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Trump wins Indiana as polls begin to close: Edison Research

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US President Donald Trump was projected to win Indiana's electoral votes, Edison Research said on Tuesday, the first state to be decided in the race against Joe Biden in an election held amid a pandemic gripping a deeply divided United States.

[WILMINGTON, Delaware] US President Donald Trump was projected to win Indiana's electoral votes, Edison Research said on Tuesday, the first state to be decided in the race against Joe Biden in an election held amid a pandemic gripping a deeply divided United States.

As polls began to close in seven states, Mr Trump also was projected to win Kentucky by the Associated Press, and Mr Biden was projected by Fox News to win Democratic-leaning Vermont and Virginia in widely expected results. Indiana had been expected to go to Mr Trump.

Voters, many wearing masks and maintaining social-distancing to guard against the spread of the coronavirus, experienced long lines in a few locales and short waits in many other places.

There were no signs of disruptions or violence at polling sites, as some officials had feared.

The winner - who may not be determined for days - will lead a nation strained by a pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people and left millions more jobless, racial tensions and political polarisation that has only worsened during a vitriolic campaign.

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A third of US voters listed the economy as the issue that mattered most to them when deciding their choice for president while two out of 10 cited Covid-19, according to an Edison Research exit poll on Tuesday.

In the national exit poll, four out of 10 voters said they thought the effort to contain the virus was going "very badly."

In the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina, battleground states that could decide the election, five of 10 voters said the national response to the pandemic was going "somewhat or very badly."

The poll found that nine out of 10 voters had already decided whom to vote for before October, and nine out of 10 voters said they were confident their state would accurately count votes.

Biden, the Democratic former vice president, has put Trump's handling of the pandemic at the center of his campaign and has held a consistent lead in national opinion polls over the Republican president.

Mr Biden, 77, appeared to have multiple paths to victory in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner; at least 270 electoral votes, determined in part by a state's population, are needed to win.

Opinion polls show Mr Trump, 74, is close enough in several election battleground states that he could repeat the type of upset he pulled off in 2016, when he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton despite losing the national popular vote by about 3 million ballots.

The vote results will start to trickle in after 7pm EST (2400 GMT) but counting could go on for several days in many states.

"I'm hopeful," Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware, after earlier appearing in the pivotal state of Pennsylvania to make an 11th-hour appeal to voters.

"What I'm hearing," Mr Biden added, "is that there's overwhelming turnout, and overwhelming turnout particularly of young people, of women" and in some states of older Black voters - groups expected to favour him.

"I think we're going to have a great night," Mr Trump said in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, where he thanked campaign workers. "But it's politics and it's elections, and you never know." "Winning is easy. Losing is never easy - not for me it's not," Mr Trump added.

Ahead of Election Day, just over 100 million voters cast early ballots either by mail or in person, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, driven by concerns about crowded polling places during the pandemic as well as extraordinary enthusiasm.

The total has broken records and prompted some experts to predict the highest voting rates since 1908 and that the vote total could reach 160 million, topping the 138 million cast in 2016.

Mr Trump, admitting his voice was "a bit choppy" after making speeches at numerous raucous rallies in the final days of the campaign, said he was not yet thinking about making a concession speech or acceptance speech.

Seeking a second four-year term, Mr Trump said he would not declare victory prematurely, adding "there's no reason to play games."

In Pennsylvania, Mr Biden first stopped at his childhood home in Scranton, where he signed one of the living room walls, writing: "From this house to the White House with the grace of God. Joe Biden 11-3-2020."

He later visited Philadelphia and used a bullhorn to address supporters who chanted, "Joe, Joe, Joe." "It ain't over till it's over," Mr Biden said in front of a block of brick rowhouses.

In anticipation of possible protests, some buildings and stores were boarded up in cities including Washington, Los Angeles and New York. Federal authorities erected a new fence around the White House perimeter.

A REFERENDUM ON TRUMP

Supporters of both candidates called the election a referendum on Mr Trump and his tumultuous first term. No US president has lost a re-election bid since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

In Atlanta, Cody Sellers, 32, a registered Republican and project manager at a home improvement store, voted for Mr Biden.

"Trump is the issue," Mr Sellers said, shivering in the cold.

"I really think Trump is bad for our country," he added."He's divisive. We're on a path to trouble. I'm not thrilled about Biden, but he can do the job and he cares about our country."

Polling shows Georgia, long a Republican stronghold, might be up for grabs this year but Victor Akinola, 44, stuck with Mr Trump.

"The hopes that liberals have for a so-called blue wave is unfounded. Georgians won't vote en masse against their own local interests,' said Mr Akinola, who works in information technology.

Among the most closely contested states that are expected to determine the outcome are Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia, with Democrats hoping that Mr Biden may even threaten Mr Trump in states that once seemed certain to go Republican such as Ohio, Iowa and Texas.

Voters on Tuesday will also decide which political party controls the US Congress for the next two years, with Democrats narrowly favoured to recapture a Senate majority and retain their control of the House of Representatives.

A judge ordered the US Postal Service to sweep mail processing facilities on Tuesday afternoon for delayed election ballots and immediately dispatch any for delivery in about a dozen states, including closely fought battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Florida.

US stocks closed sharply higher as investors bet it would be decided without a prolonged process, leading to a swift deal on more pandemic-related fiscal stimulus.

TURBULENT PRESIDENCY

Mr Trump is seeking another term in office after a chaotic four years marked by the coronavirus crisis, an economy battered by pandemic shutdowns, an impeachment drama, inquiries into Russian election interference, US racial tensions and contentious immigration policies.

Mr Biden is looking to win the presidency on his third attempt after a five-decade political career including eight years as vice-president under Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

Mr Biden has promised a renewed effort to fight the public health crisis, fix the economy and bridge America's political divide. The country this year was also shaken by months of protests against racism and police brutality.

Some crucial states, such as Florida, begin counting absentee ballots ahead of Election Day and could deliver results relatively quickly on Tuesday night.

Others including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are barred from processing the vast majority of mail-in ballots until Election Day, raising the possibility of a vote count that could stretch for several days.

Mr Trump has asserted, without evidence, that mail-in ballots are subject to fraud and has hinted at court challenges.

REUTERS

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