Races still too tight to call in key battleground states

The latest:

  • Early results show tight races in battlegrounds Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Texas.
  • Trump takes Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Dakota, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Alabama.
  • Biden takes Vermont, N.Y., Delaware, D.C., Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Colorado. 
  • Most polls now closed; states including Washington and California open until 11 p.m. ET.
  • Get all the U.S. election results as they come in.
  • How to follow U.S. election day coverage on CBC.
  • How the electoral college determines who wins the U.S. presidency.

Polls closed across the U.S. on Tuesday night as President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden concluded an epic campaign that will shape the country’s response to the surging pandemic and foundational questions of economic fairness and racial justice.

Early results in key battleground states like Florida and Georgia showed tight races between the two rivals, with many more votes yet to be counted. It was too early to call key states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as in Michigan and Texas where the races were tight. 

Election officials were processing a historically large number of mail-in votes. Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the Republicans look to make up ground in election day turnout. 

The night opened with predictable victories for each candidate, with Trump taking Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alabama and Oklahoma, and Biden winning Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Colorado. 

Voters who turned out in person joined 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73 per cent of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.

WATCH | Biden addresses Philadelphia crowd on election day:

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks to canvassers in Philadelphia on election day. 1:31

The victories began to draw to an end a campaign that was reshaped by the coronavirus and marked by contentiousness. Each candidate declared the other fundamentally unfit to lead a nation grappling with COVID-19, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans, cost millions of jobs and rewritten the norms of everyday life.

Biden entered election day with multiple paths to victory while Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 electoral college votes.

Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky won re-election in an early victory for the Republicans. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.

As the results began to come in, the nation braced for what was to come — and an outcome that might not be known for days.

No major problems were reported during voting, and fears of large-scale voter intimidation or harassment had not materialized by the end of the day. 

WATCH | Mail-in ballots were only counted in Pennsylvania beginning today:

A large vote-counting operation has been set up at the Philadelphia Convention Center to count mail-in ballots. Machines called extractors separate the ballot from the main envelope and the security envelope and then the ballots are scanned. They can scan 30,000 an hour. 0:40

Robocalls under investigation

The FBI is investigating reports in several U.S. states of robocalls made to potential voters in an apparent effort to suppress the vote, a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security said. The FBI did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Audio of the calls shared by RoboKiller, a company that fights telemarketers and robocalls, features a synthetic female voice saying: “Hello. This is just a test call. Time to stay home. Stay safe and stay home.” Giulia Porter, vice-president at RoboKiller, which has been tracking the campaign, said the call had been placed millions of times in the past 11 months or so but had just today shot up to No. 5 or No. 6 in the list of top spam calls.

WATCH | Authorities intervene after armed man appears at Charlotte polling location:

Authorities in North Carolina intervened when an armed man showed up at a polling location in Charlotte as voters cast their ballots in the U.S. presidential election.   0:24

A U.S. judge, meanwhile, ordered the U.S. Postal Service to conduct a sweep of some processing facilities Tuesday afternoon to ensure no ballots have been held up and that any discovered are immediately sent out for delivery. Affected by the order are central Pennsylvania, northern New England, greater South Carolina, south Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama and Wyoming, as well as the cities of Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Lakeland, Fla.

Federal authorities were monitoring voting and any threats to the election across the country at an operations centre just outside Washington, D.C., run by the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security. Officials there said there were no major problems detected but urged the public to be patient and skeptical in the days ahead.

From the centre, U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Christopher Krebs asked people in the U.S. to “treat all sensational and unverified claims with skepticism and remember technology sometimes fails.”

WATCH | Trump speaks to campaign workers in Virginia on election day:

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to Republican campaign workers in Arlington, Va., on election day. 0:56

Legal battle looms over early votes

The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it will be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who refused to guarantee he would honour the election’s result.

The Republican president threatened legal action to block the counting of ballots received after election day. If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Trump claimed without evidence that “cheating can happen like you have never seen.”

In fact, there are roughly 20 states that allow mail-in ballots received after election day to be counted — up to nine days and longer in some states. Litigation has centred on just a few where states have made changes in large part due to the coronavirus.

For Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how the U.S. was viewed across the globe. Rarely trying to unite a country divided along lines of race and class, he has often acted as an insurgent against the government he led while undermining the nation’s scientists, bureaucracy and media.

At the White House on Tuesday night, more than 100 family members, friends, donors and staff were set to watch returns from the East Room. Trump was watching votes come in upstairs in the residence with a few close aides. Most top campaign officials were monitoring returns from a “war room” set up in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Biden spent the day last-minute campaigning in Scranton, Penn., where he was born, and in Philadelphia with a couple of local stops in Wilmington, Del., where he was spending election night.

An election official counts absentee ballots inside a polling station in Waukesha, Wisc., on Tuesday. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

Possible Trump address

The president began his day on an upbeat note, predicting that he’d do even better than in 2016. But during a midday visit to his campaign headquarters, he spoke in a gravelly, subdued tone.

“Winning is easy,” Trump told reporters. “Losing is never easy, not for me it’s not.”

Trump left open the possibility of addressing the nation Tuesday night, even if a winner hadn’t been determined. Biden was also scheduled to give a nighttime speech from Wilmington.

“I’m superstitious about predicting what an outcome’s gonna be until it happens … but I’m hopeful,” said Biden. “It’s just so uncertain … you can’t think of an election in the recent past where so many states were up for grabs.”

WATCH | U.S. couple living in Canada divided over presidential candidates:

Saying the last four years have been impossible, married couple Jimmy and Kelly Nixon have already voted in this year’s U.S. election, one for Trump and the other for Biden. 7:23

Biden also wouldn’t commit to commenting on any results on election night, even if Trump weighs in on the vote. “If there’s something to talk about tonight, I’ll talk about it,” Biden said. “If not, I’ll wait till the votes are counted the next day.”

A new anti-scale fence was erected around the White House, and in downtowns ranging from New York City to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses lest the vote lead to unrest of the sort that broke out earlier this year amid protests over racial inequality.

Just a short walk from the White House, for block after block, stores had covered their windows and doors. Some kept just a front door open, hoping to attract a little business.