Donald Trump continued to hold out on whether he would accept the results of the U.S. presidential election contest against Hillary Clinton on Tuesday as Americans streamed to the polls to decide the country’s direction.
As most polls showed Clinton narrowly favored to win, Trump said in an interview on Fox News Tuesday afternoon that he understands the importance of a peaceful transition of power but said the system is rigged and he has to look at the reports that come out tonight.
“We have to see how it is,” the Republican nominee said. “Hopefully everything’s going to be on the straight and up.”
Trump’s campaign late Monday started laying the groundwork for a possible challenge if Clinton wins, filing suit against the Clark County, Nevada Registrar of Voters, because a polling station at a Las Vegas market stayed open until 10 p.m. on Nov. 4, the last day of early voting in the state.
Trump’s campaign says in the complaint that the polling station should have closed at 8 p.m. that night and that the ballots and voting machines involved should be set aside pending any challenges to the election results. The county, in a statement posted to Twitter, said it already is preserving early voting records as required by law.
On the stump, Trump repeatedly raised the possibility of a “rigged” election, saying he was fighting an uphill battle against the media and the Washington political establishment. He urged his supporters to monitor polling stations for signs of fraud, singling out cities with large African-American populations like Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, said on CNN that between long lines at his Richmond polling place and “what we’ve seen in early vote and absentee voting, we think there is going to be a huge turnout and that is good news for democracy.”
The Justice Department will deploy 500 personnel to polling stations in 28 states on Election Day to protect voters against discrimination and fraud. That’s down from about 780 who were sent out in 2012, the result of a Supreme Court decision that limited federal oversight in some jurisdictions.
Clinton cast her ballot in Chappaqua, New York. The first woman to be nominated for president by a major U.S. party said she’d thought of her late mother while voting and that “I’ll do the very best I can if I am fortunate enough to win today.”
Clinton called in to several radio shows Tuesday morning in battleground-state markets, including appearances on a country station in New Hampshire and Top 40 stations in North Carolina and Michigan.
Clinton’s lead in Michigan, which has been a vote-rich stronghold for Democrats in the past, shrank in recent weeks, and both she and Trump made stops there on the final days of campaigning. New Hampshire is also the site of a competitive U.S. Senate race that will help determine control of the chamber where Republicans now have a 54-46 majority. Analyst Charlie Cook said Tuesday he expected Democrats will take control.
Democrats were seen likely to pick up seats in the U.S. House, but not enough to win a majority there.
Another critical presidential and Senate battleground is North Carolina. Retiring Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his would-be successor, Chuck Schumer of New York, told Democratic volunteers Tuesday to focus their get-out-the-vote phone calls on that state.
North Carolina, along with Pennsylvania and Florida, will be among the first battleground states to close polls. And despite the divided political climate in America, Trump and Clinton will be near each other Tuesday night as both campaigns plan parties in Manhattan.
The winner of the election — in which 226 million Americans are eligible to vote, with as many as 50 million having cast ballots before Tuesday — will inherit leadership of the world’s largest economy and a nation perhaps irreconcilably divided over immigration, trade and its role in the world.
Clinton, 69, the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state, may have a solid resumé, but she’s been dogged by federal probes into her handling of classified e-mails, questions about her family’s foundation and public doubts about her trustworthiness.
Her rival, a Republican real estate magnate and reality show star, defeated 16 primary opponents and promises to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption. Yet Trump, 70, has faced withering criticism for his denunciations of immigrants. At times he fought with fellow Republicans as much as Democrats.
The campaigns drew very different visions of the U.S.: Clinton cast herself as an optimist and unifier who will build on the economic growth of President Barack Obama’s administration. Trump, meanwhile, portrayed himself as the savior of a nation hobbled by bad trade deals, declining manufacturing and beset by illegal immigration and terrorist threats. He promises to “make America great again.”
Clinton and Trump spent the final days of the campaign barnstorming battleground states as polls showed the race had tightened.
“The choice in this election could not be clearer — it really is between division and unity, between strong and steady leadership and a loose cannon,” Clinton said at a rally Monday in Pittsburgh before flying on to Michigan.
Trump also sought to shore up his support with a succession of rallies, repeating his promises to build a wall on the border with Mexico, slash taxes and repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s health-care law. To chants of “President Trump,” he said he didn’t see a path for Clinton to win.
“Do not let this opportunity slip away,” he told supporters Monday in Sarasota, Florida. “It will be the most important vote you have ever cast because we don’t win anymore. We don’t win anymore. We will start winning again and winning like you have never seen before.”
This year’s race has been the most volatile in decades, beset not just by gaffes on the trail or during debates but by the specter of state-sponsored hacking and a federal probe — opened, then closed, then opened and closed again — into Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state. After reviewing a new batch of e-mails found in an unrelated investigation, the FBI chief this weekend said the bureau stood by a July decision not to recommend charges against Clinton.
Hacking became a fixture of the race, plaguing Clinton’s campaign and Democratic Party leaders for months, as stolen e-mails and internal documents were continually published by sites such as WikiLeaks. After months of investigations, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russia was behind the hacks, an accusation Moscow repeatedly rejected.
Experts said worries that hackers could alter the counting of votes are probably overblown: vote-counting machines aren’t connected to the internet, though hackers could try to manipulate voter registration rolls, which are.
Throughout the campaign, the vitriol between the candidates, who have known each other for decades, was always close to the surface. Trump called his rival “Crooked Hillary,” while Clinton derided her opponent as unfit for the presidency.
Trump’s son Donald Jr. said Tuesday on MSNBC his father would concede if he clearly loses in a fair vote. On Fox later in the day, Trump declined to say what would happen if he loses.
“It’s a very rigged system,” he said.
Clinton was buoyed on Friday by the latest employment data, which showed the U.S. added 161,000 jobs in October, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent and average hourly wages rose 2.8 percent.
Trump says economic growth under Obama has been too slow. He said he’d tear up accords including the North American Free Trade Agreement and a pending deal with Asian nations, while weighing sanctions on companies that send jobs overseas.
While the national race will come down to Clinton or Trump, the winner in some states could depend on how much support turns out for third-party candidates. Former Governors Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Weld of Massachusetts lead the Libertarian Party ticket, garnering 10 percent in some polls. Jill Stein had single-digit support nationally with the Green Party. And independent candidate Evan McMullin vied for leadership in some polls in Utah, where his Mormon background was a draw to voters in a state pioneered by the religion’s founders.
And as much as Americans have longed for the campaign to just be over, they learned in the contested 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore that Election Day isn’t necessarily the conclusion of the presidential race. Both major parties have been “lawyering up” for weeks in case the results are close enough to contest or there are credible reports of irregularities.
With assistance from Ben Brody, Jennifer Epstein, Rita Nazareth, Laura Litvan, Joseph Ciolli, Kevin Cirilli, Rebecca Spalding and Edvard Pettersson