US Election 2020: Election day unfolds smoothly, defying fears of disruption

Reuters
Detroit, USA Updated: Nov 04, 2020, 05:03 AM(IST)

US Elections 2020 Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Americans by the millions patiently lined up on Tuesday to cast ballots at libraries, schools and arenas amid a deadly pandemic, in an orderly show of civic duty that belied deep tensions shaping one of the most polarizing presidential campaigns in US history

Americans by the millions patiently lined up on Tuesday to cast ballots at libraries, schools and arenas amid a deadly pandemic, in an orderly show of civic duty that belied deep tensions shaping one of the most polarizing presidential campaigns in US history.

The face masks worn by many voters and the sight of boarded-up stores in some city centers were reminders of two big issues defining the 2020 election, with COVID-19 still ravaging parts of the country after a summer of sometimes violence-marred protests against police brutality and racism.

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The FBI and the New York attorney general's office opened investigations into spates of anonymous robocalls urging people in several states to stay home.

And a federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to conduct a sweep of some facilities across the country for undelivered mail-in ballots and to ship them immediately to election offices to be counted.

Civil liberties groups and law enforcement were on high alert for interference with voters at the polls, but few if any major disruptions were reported by late afternoon.

In a troubling incident in the battleground state of North Carolina, a man legally carrying an unconcealed firearm was arrested and charged with trespassing at a polling site in Charlotte.

Police said the suspect, Justin Dunn, 36, had loitered at the site after voting in the morning, "possibly intimidating other voters." A precinct official asked him to leave and he returned two hours later, when he was taken into custody, authorities said.

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In New York City, some voting lines snaked around blocks, but in many places, from Los Angeles to Detroit and Atlanta, lines were short or non-existent. Poll workers guessed this was due to an unprecedented wave of early voting. More than 100 million ballots were cast before Election Day, a new record.

In Atlanta, about a dozen voters were lined up before sunrise at the Piedmont Park Conservancy. First in line was Ginnie House, shivering in the cold, waiting to cast a vote.

"I lost my absentee ballot and I'm not going to miss this vote," said House, 22, an actor and creative writing student, who flew back to Atlanta from New York just for the election.

She said she was voting for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a former vice president seeking to replace the Republican incumbent Donald Trump in the White House.

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At a polling station in Houston, Andy Valadez was blowing a shofar, a ritual trumpet made from a ram's horn used in Jewish and some Christian ceremonies. In this instance, the horn was a way to pray for a Trump victory, Valadez said.

"We want to pray for a fair election," the 55-year-old marketing executive said, his shofar wrapped in a U.S. flag. "We believe in America and want everyone to have a safe voting experience."

TENSIONS FROM TIMES SQUARE TO TEXAS

The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups said they were watching closely for signs of voter intimidation, and the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said it was deploying staff to 18 states.

Staff at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a Washington-based advocacy group, told reporters they were concerned about voting machines not working in three counties in Georgia, forcing voters to fill in paper ballots and raising concerns the paper back-ups would run out.

Business owners in some cities nailed plywood slabs over street-level windows for fear that civil unrest could break out later, especially if the election's outcome were delayed.

In New York City, the Empire State Building and Macy's department store were among those boarded up. On Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, staff had stripped the display windows at Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels of their jewels.

Although Tuesday was unfolding with relative calm, tensions had flared around the country in the run-up to Election Day.

Trump supporters driving pick-up trucks down a Texas highway on Friday surrounded a tour bus carrying Biden campaign staff. In North Carolina over the weekend, police pepper-sprayed a group of mostly Democrats marching to polling stations. And members of an anti-government militia group were charged last month with plotting to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan.

Trump supporters planned more vehicle caravans on Tuesday similar to those that jammed traffic in New York and elsewhere. Some election security experts worried these rolling demonstrations could intimidate voters or spiral into violent confrontations.

While Election Day voting appeared to be going smoothly in most places, there were some scattered glitches.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Tuesday extended voting at four polling sites that opened late. As a result, returns from early and mail-in voting statewide would be delayed until all polls were closed, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

Likewise, Hidalgo County, Texas, said on Twitter all 74 of its polling locations would stay open an extra hour after 10 sites experienced "laptop check-in issues."

Even once votes are cast, some Americans worry about a protracted ballot count in pivotal states, forcing the country to wait for days or more before a clear winner emerges if the race is close.

Trump, whose office holds no powers over state-controlled vote-tallying, has said he thinks states should simply stop counting legal ballots once Tuesday has passed.

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