About 236 million Americans will today decide between President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden who will lead the country in the next four years.
Already, more than 94 million people have cast their ballots in early voting, putting the country on course for its highest turnout in a century.
In the US election, voters decide state-level contests rather than an overall single national one.
To be elected US president, a candidate must win at least 270 votes in what’s 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’s possible for a candidate to win the most votes nationally – as Hillary Clinton did in 2016 – but still lost the election.
According to national polls, Biden is leading by a narrower margin in many key states and has multiple paths to victory. Trump’s route to the required 270 votes is thinner but still viable, meaning either candidate could win.
Trump’s campaign is counting on a surge in Election Day turnout from his supporters to fuel the President’s path to reelection. Biden is ahead in sufficient swing states to allow multiple routes to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, including through the Sun Belt and the Midwest.
“We feel very confident about our pathways to victory,” Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Biden is hoping that wins in states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia or North Carolina could send an early signal later today that he is heading for victory.
Trump, while trailing Biden, also has a clear, if narrower, chance to get to 270 electoral votes that relies on him sweeping through a swath of battlegrounds he won four years ago with what his campaign promises will be a huge Election Day turnout.
The President cannot afford to drop states like Florida, Georgia or North Carolina and then must battle Biden in the Midwest – the decisive territory in his victory over Hillary Clinton, where he is struggling, by comparison, four years later.
Still, the President is within striking distance in some swing state polls and Democrats are haunted by the idea that he could yet again defy expectations and pull off a stunning Election Day comeback.
President Trump has already cast doubt on the integrity of vote counting and warning he will deploy squads of lawyers when polls close today as his latest attempts to tarnish the democratic process deepen a sense of national nervousness hours before Election Day.
Fears are also growing that the President might try to declare victory before all the votes are counted as he and Biden launch a final-day swing through the battleground states that will decide one of the most crucial elections in modern US history.
Their sprint is taking place as the coronavirus pandemic – that Trump has denied and downplayed – begins to rage out of control across most of the country.
The situation further complicates life for millions expected to head to polling places today to join the record 95 million citizens who have already cast an early vote.
It can take several days for every vote to be counted after any US presidential election, but it’s usually pretty clear who the winner is by the early hours of the following morning.
In 2016, Donald Trump took to the stage in New York at about 03:00 local time to give his victory speech in front of a crowd of jubilant supporters. Officials are however already warning that the country may have to wait longer – possibly days, even weeks – for the result this year because of the expected surge in postal ballots.
The last time the result wasn’t clear within a few hours was in 2000, when the winner wasn’t confirmed until a Supreme Court ruling was made a month later.
Different states have different rules for how – and when – to count postal ballots, meaning there will be large gaps between them in terms of reporting results.
In some states, it will take weeks to get complete results. On Sunday, a report by the news site Axios said Mr Trump would declare victory on Tuesday night if it looked as if he was ahead.
Mr Trump denied the report, but said that counting ballots after election day was a “terrible thing”. Meanwhile, Mr Biden vowed to stop the Trump “stealing” the election.
A federal judge in Texas appeared sceptical of an attempt by Republicans to throw out about 127,000 votes already cast in the presidential election at drive-through voting sites in Houston, a Democratic-leaning area, according to Reuters news agency.
On the eve of Election Day, US District Judge Andrew Hanen said the Republicans who brought the case faced an “uphill road” in convincing him that the votes should be voided.
The judge said the plaintiffs needed to show that Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, a Democrat, had an “evil motive” in allowing drive-through voting as an alternative during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hanen also questioned the last-minute timing of the case: “Didn’t we test this in the primaries this summer?” The judge asked a lawyer for the plaintiffs, adding: “Why am I just getting this case?” Wall Street’s major stock indexes opened higher on Monday after their worst week since March as investors prepare for an eventful week surrounding today’s presidential election.
After jumping more than 300 points at the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid back a bit, then resumed its climb. Around 9:45 AM ET, the 30-share index was up more than 323 points or 1.22 per cent at 26,825.37.
The S&P 500 – a gauge for the health of US retirement and college savings reports- was up 0.87 per cent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index was up more than one per cent.