US Election 2020: Biden and Trump make final pitches to voters

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media captionThat was wild - a three-year campaign in three minutes

Donald Trump and Joe Biden are spending the final hours of the US election race pitching to voters in key states that could decide who the next president is.

President Trump is visiting North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, while Joe Biden campaigns in Pennsylvania and Ohio - all battleground states.

National polls suggest a healthy lead for Mr Biden in Tuesday's election.

But his lead is narrower in the handful of states that could decide the result.

More than 97 million people have already cast their ballots in early voting, putting the country on course for its highest turnout in a century.

In the US election, voters decide state-level contests rather than an overall single national one.

media captionWhen Tim's Biden sign was stolen, he got some unexpected help

To be elected US president, a candidate must win at least 270 votes in what is called the electoral college. Each US state gets a certain number of votes partly based on its population and there are a total of 538 up for grabs.

This system explains why it is possible for a candidate to win the most votes nationally - like Hillary Clinton did in 2016 - but still lose the election.

Tuesday's vote comes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The US has recorded more cases and more deaths than any other country worldwide, reporting more than 81,000 new infections on Sunday alone.

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image captionBusinesses in New York City are boarding up their shop fronts in case of post-election unrest

As the nation counts down the hours to the vote, there are fears that pockets of post-election violence could break out. Businesses in the nation's capital, Washington DC, and in New York City have been seen boarding up their premises due to concerns about unrest.

Meanwhile, the FBI says it is investigating after a convoy of vehicles with Donald Trump flags surrounded a bus carrying Mr Biden's campaign staff on a Texas highway last week.

Where are Biden and Trump on campaign's final day?

After a punishing schedule of rallies in six states on Sunday, President Trump was sprinting through four more battleground states on Monday.

In North Carolina, he told supporters that "next year will be the greatest economic year in the history of our country". The rally was postponed from Thursday due to Hurricane Zeta.

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image captionMr Trump addressed a rescheduled campaign rally in Fayetteville Regional Airport, North Carolina

He touted numbers that he says "nobody even thought possible".

The US economy saw record-breaking 33% growth in the third financial quarter of this year, following a record 31% contraction in the second. But economists warn the damage inflicted by the pandemic - the biggest decline in the US economy in more than 80 years - could still take years to overcome.

After North Carolina, Mr Trump headed to Scranton, Pennsylvania, the city where his opponent lived until he was 10. At a rally there he reminded his supporters that he won the state in 2016 despite polls suggesting he would lose.

media captionHow much is Covid-19 an election issue?

Mr Biden is also going to Pennsylvania where he will be joined by singer Lady Gaga at a rally in Pittsburgh. Musician John Legend will address voters with vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

At a last-minute campaign stop in Ohio, Mr Biden repeated the core message of his campaign, telling voters that the race was about the soul of America. He said it was time for Mr Trump to "pack his bags", saying "we're done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility".

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image captionMr Biden made a last-minute campaign stop for a drive-in rally in Ohio

The race in Ohio is extremely tight. In 2016, Mr Trump won by more than eight points - currently, he has a 0.2% lead over Mr Biden, according to an aggregate of polls by RealClearPolitics.

Also on Monday's itinerary for Mr Trump were rallies in Traverse City, Michigan, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kenosha was rocked by violent protests in August after the police shooting of a black man.

He then returns to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for his last rally of the campaign shortly before midnight.

Are we going to get a result on election night as usual?

It can take several days for every vote to be counted after any US presidential election, but it is usually pretty clear who the winner is by the early hours of the following morning.

In 2016, Donald Trump took to the stage in New York at about 03:00 local time to give his victory speech in front of a crowd of jubilant supporters.

But do not set your alarm clocks just yet. Officials are already warning that we may have to wait longer - possibly days, even weeks - for the result this year because of the expected surge in postal ballots.

The last time the result was not clear within a few hours was in 2000, when the winner was not confirmed until a Supreme Court ruling was made a month later.

Different states have different rules for how - and when - to count postal ballots, meaning there will be large gaps between them in terms of reporting results. In some states it will take weeks to get complete results.

Mr Trump denied the report, but said that counting ballots after election day was a "terrible thing".

Meanwhile, Mr Biden vowed to stop President Trump "stealing" the election.

media captionCan election polling predict who will become the next US president?

How do the candidates differ in what they are offering?

The two rivals have radically different policies on several key issues.

On the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Trump set up a task force in January which he says has now shifted its focus to "safety and opening up our country". The president is also prioritising the speedy development of Covid treatments and vaccines, directing $10bn towards such projects.

Mr Biden wants to set up a national contact-tracing programme, establish at least 10 testing centres in every state, and provide free coronavirus testing to all. He supports a nationwide mask mandate, which would require face coverings to be worn on federal property.

On climate change, Mr Trump, being a sceptic, wants to expand non-renewable energy, and he has committed to withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.

Mr Biden says he would immediately re-join the Paris deal, and he also wants the US to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

On the economy, Mr Trump has pledged to create 10 million jobs in 10 months, as well as one million new small businesses. He wants to deliver an income tax cut, and provide companies with tax credits to incentivise them to keep jobs in the US.

Mr Biden wants to raise taxes for high earners to pay for investment in public services, but says the increase will only impact those earning over $400,000 a year. He supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15.

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