Wed. Dec 7th, 2022


The Real News Network

First polls close in U.S. Election as Trump, Biden await their fates

5 min read

After a lengthy campaign for the White House, marked by divisiveness and fear, Americans flocked to the polls Tuesday to decide between U.S. President Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden.

The latest tally of early voting in the U.S. shows that almost 102 million Americans cast their votes before Election Day. It represents 73 per cent of the total turnout for the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

The first polls closed at 6 p.m. ET with one state going to each candidate. Trump won Kentucky while Biden secured Vermont, meaning Trump wins eight electoral votes and Biden three.

Both wins were expected, as Kentucky is reliably conservative while Vermont is a liberal state.

The second round of poll closures is due shortly after 7 p.m.

Defying many expectations, there have been few major hiccups on Election Day so far. Some voting lines snaked around blocks, but many polling stations have reported running smoothly. In some places, like Detroit and Atlanta, lines were relatively short, leaving poll workers guessing it is due to the unprecedented wave of early voting.

In battlegrounds like Florida, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, some voters showed up to polling stations long before dawn to beat crowds and still faced long lines.

North Carolina, though, already faces a setback. The state’s election results will be delayed by at least 45 minutes after the State Board of Elections opted to extend voting at four locations that were having technical issues Tuesday morning. Similarly, Hidalgo County in Texas announced on Twitter around 4 p.m. ET that 74 of its polling locations would remain open one hour later — until 8 p.m. — after a number of sites reported “laptop-check in issues” that delayed votes.

Fearing violence and protests in response to the outcome, some businesses in cities like New York, Denver and Minneapolis have boarded up windows and doors.

Near the White House, crowds have grown. Photos and videos on Twitter show many masked people holding signs as police increasingly impose road closures in the area. One video shows what appears to be a scuffle involving police. There was no official word on what occurred, or if any arrests were made.

Just yesterday, a new anti-scale fence was erected around the White House. It’s the same type of fence that was put up during protests this summer over racial injustice and inequality.

The predictions of unrest on Election Day did not come out of thin air. In the run-up to Nov. 3, tensions flared in parts of the U.S. In what was seen as a stark example of what could be to come, last week Trump supporters drove pickup trucks down a Texas highway and surrounded a bus filled with Biden campaign staff. In North Carolina over the weekend, people pepper-sprayed a group of mostly Democrats marching to polling stations.

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.

Both candidates have already cast their ballot. Whoever wins will be tasked with leading an anxious country grappling with a historic health crisis and the economic downturn it prompted.

The coronavirus pandemic — and Trump’s handling of it — has become the defining element of the 2020 campaign.

As Americans cast their ballots Tuesday, the total number of virus cases in the country sat above 9,344,000, according to a running tally by John Hopkins University.

As cases and hospitalizations climbed in recent weeks, so have deaths. The seven-day rolling average for deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has risen from about 58,424 on Oct. 19 to 83.805 on Monday, according to the researchers.

As of early Tuesday evening, more than 232,000 people had died of the disease.

In some ways, the campaign has been a referendum on Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As scientists and critics sound the alarm about a drastic spike in infections in the U.S., Trump has insisted the country is “rounding the turn” and recently suggested people are tired of hearing about it.

By contrast, Biden has positioned himself as a president-in-waiting in America’s hour of need. He has sought to keep the campaign focused on the federal response to the pandemic, recently launching a new digital campaign that argues Trump was “more worried about protecting his trade deal with China than he was about the virus that had already come to America.”

Trump has used some of the race’s final hours to accuse Biden of wanting to force the country back into a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.

What comes next has much of the country on edge.

The first polls closed at 6 p.m. ET in swaths of Indiana and Kentucky. It will be followed by a steady stream of poll closings every 30 minutes to an hour throughout the evening.

The last polls — in Alaska — are expected to shut down at 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

But once votes are cast, some Americans worry about a protracted ballot count in pivotal states, which could make the country wait days before a clear winner emerges.

Even if a winner isn’t determined, Trump suggested he might address the nation Tuesday night. Biden, meanwhile, had scheduled an evening speech from his hometown of Delaware but later changed his tune.

“If there’s something to talk about tonight, I’ll talk about it,” he said. “If not, I’ll wait till the votes are counted the next day.”

For Biden, Pennsylvania is key to his White House hopes, but he does have multiple paths to nab the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to become president. Trump, who has been slipping to Biden in the polls, told Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that he believes his rally crowds are the “ultimate poll” and reflect a high number of votes in his favour for re-election.

But now, more than 10 hours into Election Day, there are signs of calm.

In New York, law enforcement authorities told the Associated Press that they have not uncovered any information suggesting people are looking to cause trouble because of the election.

Federal authorities are also monitoring voting and any threats to the election at an operations centre near Washington, D.C, run by the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

The agency said the election has seen the usual technical glitches and routine issues so far, but no apparent signs of malicious cyber activity at this point.

— with files from the Associated Press and Reuters 

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