US elections: Over 100 million Americans vote early

More than 100 million voters have cast their ballots before Election Day, as COVID-19 reshaped voting patters, moving more people to vote by mail than ever before.

US presidential nominee Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE AND CARLOS BARRIA)
US presidential nominee Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE AND CARLOS BARRIA)
After a rancorous presidential campaign that exposed the depth of the political divisions in the United States, tens of millions of Americans cast their vote on Tuesday in a historic and tight presidential race that will determine the United States' face for years to come. Americans streamed to the polls on Tuesday to choose either incumbent Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden to lead a pandemic-battered nation for the next four years.
More than 100 million voters have cast their ballots before Election Day, as COVID-19 reshaped voting patters, moving more people to vote by mail than ever before. As of early afternoon on Election Day, at least six US states reported that the number of voters already suppressed the 2016 numbers.
The total has shattered records and prompted some experts to predict the highest voting rates since 1908.
Biden, the Democratic former vice president who has spent a half century in public life, has held a consistent lead in national opinion polls over the Republican president and appeared to have multiple paths to victory in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.
But Trump is close enough in several election battleground states that he could repeat the type of upset he pulled off in 2016, when he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton despite losing the national popular vote by about 3 million ballots. The president is aiming to avoid becoming the first incumbent U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Trump said on Tuesday: “I’m not thinking about concession speech or acceptance speech yet. Hopefully, we’ll be only doing one of those two. And you know, winning is easy, losing is never easy — not for me, it’s not.”
“I think we’re gonna have a great night,” he added.
Trump, sounding tired and hoarse after days of frenetic campaigning, predicted that he would win during a phone interview on Fox News on Tuesday morning.
"We have crowds that nobody's ever had before," said Trump. "I think that translates into a lot of votes."
Biden traveled to his birthplace of Scranton in the pivotal state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning. Speaking to a couple dozen volunteers using a bullhorn, Biden returned to some of his familiar campaign themes, promising to unite Americans and "restore basic decency and honor to the White House."
He later stopped at his childhood home, where he signed one of the living room walls, writing: "From this house to the White House with the grace of God. Joe Biden 11-3-2020."
Among the most closely contested states that are expected to determine the outcome are Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia, with Democrats hoping that Biden may even threaten Trump in states that once seemed like Republican locks such as Ohio, Iowa and Texas.
Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, traveled to Detroit, Michigan – a crucial state for Biden, in a last push to increase turnout. "Have faith in the American people,” she said. “I do strongly believe that we - whoever we vote for - will defend the integrity of our democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. And that there are certain lines that no matter who you vote for, they won't cross," she said.
Vice President Mike Pence gave over a dozen interviews for local stations in the swing states, and called voters to turn out before polls are closed.
The pandemic, which has killed more than 231,000 Americans and left millions more jobless, ensured that Election Day felt far from normal, with poll workers and voters in masks and people standing several feet apart. Experts predict the vote total could reach 160 million, exceeding the 138 million ballots cast in 2016.
In anticipation of possible protests, some buildings and stores were boarded up in cities including Washington, Los Angeles and New York. Federal authorities erected a new fence around the White House perimeter.
US stocks moved higher on Tuesday, as investors wagered that Biden would prevail and usher in fresh stimulus spending.
Voters on Tuesday will also decide which political party controls the U.S. Congress for the next two years, with Democrats narrowly favored to recapture a Senate majority and retain their control of the House of Representatives.
In addition to the pandemic, which dominated political races from the local to national level, the country this year also was shaken by months of protests against racism and police brutality.
The most closely watched results will start to trickle in after 7 p.m. EST (2400 GMT), when polls close in states such as Georgia. But it is possible that it could be days before the result is known, especially given the massive surge in voting by mail due to the pandemic.
Some crucial states, such as Florida, begin counting absentee ballots ahead of Election Day and could deliver results relatively quickly on Tuesday night. Others including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are barred from processing the vast majority of mail-in ballots until Election Day, raising the possibility of a vote count that could stretch for several days.
Trump was expected to spend most of Tuesday at the White House, where an election night party is planned for 400 guests, all of whom will be tested for COVID-19.