Polls across America are set to close Tuesday night as President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden battle for a handful of battleground states after a combative presidential campaign rocked by the coronavirus pandemic.
Some polls in the Eastern Time Zone areas of Indiana and Kentucky will close at 6 p.m. E.T., while several states – including Indiana and Kentucky – will have all of their polls closed at 7 p.m. E.T. They will represent the first states that may have races called by media organizations.
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Then at 7:30 p.m. E.T., polls will close in the battleground states of Ohio and North Carolina. And at 8 p.m. E.T. and over the next five hours, a flurry of states will close their polls each hour until the final polls of the night close in Alaska at 1 a.m. E.T.
The year 2020 was highly unusual. There was an impeachment trial, an ongoing pandemic, racial protests and riots. The president was diagnosed with the coronavirus and a presidential debate was canceled because Trump refused to participate in a virtual affair after his diagnosis.
But despite all of that, votes will be counted Tuesday night, and perhaps into Wednesday or a little later, as Americans select a president as they have every four years since 1788.
“A vote for me and the Republican Party is a vote for the American Dream!” Trump said in a Monday night tweet as he made his final pitch to voters. “Over the next four years, we will make America into the Manufacturing Superpower of the World, and we will end our reliance on China once and for all.”
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“We can overcome these crises. We can take our country back. We can win the battle for the soul of the nation,” Biden said in a Tuesday tweet.
It is not clear, however, that there will be an obvious winner of the election on Tuesday night or even by early Wednesday because many states are likely to take longer than usual to count their mail-in and absentee ballots. Those ballots are more labor-intensive to count than standard ballots that voters cast in person.
Some states, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina, also will accept ballots that are mailed by Election Day but arrive days later. In Pennsylvania, that period lasts three days while in North Carolina it lasts nine.
Therefore, if races are close in major swing states, and a significant portion of the vote remains uncounted, it could be days or even longer until there is a clear result from the election.
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Nevertheless, Tuesday night will provide a window into several important issues that could tip the race one way or another: Election Day turnout; vote breakdowns in key counties in swing states; how independents are voting, and more.
There is also a chance that some major swing states could have their races called on Tuesday night, indicating which way the race is leaning. And if enough go for one candidate or another, there could be a clear path for either Trump or Biden to make it to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
In addition to the presidential race, which will direct attention to battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and more, the battle for the Senate will be decided Tuesday as well.
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Close races in states like South Carolina, Iowa, Maine and others could decide whether Republicans, who are largely on defense this election cycle, will hold onto their majority, or if Democrats can take back the chamber.
The makeup of the Senate will be key in how much either Trump or Biden will be able to advance their agendas if elected, especially as the House of Representatives is likely to remain in Democratic hands.
Over the coming hours and days, Americans and the world will find out whether voters chose to continue with the vision of Trump and the Republican Party, or if they chose a new direction with Biden and Democrats.