Americans headed to the polls on Tuesday (November 3) to decide whether incumbent Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden will be elected president, after a tumultuous four years under the businessman-turned-politician that have left the country as deeply polarized as at any time in its recent history.
Biden, the Democratic candidate and a career politician, has had a strong and consistent lead in national polls. But the Republican Trump is close in enough swing states to possibly piece together the 270 state-by-state Electoral College votes needed to hold on to the presidency, which he won in a surprise 2016 election result despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots.
However, it may be days before the result is known, especially if legal challenges focused on postal ballots are accepted in the event of a tight race.
There is also fear about possible unrest. Several cities are boarding up buildings in anticipation of possible protests, including around the White House and in New York City.
Polls opened in some Eastern states at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT). The most closely watched results will start to trickle in after 7 p.m. EST (2400 GMT) when polls close in states such as Georgia, though definitive national results could take days if the contest is tight.
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.