Americans choose between Trump, Biden in cliffhanger

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Voters cast their ballots at Jennings Senior High School in St Louis, Missouri. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote. Photo/AFP

Washington, Tuesday

Americans are voting in one of the most divisive presidential polls in decades, pitting incumbent Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Joe Biden.

Polls have opened in the east of the country after a long and bitter campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 100 million people have already cast their ballots in early voting, putting the country on course for its highest turnout in a century.

Both rivals spent the final hours of the race rallying in key swing states. National polls give a firm lead to Biden, but it is a closer race in the states that could decide the outcome.

Among the first swing states to begin election-day voting on Tuesday were the key battlegrounds of North Carolina and Ohio (11:30 GMT), followed half an hour later by Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Arizona - another closely-contested state - followed at 13:00 GMT.

Electoral college

To be elected president, a candidate must win at least 270 votes in what is called the electoral college.

Each US state gets a certain number of votes partly based on its population and there are a total of 538 up for grabs.

This system explains why it is possible for a candidate to win the most votes nationally - as Hillary Clinton did in 2016 - but still lose the election.

Control of the Senate is also at stake in these elections, with the Democrats seeking to gain control of both houses of Congress and the White House for the first time since early in Barack Obama’s first term.

The coronavirus pandemic has at times overshadowed the election campaign, with the epidemic in the US worsening over the final weeks of the race.

The country has recorded more cases and more deaths than anywhere else in the world, and fear of infection has contributed to an unprecedented surge in early and postal voting.

There are fears that pockets of post-election violence could break out as the results come in.

Boarding up

A new “non-scalable” fence has been put up around the White House in Washington DC.

Businesses in the nation’s capital and also in New York City have been seen boarding up their premises due to concerns about unrest.

On Tuesday morning, Trump told Fox News during a phone interview he felt good about his chances of victory, predicting he would win “big” in key states such as Florida and Arizona.

“I think we have a really solid chance of winning,” he said.

Asked when he would declare victory, he said: “When there’s victory. If there’s victory... there’s no reason to play games.”

Some commentators noted Trump sounded hoarse and tired during the interview after a late night rally in Michigan.

On Monday, President Trump, 74, sprinted through four more battleground states.

With stops in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, he talked up his economic record and prospects for victory, while talking down the polls and the media, and mocking his opponent.

“We are going to gain four more years in this very beautiful White House,” he told supporters at his final rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same industrial city where he ended the 2016 election race.

Both candidates made appearances in Pennsylvania, one of the most crucial states in the race and where the contest remained extremely tight.

President Trump headed to Scranton, the city where his opponent lived until he was 10. At a rally there he reminded his supporters that he won the state in 2016, despite polls suggesting he would lose.

Biden, 77, was joined by singer Lady Gaga at a rally in Pittsburgh. Musician John Legend meanwhile addressed voters with vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris in Philadelphia.

In Ohio, Biden repeated the core message of his campaign, telling voters that the race was about the soul of America.

He said it was time for Trump to “pack his bags”, saying “we’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility”.              AFP

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