Washington, Nov 3 (efe-epa).- The first US precincts – specifically certain ones in the states of Kentucky and Indiana – closed at 6 pm on Election Day, with others in the two states, along with polls in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and those Florida precincts not in the state’s panhandle closing at 7 pm.
Americans on Tuesday are choosing the president after a bitterly fought campaign pitting Republican President Donald Trump against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, along with all 435 members of the House of Representatives, a third of the 100-member Senate and thousands of state and local officials.
Polling places in Kentucky and Indiana, as well as those in New York, Virginia, Maine and other states in the Eastern US opened their doors to voters at 6 am, with highly unequal numbers of voters turning out in different places with a mixture of hope and anxiety due to the fraught and highly polarized political atmosphere.
Races have also been under way for a number of state governorships and assorted initiatives or amendments to state constitutions are on the ballots in different parts of the country.
As the evening progresses, additional states will close their polling places in a phased manner from east to west across the nine US time zones.
The next states to close their polls at 7:30 will be North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia, and at 8 pm the precincts in the rest of the eastern US will close, along with some as far west as Missouri and Oklahoma.
Although the precincts might technically “close” at certain specific times, usually any registered voter already waiting in line to be able to vote by the appointed hour will be allowed in to receive and cast a ballot.
This election has been markedly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in 9.3 million confirmed cases in the US and 232,000 deaths, making the country the one hardest hit by the virus.
As a result, early voting in this election cycle has broken records with more than 100 million voters casting their ballots prior to Nov. 3, of which 35.9 million were votes cast in person and 64.8 million being mail-in votes, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.
With that figure, added to the votes cast at polling places on Nov. 3 and those sent in by mail, many of which have not yet been received or counted, it is expected that participation should handily exceed the 136.6 million ballots – corresponding to 55.7 percent of the electorate – cast in the 2016 election.
The latest voter surveys give Biden a 7.2 percentage point advantage in the popular vote over Trump, who is running for reelection, according to the average of surveys tabulated by RealClearPolitics.
According to those figures, in the key states of Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, Biden is ahead of Trump by an average of 2.3 percent, which is less than the statistical error margin for the surveys, and thus the election result is still up in the air, given that the president is actually elected not by the popular vote but rather by the Electoral College, where a candidate needs 270 votes to win, and states are allocated a certain number of electoral votes based on their population.
The Electoral College is composed of 538 delegates chosen by the states.
RealClearPolitics – on the basis of its estimates and preliminary calculations from voter surveys – gives Biden 216 electoral votes to Trump’s 125, but the remaining 197 could go either way.