President Donald Trump has won the prized battleground state of Florida as he and Democrat Joe Biden battle to the finish of an epic US election campaign.
Neither candidate has the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency during an epic campaign that will shape America’s response to the surging coronavirus pandemic and foundational questions of economic fairness and racial justice.
The two men are locked in tight races across the country, with Mr Trump also claiming the battlegrounds of Ohio and Iowa while Mr Biden won Minnesota and Iowa, two modest prizes the president had hoped to steal.
Mr Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election “ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted”.
“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” Mr Biden said. “That’s the decision of the American people.”
Americans made their choices as the nation faced historic crises with each candidate declaring the other fundamentally unfit to navigate the challenges. Daily life has been upended by coronavirus, which has killed more than 232,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs.
Millions of voters put aside worries about the virus – and some long queues – to turn out in person, joining 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73% of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Early results in several key battleground states were in flux as election officials processed a historically large number of postal votes. Democrats typically outperform Republicans in postal voting, while the Republicans look to make up ground in polling day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes – early or polling day – were being reported by the states.
Control of the Senate is at stake, too. Democrats needed to net three seats if Mr Biden captures 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, and Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, fought off a fierce challenge to hang onto his seat.
As the results began to come in, the nation braced for what is to come – and an outcome that might not be known for days.
A new anti-scaling fence has been erected around the White House, and in cities from New York to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses amid concerns of unrest.
For Mr 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 America 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. Mr 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.