Americans on Tuesday headed to polling stations as the elections in the United States is officially under way to decide who will occupy the White House for the next four years incumbent Republican President Donald Trump or his Democratic opponent and former Vice President Joe Biden. Polls opened at 6 am in the eastern states of New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut and Maine, The New York Times reported.

The early voting in the country broke records amid the coronavirus pandemic and saw nearly 100 million Americans cast ballots by mail and in-person, a figure equal to about 70% of the total turnout four years ago. It also represents about 40% of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote. Three states Texas, Hawaii and Montana have already exceeded their total 2016 turnout. This has led to election officials and the political observers wondering how heavy the voting traffic would be on Tuesday.

Trump told Fox News in an interview that he would declare victory “when there is victory, if there is victory”. Some reports said he might do so if early returns showed him leading.

“I think we will have victory,’’ Trump said. “I think the polls are, you know, suppression polls. And I think we will have victory. But only when there is victory. You know, there is no reason to play games.”

The president has also planned to host an election night party at the White House, according to CBS News. Approximately 400 guests have been invited to the gathering, amid a worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Biden started the election day by going to church and visiting the grave site of his late son Beau Biden in Greenville, Delaware.

Some of the states will not begin counting early votes until after polling stations close, whereas others are allowing ballots that arrive after Election Day to be included as long as they are postmarked by November 3. The results could likely take several days, reports have suggested.

The polls will conclude a bitter and divisive election campaign, dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 2,30,000 people in the United States and pushed millions out of work.

Biden has maintained a relatively steady lead in national polls, but Trump is said to be closing in swing states to possibly gain 270 state-by-state Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. In the 2016 election, the Republican candidate had defeated Hillary Clinton despite losing the national popular vote by about 3 million ballots.

Trump closed his campaign by questioning the fairness of the election, raising doubts on whether he will commit to a peaceful transfer of power should Biden win the election. Reports said several cities are also closing up shops in anticipation of possible protests, including around the White House and in New York City.

Meanwhile, Biden on Monday night urged the American voters to end a presidency that has “fanned the flames of hate”. “Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has left hard-working Americans out in the cold,” he said in western Pennsylvania.

The whole world is watching the US elections closely, especially rivals like Russia, China and Iran, as the outcome will determine the foreign policy America will choose to pursue in future.

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