Polling stations opened in New York, New Jersey and Virginia early Tuesday, marking the start of US Election Day as President Donald Trump seeks to beat forecasts and defeat challenger Joe Biden.
The vote is widely seen as a referendum on Trump and his uniquely brash, bruising presidency that Biden urged Americans to end to restore “our democracy.”
The long road to Election Day
Nearly 100 million Americans voted early, and now it falls to Election Day voters to finish the job, ending a campaign that was reshaped by the coronavirus and defined by tensions over who could best address it. Each candidate declared the other fundamentally unfit to lead a nation grappling with COVID-19 and facing foundational questions about racial justice and economic fairness.
Biden entered Election Day with multiple paths to victory while Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 Electoral College votes. Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.
Voters braved long lines and the threat of the virus to cast ballots as they chose between two starkly different visions of America for the next four years. The record-setting early vote - and legal skirmishing over how it will be counted - drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result.
Fighting to the end for every vote, Biden was headed to Philadelphia and his native Scranton on Tuesday as part of a closing get-out-the-vote effort before awaiting election results in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, was visiting Detroit, a heavily Black city in battleground Michigan. Both of their spouses were headed out, too, as the Democrats reached for a clear victory.
Trump, after a morning appearance on his favored network, Fox News Channel, planned to visit his campaign headquarters in Virginia. He invited hundreds of supporters to an election night party in the East Room of the White House.
The hard-fought campaign left voters on both sides eager to move on.
“I just want it to be done,” said Starlet Holden, a 26-year-old medical biller from New York City, who planned to vote for Biden but spoke for many on both sides of the campaign.
On their final full day on the campaign trail, Trump and Biden broke sharply over the mechanics of the vote itself while visiting the most fiercely contested battleground, Pennsylvania.
The Republican president threatened legal action to block the counting of ballots received after Election Day. If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Trump claimed without evidence that “cheating can happen like you have never seen.”
In fact, there are roughly 20 states that allow mail-in ballots received after Election Day to be counted - up to nine days and longer in some states. Litigation has centered on just a few where states have made changes in large part due to the coronavirus.
Biden told voters in Pennsylvania that the very fabric of the nation was at stake and offered his own election as the firmest rebuke possible to a president who he said had spent “four years dividing us at every turn.”
“Tomorrow’s the beginning of a new day. Tomorrow we can put an end to a president that’s left hardworking Americans out in the cold!” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “If you elect me as president, I’m gonna act to heal this country.”
Trump argued, at a stop in Wisconsin, that Biden was “not what our country needs.” He added: “This isn’t about - yeah, it is about me, I guess, when you think about it.”
For Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe. In a country divided along lines of race and class, he often acted as an insurgent against the very government he led, undercutting its scientists and bureaucracy and doing battle with the media.