The most divisive and unpredictable presidential race in modern memory reached its end Tuesday with long lines at East Coast polling sites, suggesting voters could push turnout to new levels in some places even as many decried the campaign’s harsh and bitter tones.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton delivered starkly different messages as they made their last public appeals.
In Michigan, the GOP nominee blasted his opponent as embodying Washington’s corrupt culture. In North Carolina, Clinton said the election would be “where we prove, conclusively, that yes: love trumps hate.”
By early Tuesday, residents in New Hampshire, Virginia and elsewhere were casting votes. At Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Va., nearly 170 people were lined up when voting began at 6 a.m.
“I’m a determined voter,” said 37 year-old Michael Barnes, an account executive for Freddie Mac who showed up at 5 a.m. and backed a straight Democratic ticket. “I’m feeling relieved that I’ve at least done my part.”
For Laurie Jarman, an office manager in Fairfax County, Va., it was antipathy for Clinton that drove her vote.
“I don’t know that I trust him either, but I feel that Hillary will be worse,” said Jarman, 46, who arrived at Stonewall Middle School about half-an-hour after Barnes.
Even an early arrival at the polls in Virginia’s capital, Richmond, did not guarantee Clinton’s running mate, Sen, Tim Kaine, D-Va., the first vote. He, his wife Anne Holton and his parents arrived at roughly 5:50 a.m. at The Hermitage, but the resident association’s 89-year old president, Minerva Turpin, beat them to it.
The Kaines, accompanied by the senator’s father Al and mother Kathy, showed their photo IDs to poll workers and received fill-in-the bubble ballots. They fed them into the voting machine and walked outside, where some of the men and women waiting in a long line outside broke into applause.
Afterward, Kaine said that if he and Clinton were “fortunate enough to win this evening,” they would work to heal the deep rifts in the country that this year’s race had exposed.
“In the tone of the things that we say, in the team that we put together, and the policies that we promote, we have to show that we want to govern for all, not just those who voted for us,” he said.
Meanwhile Trump’s son, Don Jr., predicted that his father’s election would validate those who have been “disaffected from the political system” in America.
“People who have been let down by the system, I want them to turn out,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I want them to vote. I want them to bring their friends.”
Trump. who called into Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning, said his supporters’ intensity would usher him into the Oval Office. He mocked Clinton for having to rely on celebrities, including Jay-Z and Beyoncé, to generate large crowds at the close of the campaign.
“I could do that, too, you know, but I’m filling up rooms just on the basis of what I’m saying,” the New York businessman said. “I don’t need anybody to fill up the room.”
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, cast their ballots at Douglas G. Grafflin Elementary in Chappaqua, N.Y., at 8 a.m. Just four hours earlier, they had arrived from an early-morning rally in North Carolina.
Clinton, who plans to spend much of the rest of the day at home before heading to a Manhattan hotel to await returns, was greeted by chants of “Madam President!” as she walked outside.
“It is the most humbling feeling because I know how much responsibility goes with this and so many people are counting on the outcome of this election, what it means for our country,” she told reporters, when asked what it felt like to cast her ballot. “And I’ll do the best I can if we’re fortunate enough to be elected.”
Asked by a reporter if she thought about her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who was born in the year before women gained the right to vote and who died in 2011, Clinton responded with a smile: “Oh, I did.”
In a sign of how close the race remains, Clinton closed her campaign Tuesday with an energetic rally in Raleigh, accompanied by her husband and their daughter Chelsea. Singer Lady Gaga performed for an audience that nearly to a person raised hands when asked how many had voted early.
Meanwhile, Trump took the stage at his final pre-election rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning – capping a five-state final push that started in Florida on Monday morning and weaved though North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
“Today is our independence day. Today the American working class is going to strike back,” he told the late-night audience that gathered at a convention center to heat him speak.
Well before Trump was done speaking, a substantial portion of Trump’s crowd started making its way toward the exits.
In his remarks, the Republican nominee said it was “almost hard to believe” that Election Day had arrived, as he reflected back to the beginning of the Republican primary and the many candidates he faced and eventually defeated.
Late Monday evening, Trump took the stage to a flashy laser light show in a crowded arena in Manchester, N.H., that seats roughly 11,000. “Tomorrow, the American working class will strike back!” he declared.
“Do you want America to be ruled by the corrupt political class, or do you want America to be ruled again by the people?” asked the GOP nominee to loud cheers, adding: “Hillary Clinton’s only allegiance is to herself, her donors and her special interests.”
“Lock her up!” the crowd began chanting moments later.
Earlier Monday, a rowdy crowd in Scranton, Pa., shouted, “She’s a witch!” and “She’s a demon!” as Trump berated Clinton. When he began to lambaste the news media as dishonest, the audience erupted into a thunderous chant of “CNN sucks!”
The Republican nominee said that the fact that the FBI had already completed its examination of newly discovered emails connected to Clinton proved that the judicial system was “rigged.” He urged voters to “deliver justice at the ballot box.”
FBI Director James B. Comey said Sunday that the FBI had found nothing to alter its months-old decision not to seek charges against the former secretary of state for her use of a private email server.
As Election Day drew near, Clinton appeared narrowly ahead in most polls, and her campaign officials pointed to heavy turnout among Hispanics and Asians in crucial swing states, such as Florida and North Carolina, as evidence that the race was moving in their direction.
More than 6.4 million voters in Florida have voted early, up nearly 35 percent from 2012, according to the Clinton campaign, with big early surges in majority Hispanic Miami Dade county. More broadly, the Clinton campaign said that early voter turnout was breaking records – with more than 41 million Americans casting ballots before Election Day
“We are on the path to see more Americans vote than we have ever seen in our history,” Clinton said in Pittsburgh. “If the lines are long tomorrow, please wait.”
The Justice Department said Monday that it would deploy more than 500 poll-watchers from its Civil Rights Division to monitor voting in 67 jurisdictions in 28 states, including at least three in each of the swing states. Many of the jurisdictions have large Native American, black, Latino and Muslim populations
The department said its lawyers would be working to enforce federal voting rights laws “to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.” It also has a hotline (toll free at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-3931) to register complaints.
And on this Election Day the two men who have dominated Democratic politics for the last two decades – Barack Obama and Bill Clinton – were relegated to supportive roles.
Obama, who traveled to three states Monday to stump on Hillary Clinton’s behalf, journeyed to Fort Lesley J. McNair Tuesday morning to play basketball with friends – an Election Day ritual he observed in both 2008 and 2012.
Meanwhile, in White Plains, Bill Clinton told reporters he’s quite comfortable playing the role of political spouse.
“It’s felt that way for several years now,” he explained. “I’m good! I’ve had 15 years of practice.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Anne Gearan, Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin