After weeks of record-breaking early voting and nearly 100 million Americans voting by post and personally in the midst of a deadly pandemic, election day has arrived in the United States.
About 60 million voters are expected to go to the polls to choose between challenger Democrat Joe Biden and President Donald Trump – two candidates who are offering entirely different visions for a nation in crisis.
“The turnout will be high everywhere,” Michael Traugott, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, told Al Jazeera.
Michigan is one of three Midwestern states, along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016, giving him a victory at the Electoral College.
Trump campaigned with large rallies on all three on the eve of election day, hoping to unleash another unexpected victory.
“People see that we are fighting and I am fighting for you. I am struggling to survive. You have to survive, ”Trump told a large crowd in Traverse City, Michigan.
Joe Biden was the headliner for a couple of rallies with artists John Legend in Philadelphia and Lady Gaga in Pittsburgh, the two largest cities in the state. Biden also visited Cleveland, Ohio and made a third stop in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
“I have a feeling we are teaming up for a big victory tomorrow,” said Biden in Pittsburgh, his voice hoarse, but the energy is still high after four campaign stops, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Both campaigns focused heavily on Pennsylvania. Republican Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Biden’s wife, Jill, campaigned in Pennsylvania in the closing hours of what was a divisive dispute.
At the same time, an indication of how wide the battlefield is, former President Barack Obama asked backward voters to leave Florida and Georgia yesterday, while First Lady Melania Trump appeared in North Carolina.
“We can reach 6 million votes in Georgia. We never got close to that, ”said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia.
“We haven’t received that kind of attention from presidential candidates in a generation or more,” Bullock told Al Jazeera.
Trump held a large rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Monday night. It is a county he won by 238 votes in a state he commanded by a narrow margin in 2016. Kenosha may well be close again.
He ended the day with a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he ended his campaign in 2016, hoping to rekindle the same supporters who gave him the White House four years ago.
“It’s always important to get your voters excited at the last minute,” said Timothy Hagle, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa.
“You like to see your candidates’ energy,” said Hagle.
Biden will go to Philadelphia and his hometown, Scranton, on election day, as part of an effort to get votes. Harris will visit Detroit, a predominantly black city in Michigan, and spouses will also be part of the trip.
Trump told reporters that he would visit his campaign headquarters in Virginia and that he plans to host family and friends at the White House the night after the elections.
But the outcome of the election may take days to be known, depending on how close the vote is in key states and how long it takes to count the large number of ballots sent in the mail.
In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson warned that counting 2.8 million ballots by mail in Michigan could take up to three days. Michigan plans to release interim results that may indicate who is winning.
In Pennsylvania, state rules allow counties to continue to collect ballots sent by mail that were posted on election day for another three days. Trump threatened to challenge these ballots in court, which could call into question tens of thousands of votes.
Biden leads Trump in national polls of Americans by 51.8% to 43.4%, according to a moving average calculated by FiveThirtyEight.com. Final research in major battlefield states suggests that Trump has narrowed the gap with Biden.
Our final estimate of participation was 158 million, with a variation of the 80th percentile between 147 and 168 million. It compares with 137 million in 2016.
– Nate Silver (@ NateSilver538) November 3, 2020
Trump’s path to victory at the Electoral College is challenging. The states most disputed for the first results will be Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Losses to Trump on any of these would be a sign that Biden is having a good night.
Arizona, Iowa and Ohio are also states where the race for the presidency is very fierce and Trump cannot afford to lose.
Authorities across the country prepared for unrest after the election results anyway.
Shops and buildings in downtown Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and downtown New York were boarded up. Extra policemen were posted in New York. A non-scale fence was installed around the White House.
The National Guard stationed in Philadelphia after riots over the weekend after the police shot by Walter Wallace Jr, a black man. Ten states activated the National Guard last week, and another 14 are expected to activate troops this week, The New York Times reported.