After a campaign marked by rancour and fear, the United States on Tuesday will decide between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Voters lined up around the country to cast ballots, with no signs yet of disruptions at polling places, which some had feared after a heated campaign marked by provocative rhetoric.
More than 100 million Americans cast an early vote in the 2020 presidential election ahead of Tuesday’s Election Day, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. Given that a few states, including Texas, had already exceeded their total 2016 vote count, experts were predicting record turnout this year.
In and around polling places across the U.S., voters were greeted by reminders of an election year shaped by a pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people in the country, civil unrest and bruising political partisanship. Many wore masks to the polls — either by choice or by official mandate — with the coronavirus raging in many parts of the country.
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The first polls close at 6 p.m. ET, but the most closely watched results will start to trickle in after 7 p.m. ET when polls close in states such as Georgia, though definitive national results could take days if the contest is tight.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted Tuesday to keep four polling places open longer because they opened late, which is expected to delay statewide reporting of results. The longest extension was 45 minutes for a site in Sampson County — that means the state can’t publicly report any statewide results until 8:15 p.m. ET.
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The state’s more than 2,600 polling places are otherwise scheduled to close at 7:30 p.m. ET, but state election officials said in a news release last week that if hours are extended at any polls, they wouldn’t publicly post any results until all polls are closed.
Board executive director Karen Brinson Bell said at a news conference in the morning, before the vote was held, that it’s not unusual to extend polling place hours on election day.
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 is at stake, too — Democrats need to have a net gain of three seats if Biden captures the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. The House is expected to remain under Democratic control.
Problems occur every election, and Tuesday was no different. There were long lines early in the day and sporadic reports of polling places opening late and equipment issues. This was all expected given past experience, the decentralized nature of voting in the U.S. and last-minute changes due to the pandemic.
Robocalls under investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating reports in several U.S. states of robocalls made to potential voters in an apparent effort to suppress the vote, a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security said. The FBI did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau is aware of reports of robocalls that recommended people to “stay home and stay safe,” and not vote, an FCC official said. “There’s a little bit of confusion about this one across the industry,” said Giulia Porter, vice-president at RoboKiller, a company that fights telemarketers and robocalls and has been tracking the campaign.
Audio of the calls, which RoboKiller shared, features a synthetic female voice saying: “Hello. This is just a test call. Time to stay home. Stay safe and stay home.” Porter said the call had been placed millions of times in the past 11 months or so but had just today shot up to No. 5 or No. 6 in the list of top spam calls.
A U.S. judge, meanwhile, ordered the U.S. Postal Service to conduct a sweep of some processing facilities Tuesday afternoon to ensure no ballots have been held up and that any discovered are immediately sent out for delivery. Affected by the order are central Pennsylvania, northern New England, greater South Carolina, south Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama and Wyoming, as well as the cities of Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Lakeland, Fla.
Federal authorities were monitoring voting and any threats to the election across the country at an operations centre just outside Washington, D.C., run by the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security. Officials there said there were no major problems detected early Tuesday but urged the public to be patient and skeptical in the days ahead.
From the centre, U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Christopher Krebs asked people in the U.S. to “treat all sensational and unverified claims with skepticism and remember technology sometimes fails.”
Legal battle looms over early votes
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 honour the election’s result.
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 centred on just a few where states have made changes in large part due to the coronavirus.
Biden started his day at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, his Roman Catholic church near Wilmington, Del., where he and members of his family spent some time at his son Beau’s grave. Beau died of cancer at age 46 in 2015.
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Fighting to the end for every vote, Biden returned to his childhood home in Scranton, Pa. Pennsylvania is key to Biden’s White House hopes; he plans to visit Philadelphia later before awaiting election results in Wilmington.
His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, visited 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 began his day with a call-in appearance on Fox and Friends, where he predicted he will win by a larger electoral margin than he did in 2016. Trump said he would declare himself the winner of the election “only when there’s victory.” There has been concern that Trump will declare victory early — before vote counts are definitive. But the Republican president told Fox there’s no reason to “play games.” He said he thinks he has a “very solid chance at winning.”
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The president visited his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., where he told staffers “I think we’re going to have a great night.”
“Winning is easy. Losing is never easy — not for me, it’s not,” he said.
Trump also invited hundreds of supporters to an election night party in the East Room of the White House.
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Preparations for unrest
A new anti-scale fence was erected around the White House, and in downtowns ranging from New York City to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses lest the vote lead to unrest of the sort that broke out earlier this year amid protests over racial inequality.
Just a short walk from the White House, for block after block, stores had their windows and doors covered. Some kept just a front door open, hoping to attract a little business.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups said they were watching closely for signs of voter intimidation, and the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said it would deploy staff to 18 states.
The fondness among some Trump supporters to form honking, traffic-jamming caravans of vehicles has spread to New York and beyond, and more such events were planned for Tuesday. Some election security experts worry the caravans could break laws, intimidate voters or spiral into violent confrontations.
Published at Sat, 19 Oct 2019 16:37:24 +0000