After Tumultuous Campaign, an Uneasy American Electorate Heads to Polls

Americans head to the polls on Tuesday to conclude a bitter and divisive U.S. election campaign, as Republican President Donald Trump seeks to overcome Democratic rival Joe Biden’s lead in opinion polls to win four more years in the White House, Reuters writes.

The voting caps a campaign dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people in the United States and put millions out of work. The country has also been shaken by nationwide protests over racial injustice against Black Americans.

Biden, who has framed the contest as a referendum on Trump’s handling of the virus, promised a renewed effort to combat the health crisis, fix the economy and bridge America’s political divide. He has kept a relatively steady lead in national polls.

But Trump is close in enough swing states to possibly piece together the 270 state-by-state Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. He defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election despite losing the national popular vote by about 3 million ballots.

The uncertainty and the prospect of prolonged legal battles have fueled anxiety about the election’s outcome and aftermath.

Several cities are boarding up buildings in anticipation of possible protests, including around the White House and in New York City. The famed shopping destination of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, will be closed on Tuesday, police said.

More than 99 million early votes had already been cast in person or by mail as of Monday night, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, a record-setting pace fueled by intense interest in the election and concerns about voting in person on Election Day during a pandemic.

The number was equal to 72.3% of the entire turnout in 2016 and represents about 40% of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote.

Trump has questioned the integrity of the election results for months, making unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting is rife with fraud and refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

Trump has also said votes should only be counted through election night, even though many states often take days or weeks to tally ballots.

Americans will also decide on Tuesday which political party will control the U.S. Congress for the next two years, with Democrats pushing to recapture a Senate majority and expected to retain their control of the House of Representatives.

The first polling locations will open in some Eastern states at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) on Tuesday.

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