subvert the electoral process. Its needle is now hovering between “preparing for a coup” and “attempted coup.” Another group, Protect the Result, is planning to call for flash protests if Mr. Trump tries to shut down the counting.

Places such as Detroit and Philadelphia have always been key to Mr. Biden’s strategy. Democratic strongholds, voters in these cities came out in smaller numbers for Hillary Clinton than they had for Barack Obama. Motivating them to vote en masse this time was a central imperative for the Democrats. Mr. Trump, for his part, exhorted his supporters to confront voters at the polls. “Bad things happen in Philadelphia,” he said during one debate.

For some Democratic voters, Mr. Trump’s seeming efforts to stop them was even more reason to get to the polls. And they predicted that these cities would ultimately make the difference for Mr. Biden.

“There has never been such a lack of real leadership in the White House,” said Renée Wearing, 64, a retired school principal. “My theme has been ‘good things happen in Philadelphia.’ ”

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