Nearly 100 Million Already Cast Early Ballots

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Voters went to the polls on Tuesday to write the final chapter of a presidential campaign that has been like no other, amid a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 230,000 lives in the United States, cost millions of Americans their jobs and upended daily life and Election Day itself.

Nearly 100 million people had already cast their ballots before the day even dawned — taking advantage of states’ efforts to make voting safer during the pandemic. Among the early voters were President Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who both decided to forgo the traditional Election Day photo op at the polls.

Battleground states including Michigan and Pennsylvania were making news on the eve of the election not just for 11th-hour campaign stops, but for setting one-day records for new coronavirus cases. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s repeated insistence that the nation is “rounding the turn” when it comes to the virus, the U.S. is seeing more new infections than ever

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, who helps lead the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, delivered a stark private warning to White House officials on Monday, telling them that the pandemic was entering a new and “deadly phase” that demands a more aggressive approach.

Dr. Birx predicted that the United States would soon see days when the number of new cases exceeded 100,000, and she warned against the type of rallies that Mr. Trump has been holding, in which many attendees pack in close together without wearing masks.

The failure to contain the virus has decimated whole industries — costing thousands of jobs in travel, leisure, dining and entertainment. There are now five million more people unemployed now than when Mr. Trump took office in January 2017. And the recent recovery is showing signs of stalling, as hopes begin to fade that many jobs lost to pandemic would return swiftly. Hundreds of thousands of new jobless claims pour in every week; 2.4 million people have been unemployed for more than six months. Eight million people have slipped into poverty since May, according to researchers at Columbia University.

Millions of students are not taking classes in person, as many of the nation’s largest school districts are still offering remote instruction or a hybrid that combines some in-person schooling with classes from home. And with the United States still suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world, travelers have found a U.S. passport is not always welcomed anymore.

The nation continues to be divided — and buffeted by fears of unrest and violence. As Election Day dawned, the sight of plywood being put up over windows from Washington to New York to Los Angeles sent an ominous sign.

Amid that backdrop, both campaigns have sought to set expectations — but not in the way campaigns typically do. The Biden campaign is seeking to remind people that it is highly likely that the winner of the election will not be known tonight, with many key states indicating that releasing official results could take several days. And Mr. Trump has repeatedly made baseless claims seeking to undermine the integrity of the election, with most polls showing him trailing Mr. Biden.

But even in the face of the added strains, there were long lines of eager voters ready to render their final verdict on the race in person, collect their “I voted” stickers and to walk out with the pride of taking part in a democratic process.

Patti Cohen contributed reporting.

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‘Bad and Really Corrupt Publicity,’ Trump Says, Condemning Enemies

President Trump used the first of his five rallies scheduled for Monday to air grievances about polls, the media and the investigation into Russian interference in the election.

We’ve been under a phony, fake hoax investigation for three years. Nothing but bad and really corrupt publicity from these people. And I say, I wonder what the difference would have been had it been legit — right — had it been legit, and it turned out to be just the opposite. They were the ones that committed the crimes, not us. But I wonder what it would have been — probably would have been a little bit easier. But you know the good news? We’re going to win anyway. And you know I have like five of these to do today, so let’s get going. [cheering] And I appreciate you being here. We are returning power to you, the American people. With your help, your devotion and your drive, we are going to keep on working. We are going to keep on fighting. We are going to keep on winning, winning, winning.

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President Trump used the first of his five rallies scheduled for Monday to air grievances about polls, the media and the investigation into Russian interference in the election.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump on Monday attacked the Supreme Court on several occasions during his final full day of campaigning before Election Day, accusing it of putting “our country in danger” with its Friday ruling, which would allow Pennsylvania to continue accepting absentee ballots after Election Day, at least for the time being.

In Kenosha, Wis., the fourth of five rallies across four states, Mr. Trump told a crowd, without basis, that the justices had made a “political” decision that would lead to cheating by his opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. His comments followed an angry tweet in which he charged — without providing any evidence — that the court’s decision would “allow rampant and unchecked cheating” and “induce violence in the streets.”

Twitter quickly flagged the president’s assertions as potentially false, saying that “some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed and might be misleading.”

The president’s remarks in Wisconsin echoed his comments earlier, in Avoca, Pa., where he had suggested cryptically that the Supreme Court decision could be “physically dangerous” without explaining what he meant.

Tom Wolf, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, later responded to Mr. Trump on Twitter, vowing that “Pennsylvanians will not be intimidated” and telling the president: “You can watch us count every vote and have a fair election.”

Mr. Trump has for months falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are subject to rampant fraud despite overwhelming evidence that it is not true. In the last days of the campaign, Mr. Trump has focused intensely on Pennsylvania, where Republicans had legally challenged the state’s plan to accept absentee ballots for up to three days after Election Day.

On Friday, the Supreme Court denied a plea from Republicans in the state asking the court to fast-track a decision on whether election officials could continue receiving absentee ballots for three days after Nov. 3. The justices said the court could revisit the decision after the election.

Mr. Trump’s comments about the court came as he made his last pitch to voters. He also spent Monday airing grievances about polls, the news media, former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At his first rally, speaking to a crowd in Fayetteville, N.C., Mr. Trump mentioned the coronavirus only in passing, to mock China, and to call on the governor of North Carolina to open the state. Instead, he began with a lengthy complaint about media-sponsored political polls. The crowd was mostly silent throughout. He finally wound it down, saying, “I hope I haven’t bored you.”

Pivoting to a familiar litany of complaints, he then derided the two-year investigation into possible conspiracy between his campaign and Russian officials; suggested that everyone in the media, and among his detractors, was “corrupt”; and called his predecessor, Mr. Obama, and his opponent in 2016, Mrs. Clinton, “criminals.”

In Kenosha, Mr. Trump continued to add to his long list of complaints when he was forced to use a hand-held microphone after multiple attempts to fix the one on his lectern failed. “This is the worst microphone I’ve ever used in my life,” he said, clearly annoyed. He promised that because of the audio glitches, he would refund everyone “half of your admission price.

“But considering that you paid nothing,” he said, “I’m sorry.”

Mr. Trump ended the day the way he began it, with a large rally full of supporters and a speech filled with digressions and grievances in Grand Rapids, Mich., the site of his final rally in 2016.

At one point, he acknowledged his adult children who were traveling with him, all of whom have held events on their own across the country, and he said, “No matter what happens I’m very proud of you all.” After a beat, he added, “But if we don’t win I’ll never speak to you again.”

Later in the speech, Mr. Trump played a video of Mr. Biden’s verbal stumbles and appeared to contemplate what losing would look like.

“What a disaster. I can’t believe this is even happening,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “The concept of losing to this guy! Oh, you better get out there and vote tomorrow. I will be so angry, I’ll never come back to Michigan.”

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Biden Calls Out Trump’s Record With Black Americans

At a drive-in rally in Pittsburgh, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, said President Trump had done much to harm African-Americans.

Look, Pittsburgh, honk if you think his commitment of having done more for the African-American community than Abraham Lincoln is true. Honk your horn. Silence. You got it, man. Pittsburgh, honk if you think it’s a bunch of malarkey. He’s lying. [honking] You got it. Look, the truth is, Donald Trump has done more to harm Black America than any president in modern history. This is the same man who started the birther movement against my buddy Barack Obama. This the first man, this is the man who when the first Black woman running for vice president, he looks at her and he calls her a monster.

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At a drive-in rally in Pittsburgh, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, said President Trump had done much to harm African-Americans.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

PITTSBURGH — Joseph R. Biden Jr. closed his presidential campaign with a final burst of campaigning in western Pennsylvania on Monday, concluding with a drive-in rally outside a football stadium in Pittsburgh on a chilly autumn evening.

“Folks, I have a feeling we’re coming together for a big win tomorrow,” Mr. Biden told supporters who parked their cars outside Heinz Field.

“My message to you is simple,” he said. “The power to change this country is in your hands.”

It was the second straight day that Mr. Biden held a nighttime rally in his childhood home state, highlighting the critical role that Pennsylvania may play in determining the outcome of Tuesday’s election. And it was a full-circle moment for Mr. Biden, who gave the first speech of his presidential campaign at a union hall in Pittsburgh.

“Tomorrow is the beginning of a new day,” Mr. Biden said on Monday night. “Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has left hard-working Americans out in the cold. Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has divided this nation and fanned the flames of hate.”

Many supporters stood outside their cars to watch the speech in the November cold, some of them waving flags. Others sat on their roofs. Lady Gaga performed before Mr. Biden spoke, and when it was the candidate’s turn, he delivered an emphatic condemnation of President Trump.

He was greeted by a cacophony of beeping horns, a familiar sound at his socially distanced drive-in rallies in the final weeks of the campaign.

Earlier, at a drive-in event with Black voters in Pittsburgh, Mr. Biden forcefully criticized Mr. Trump’s record with African-Americans, mocking him for asserting at the final debate last month that he had done more for the community than anyone “with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

“The truth is, Donald Trump has done more to harm Black America than any president in modern history,” Mr. Biden said, noting that Mr. Trump had pushed a conspiracy about former President Barack Obama’s birthplace and that he had called Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate, a “monster.”

Mr. Biden also made a stop in nearby Beaver County, which voted decisively for Mr. Trump four years ago, where he appealed to union members and emphasized his middle-class roots.

“What happens now, what happens tomorrow, is going to determine what this country looks like for a couple generations,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s not a joke. I really, genuinely believe that. There’s so damn much at stake.”

He first traveled on Monday to Ohio, a state that is seen as a stretch for him to win, where he held a drive-in rally at an airport hangar in Cleveland. But he devoted the rest of the day to western Pennsylvania, a crucial region in a crucial state. Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than one percentage point, and both he and Mr. Biden have focused significant attention on the state in the final days of the campaign.

While Mr. Biden was in western Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump was at the opposite end of the state, holding a rally near Scranton, Mr. Biden’s hometown, in the afternoon. Vice President Mike Pence also campaigned in the state on Monday, as did Ms. Harris, who wrapped up her day with a drive-in rally in Philadelphia.

Mr. Biden plans to return again on Tuesday with visits to Scranton and Philadelphia, and on Monday night, he declared, “The power is in your hands, Pennsylvania.”

Thomas Kaplan reported from Pittsburgh, Sydney Ember from Connecticut and Katie Glueck from Philadelphia.

Credit…Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

The National Guard is on notice. Businesses have boarded up storefronts. University students have been told to stockpile food and supplies.

Election Day always provokes anxiety, but this one feels especially unnerving as officials and business owners across the United States brace for potential rioting, violence, vandalism or voter intimidation.

As millions of voters headed to the polls, many taking precautions to guard themselves against a deadly pandemic, visible reminders of the fear and uncertainty that have loomed over the campaign could be seen across the nation.

Retailers and banks from Boston to Philadelphia and beyond have beefed up security. Disney and Saks Fifth Avenue were among the brand-name stories in Manhattan that boarded up their windows. And Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills has been closed for Election Day and the day after.

Even the capital was gearing up for unrest: Businesses are boarded up across downtown Washington, and a metal fence was installed Monday night at the entrance to the White House. Students at George Washington University were advised to prepare for Election Day as they would for a “hurricane or snowstorm.”

The preparations reflect a nationwide anxiety produced by a bitter contest between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., and the widespread fear that things could get ugly no matter who wins — or when the results are finalized.

With Mr. Trump warning supporters of a stolen election at a time when the electorate is sharply polarized, states are bracing for violence.

Any official response to violence could be complicated, because the president has broad discretion to sidestep legal restrictions by declaring an insurrection, experts say. That would allow him not only to control state National Guard troops, but also to deploy the Army or Marines — moves that Congress or the courts could be powerless to stop.

National Guard troops are already on alert in several states.

There was also concern that outside hostile powers might use the moment to sow chaos and confusion.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, reminded his Twitter followers on Monday morning that the country was entering an “unusual” period and that its adversaries might take advantage of this.

“Our intelligence community has warned that the period immediately before and after Election Day is going to be uniquely volatile,” Mr. Warner wrote.

In interviews on Monday, voters said that the sense of anxiety was palpable.

Gary Bennett, 67, of Detroit, said that the number of local business owners that were boarding up stores in his city was unnerving — and that he was ready for life to return to normal.

“I’ve been around a long time and have never seen anything like that before,” Mr. Bennett said, adding that he planned to vote for Mr. Biden even though he was not a huge fan.

Mikayla Simpson, 18, who was standing in line to vote early in Des Moines, Iowa, wearing earbuds and a Trump 2020 baseball cap, said that she planned to go on with life as usual if Mr. Biden prevailed.

“I think it’s insanely immature to commit violence if your candidate doesn’t win,” she said.

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

A federal judge in Houston on Monday rejected Republican efforts to invalidate more than 127,000 votes that were cast at drive-through locations in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

But he also found that the tents housing most of the drive-through sites did not properly qualify as “buildings,” so he allowed only one of the ten locations to stay open on Election Day.

The lawsuit was one of the most aggressive moves by Republicans in an election marked by more than 400 voting-related lawsuits. And it came as Texas, long considered reliably Republican in presidential elections, has emerged as a swing state this year, with polls showing an unusually close race there.

Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, is home to one of the state’s largest concentrations of Democratic voters. It had set up 10 drive-through voting sites to offer a safe, in-person voting option amid the pandemic, and polls were open for 18 days.

But in a lawsuit, Republicans argued that Chris Hollins, the Harris County clerk, did not have the authority to allow drive-through voting in the county.

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a federal judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush, held an emergency hearing for the lawsuit on Monday and ruled against tossing the ballots. On Sunday, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court had rejected a similar effort to get those ballots tossed out.

“We win,” Susan Hays, the elections counsel for Mr. Hollins, said in a text message.

Rebecca Acuña, the Biden campaign’s Texas director, praised the decision. “Make no mistake: This is not a partisan victory,” she said. “This is a victory for voters across the country who are exercising their constitutional right to make their voices heard.”

State Representative Steve Toth, one of the Republican plaintiffs, said the judge ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing in the case. Hours after the decision was handed down, the Republican plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal was denied Tuesday morning.

The drive-through voting system was put in place for the first time this year by Mr. Hollins, the top elections official in Harris County, with unanimous approval by county commissioners.

In a Twitter thread late Monday, Mr. Hollins called the ruling “a huge win for democracy” and said that since the hearing he had consulted with election law experts who confirmed the legality of drive-through voting.

But he also noted that in the order, Judge Hanen said that the tents housing most of the drive-through locations did not properly qualify as “buildings,” as is required for Election Day polling places. For that reason, Mr. Hollins said, only one of the 10 drive-through sites will be open on Election Day, at the Toyota Center arena.

“I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk,” he said.

Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement after the ruling that the suit should never have been brought. “Texans who lawfully voted at drive-through locations should have never had to fear that their votes wouldn’t be counted and their voices wouldn’t be heard,” he said. “This lawsuit was shameful and it should have never seen the light of day.”

Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

Poll workers are scrubbing down voting machines before and after each ballot. Voters are being asked to bring their own pens. And, in some states, officials are sending polling places hundreds of thousands of gloves, masks and social-distancing markers.

Those are among the precautions being taken as voters in the United States fan out to the polls on Tuesday in the midst of a surge of coronavirus infections that has swamped hospitals and set daily records for new cases in some states.

The efforts are intended not only to keep voters and poll workers from becoming infected, but also to make it safe for people who are already sick or isolating to vote, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said over the weekend.

The agency said that those people have a right to vote, too. It recommended that voters keep at least six feet from others and issued a six-step guide to help people prepare for voting. Among the suggestions: Bring your own supplies, including two masks, tissues, hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol, water and a black ink pen.

“You should also let poll workers know that you are sick or in quarantine when you arrive at the polling station,” the center said.

In sending voters to the polls in the middle of an uncontrolled outbreak, the United States is trying an experiment that few other countries have attempted. More than 60 countries have postponed votes since the outbreak first took hold, the Council on Foreign Relations has said, while those who did hold elections have struggled to make them safe.

The C.D.C. guidelines align with measures that many polling stations around the country are taking to keep safe on Tuesday.

Paul Pate, the secretary of state for Iowa, said that his office had distributed 145,000 gloves, 200,000 masks and 11,000 social-distancing markers to be used by voters and poll workers.

In Virginia, one city official said that plexiglass was being erected and that personal protection equipment would be distributed to anyone entering the polling station.

The state of Ohio has also purchased personal protection equipment, including clear shields, to protect voters and poll workers. Voting machines are to be cleaned before and after each vote, according to a Dayton news station.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued its own Election Day guidelines to polling locations. The agency recommended having separate entrances and exits if possible and replacing shared objects like pens with single-use items.

Credit…Thomas White/Reuters

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube plan to take a series of steps on Election Day to prevent the spread of misinformation, particularly around the results and the integrity of voting.

At Facebook, an operations center staffed by dozens of employees — what the company calls a war room — will work Tuesday to identify efforts to destabilize the election. The team, which will work virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, has already been in action, Facebook said.

In a Twitter post on Monday night, Facebook said that the team was also tracking “potentially dangerous activity we saw with the swarming of Biden campaign buses this weekend,” a reference to the caravan of Trump supporters that surrounded a Biden campaign bus in Texas. “We are monitoring closely and will remove content calling for coordinated harm or interference with anyone’s ability to vote,” it added.

Facebook’s app also will look different on Tuesday. To prevent candidates from prematurely and inaccurately declaring victory, the company plans to add a notification at the top of News Feeds letting people know that no winner has been chosen until election results are verified by news outlets like Reuters and The Associated Press.

Twitter’s strategy is twofold. One group of employees will work to root out false claims and networks of bots that spread such information by using both algorithms and human analysts, while another team will highlight reliable information in the Explore and Trends sections of its service.

Twitter plans to add labels to tweets from candidates who claim victory before the election is called by authoritative sources. At least two news outlets will need to independently project the results before a candidate can use Twitter to celebrate his or her win, the company said.

On Monday, Twitter labeled a post by Richard Grenell, President Trump’s former acting director of national intelligence, showing Joseph R. Biden Jr. on a campaign plane without a mask as manipulated media. The photo used by Mr. Grenell, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, was from 2019 before the pandemic.

But social media companies had a haphazard response on Monday to a video of Mr. Biden that was deceptively edited to make it appear as though he were admitting to voter fraud, labeling some versions of the video and not others. The video was viewed more than 17 million times on social media platforms, according to Avaaz, a progressive human-rights nonprofit that studied it.

The video was an edited clip from an Oct. 24 appearance by Mr. Biden, on the podcast “Pod Save America,” in which he discussed the Obama administration’s efforts to combat voter fraud and said that he had put together “the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.”

YouTube said it would be especially sensitive about videos that attempt to challenge the election’s integrity. YouTube already does not allow videos that mislead voters about how to vote or the eligibility of a candidate, or that incite people to interfere with the voting process. The company said it would take down such videos quickly, even if one of the speakers was a presidential candidate.

As the polls close, YouTube will feature a playlist of live election results coverage from what it deems authoritative news sources.

Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

For months, investors have signaled that their No. 1 desire is more federal spending to keep the economy afloat in the face a pandemic that is now rapidly expanding.

So when the election season culminates on Tuesday, the prospects for a stimulus bill are likely to influence how Wall Street reacts.

With that in mind, here are four electoral outcomes and how investors might view them.

The potential for this result — with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. winning the presidency decisively and his fellow Democrats taking control of the Senate — fueled a short stock market rally in late September and early October.

The narrative was simple: If Democrats hold all the cards, the spending will be big.

Should it happen, stocks will probably rise along with expectations for economic growth. The impact will be evident in other markets, too: Long-term interest rates would rise, and the dollar would fall as investors bet on larger federal deficits and slightly higher risks of inflation.

Asterisks abound however. A blue wave also promises more legislation on taxes or regulation, so analysts think a thin Democratic majority in the Senate — the so-called light blue wave — that leaves some limits on the Democratic agenda might be a slightly better outcome for investors.

Conventional wisdom on Wall Street is that Washington gridlock is usually best for stocks, because it means the government is unlikely to do anything that hurts corporate profits.

But the coronavirus crisis and ensuing economic slump have prompted some soul-searching on this point, and many Wall Street analysts see a split decision on Tuesday — with Republicans retaining control of the Senate and Mr. Biden taking the White House — as potentially the worst outcome for financial markets that are hanging their hope on a stimulus bill.

A Trump victory would most likely mean the Republicans also retain control of the Senate, while Democrats almost certainly still control the House of Representatives.

In short, nothing will have changed in the standoff over how much spending to authorize, and optimism about another large-scale near-term stimulus package could quickly evaporate.

On the flip side, though, a second Trump term would ensure that taxes on companies or the wealthy won’t be rising. Plus, Mr. Trump could replace the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, with someone who is much more in tune with the president’s preferred monetary-policy posture and something stock investors might love: low interest rates forever.

A vote that is so close in certain key swing states that the outcome hangs on litigation that will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court will be trouble for investors.

Even if Mr. Biden wins the election, President Trump has suggested on multiple occasions that he might not accept the outcome.

If Mr. Trump doesn’t concede, it’s hard to know when this fraught election season will end. In such an environment, there won’t be any progress on a stimulus deal, most likely delaying the arrival of any more help for the economy.

In other words, uncertainty that has weighed on markets in recent weeks will probably be projected out for the foreseeable future. That means the stock market would be in for another rocky ride until it’s clear who will lead the federal government for the next four years.

Credit…Ashley L. Conti/Reuters

The results are already in from two New Hampshire towns where voters famously head to the polls just after the stroke of midnight on Election Day.

In Dixville Notch, where a handful of masked residents voted shortly after midnight on Tuesday, all five votes for president went to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee. He is the first presidential candidate to sweep the general election vote in Dixville Notch since the midnight voting tradition began there in 1960, when Richard M. Nixon won all nine votes over John F. Kennedy.

The other northern New Hampshire town that voted around the same time on Tuesday, Millsfield, favored President Trump by 16 votes to 5.

A third town, Hart’s Location, canceled its traditional midnight voting this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 48 voters there will have to wait until the morning like everyone else.

Antsy journalists and political types often look to these New Hampshire towns for clues as to how the election will unfold across the country, but they have a spotty track record. While Millsfield voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, Dixville Notch went for Hillary Clinton.

And in the Democratic primary election — which also kicks off in New Hampshire — Dixville Notch cast three of its five votes this year for Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York. He suspended his campaign less than a month later.

Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

Whatever the outcome, the 2020 election is already one for the history books, with an astonishing 97.6 million ballots already submitted through in-person early voting and by mail — more than two-thirds of the number of votes cast in the entire 2016 election.

As of Monday afternoon, hours before Election Day, with some states still holding early voting, 35.5 million people had voted in person and 62.1 million had cast ballots by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan website run by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks county-level data.

Those numbers represent a tectonic shift away from one-day voting, the staple of the American electoral system for centuries.

And they make it likely that the total turnout for 2020 will break the record set in 2016, when nearly 139 million people voted.

They also create fresh uncertainty for two presidential campaigns facing the prospect of motivating a smaller, more-volatile reservoir of available voters to tap on Election Day itself.

Democrats, buoyed by polls showing Joseph R. Biden Jr. with small but durable leads in battleground states, have focused on turning out Black and Latino voters, who typically prefer voting in person, to offset an expected Election-Day surge by Trump supporters.

Texas and Hawaii have already surpassed their total 2016 voter turnout, and the battleground states of North Carolina, Georgia and Florida have topped 90 percent of their 2016 turnout.

In the 20 states that report the party registration of early voters, the elections project found that 45 percent of those who have voted early are registered Democrats, 30 percent are Republicans and 24 percent list no party affiliation.

Officials with both the Biden and Trump campaigns have viewed the split between early voters and Election-Day voters as highly partisan, with Democrats in most states making up a clear majority of early voters and Republicans, motivated by President Trump’s effort to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in balloting, waiting to show up to the polls.

The Trump campaign continues to wage an all-fronts fight in court to limit the time states have to count ballots, while Democrats, citing the challenges posed by the pandemic, have pressed for more time and for looser scrutiny of ballot signatures that could invalidate some votes.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump falsely suggested that states like Pennsylvania, which can take days to count mail-in ballots, needed to complete vote counts on Election Day. He vowed to mount a legal challenge to the Pennsylvania vote.

“We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” the president said.

Credit…Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

PHILADELPHIA — Senator Kamala Harris on Monday evening made an impassioned final pitch before Election Day, casting the race as “the most consequential election of our lifetimes” as she urged Americans to turn out to the polls.

“Your vote is your voice and your voice is your power,” she said. “Don’t let anyone ever take your power from you. Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to speak out. And now is the time to vote and vote like our lives depend on it because they do.”

Standing outside at Citizens Bank Park, and alternating onstage with the musician John Legend, she addressed a drive-in rally in the last hours before Election Day, reminding listeners of the Democratic ticket’s policy priorities — from combating the coronavirus to confronting racial injustice — and calling her running mate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., “a leader of both strength and empathy, toughness and humility.”

Her appearance capped a full day of campaigning across Pennsylvania, with Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, making stops in western Pennsylvania, and Ms. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, campaigning in the east.

Pennsylvania has emerged as perhaps the most critical battleground state and both presidential campaigns are competing there aggressively.

Pennsylvanians have not hit the early vote numbers of several other battleground states, according to the U.S. Elections Project, and the Biden-Harris ticket made a final push here to urge big Election Day turnout. The Bidens were across the state in Pittsburgh, campaigning at a rally alongside Lady Gaga.

“Let’s vote, and vote with conviction and confidence and hope,” Ms. Harris said. “Let’s elect Joe Biden the next President of the United States.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — The Biden campaign on Monday moved to set a series of expectations about how Election Day results should be viewed, warning against President Trump’s inaccurate suggestion that states usually finish counting votes on election night and promising to “protect the vote.”

“Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign manager, in a briefing on Monday.

“When Donald Trump says that ballots counted after midnight should be invalidated, he’s just making that up,” she added. “There is no historical precedent that any of our elections have ever run and been counted and completely verified on election night. We do not expect that to happen in 2020.”

Running through a Zoom presentation, she laid out the campaign’s expectations for the numbers they believe Mr. Trump will need to hit on Election Day in states including North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona — 62 percent, 61 percent and 60 percent respectively — and outlined a series of paths Mr. Biden has to the presidency.

She also stressed that Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three critical battleground states, may be slower to report results.

And she made clear repeatedly that the campaign will not be over, politically or legally, just because Mr. Trump may seek to declare a win early.

Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel who is helping to lead the Biden campaign’s election protection efforts, dismissed Mr. Trump’s suggestions that he will raise legal challenges.

“The case he’s turning over to his lawyers when the voters have spoken is a case that no lawyer can win,” Mr. Bauer said. “And his lawyers will not win it. So we’re going to match them, I assure you, and exceed them in quality and vigor, and we’ll protect the vote.”

Ms. O’Malley Dillon said she expected Mr. Biden to address the country on election night.

“What we’re going to see on Election Day is going to give us a very good sense of where we’re headed,” she said. “My expectation is that the vice president will address the American people. Probably late. But we’re not really concerned about what Donald Trump says on election night or what he might want to convey.

“What he says,” she added, “might have nothing to do with the reality of it.”

Credit…Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The Trump campaign on Monday threw more support behind Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, who is locked in a tight battle that could help determine whether her party retains control of the Senate.

Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s eldest daughter and a senior White House adviser, traveled to Des Moines and held a rally packed with about 1,000 supporters, while Mr. Trump called Ms. Ernst to encourage her supporters over a loudspeaker in Sioux City.

As Trump supporters crowded into the Elwell Family Food Center at the State Fairgrounds — many of them not wearing masks despite a sign encouraging them to do so — Ms. Trump touted her father’s accomplishments in office. She also singled out Ms. Ernst, seated nearby, for praise.

“With the help of Senator Joni Ernst, we secured the largest-ever increase for child care funding, giving more than 800,000 low-income families great child care,” Ms. Trump said in an apparent reference to Congress’s $2.37 billion increase for child care grants in 2018, the largest one-year increase in federal funding for child care in history, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Hours later, in Sioux City, Ms. Ernst held up her cellphone to a microphone, where the president delivered a message to her supporters.

“I like Sioux City very much. Maybe I’ll move there with you someday. You’re my kind of people,” Mr. Trump said, before congratulating the freshman senator on recent poll numbers. “But the big congratulations comes tomorrow.”

Ms. Ernst and her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, had been virtually tied in the final weeks of the campaign — a far cry from 2014, when Ms. Ernst cruised to victory, and 2016, when Mr. Trump carried Iowa by more than nine percentage points.

But a survey last week by The Des Moines Register showed Ms. Ernst with a four-point lead.

Ms. Greenfield spent her final night before Election Day at a car rally in the parking lot of a Des Moines middle school, where dozens of supporters honked their car horns loudly as she took the stage. As supporters cheered, she predicted that Democrats would take control of the Senate and pledged to send the current majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, “packing.”

Many analysts believe that Democrats need to gain four key Senate seats now in Republican hands to gain the advantage in Congress’s upper chamber, and few believe Republicans can maintain control should Ms. Ernst lose.

Ms. Greenfield told a reporter she was undeterred by the results of the Des Moines Register poll.

“When I got in this race 517 days ago, we knew it was going to be a tough fight and it still is,” she said. “It’s a donnybrook. We’re just going to do everything we can to make sure every last vote gets in and gets counted, and we believe we’re going to end up on top.”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

With absentee ballots flooding election offices nationwide, the officials processing them are tentatively reporting some surprising news: The share of ballots being rejected because of flawed signatures and other errors appears lower — sometimes much lower — than in the past.

Should that trend hold, it could prove significant in an election in which the bulk of absentee voters has been Democratic, and Republicans have fought furiously, in court and on the stump, to discard mail ballots as fraudulent.

In Fulton County, Ga., home to Atlanta, just 278 of the first 60,000-odd ballots processed had been held back. In Minneapolis, Hennepin County officials last week had rejected only 2,080 of 325,000 ballots — and sent replacement ballots to all of those voters. In Burlington, Iowa, the number of rejected ballots on Monday was 28 of 12,310. And of 474,000 absentee ballots received in Kentucky, barely 1,300 rejects remain uncorrected by voters, compared to more than 15,000 during the state’s presidential primary in June.

What is more, in those jurisdictions and many others, voters are notified of errors on ballots and can correct their mistakes, or vote in person instead.

There is no shortage of caveats to those and other upbeat reports from state and local election officials, which are far from comprehensive. In some states, including battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, regulations prevent early processing of millions of mail ballots, and it is impossible to know how many will be turned down.

“Historically, you’ve seen about 1 percent of ballots get bounced for one reason or another, mostly because of lateness,” said Nate Persily, a Stanford University professor of law and an expert on election administration. “But people are more attuned to the deadline this year, and voters are more aware of the criteria for casting absentee ballots.

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

It remains one of the most surprising facts about voting in the United States: While the popular vote elects members of Congress, mayors, governors, state legislators and even more obscure local officials, it does not determine the winner of the presidency, the highest office in the land.

That important decision ultimately falls to the Electoral College. When Americans cast their ballots, they are actually voting for a slate of electors appointed by their state’s political parties who are pledged to support that party’s candidate. (They don’t always do so.)

This leads to an intense focus on key battleground states, as candidates look to increase their electoral advantage by targeting states that can help them reach the needed 270 votes of the total 538 total up for grabs. The Electoral College also inspires many what-if scenarios, some of them more likely than others.

How did this system evolve, and will it ever change? What happens in a tie? And what’s different about Nebraska and Maine? We’ve got answers to all your Electoral College questions.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Owen Keehnen, a writer and historian in Chicago, is losing sleep over the election. About five times a week over the past few months, he wakes up around 3 a.m. in a panic, he said.

“As the election approaches, I feel an overwhelming amount of anxiety,” Mr. Keehnen, 60, said. “So much seems to hinge on the election when it comes to rights down the line and everything else. It’s really wreaked havoc on my sleep.”

Mr. Keehnen is not alone in managing stress this election cycle, a reality only amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.

About two-thirds of Americans in 2017 said concern about the future of the country was a significant source of their stress over money and work, according to a report published that year by the American Psychological Association titled “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation.”

The survey found a majority of people from both political parties were stressed about what it described as the “current social divisiveness,” but those figures were higher for Democrats at 73 percent, compared with Republicans at 56 percent and independents at 59 percent, it said.

Allison Eden, an associate professor of communication at Michigan State University, suggested a range of actions to mitigate any stress and anxiety the day can bring, including deleting social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok from your phone. Making them just a little harder to access can help.

“You’d have to access it through a website or some not-easily-available device,” she said of the apps. “But if you take the logo off your phone, you’re less likely to click on it.” Eliminating notifications can also help ease stress, she said.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Donald J. Trump returned again to the battleground state of North Carolina on Monday morning, addressing a crowd that had almost entirely voted for him already, in a state that has had heavy early turnout.

North Carolina has been processing mail-in votes for weeks, in contrast to another closely watched state, Pennsylvania. Because of that, state officials said Monday that they expected at least 97 percent of all ballots cast in the election to be counted by Tuesday evening.

“Rough estimate, we had roughly 4.7 million voters in 2016, and we’re getting close to 4.6 right now,” Damon Circosta, the State Board of Elections chair, said Monday afternoon. “We anticipate beautiful weather in North Carolina tomorrow and very high turnout, so we’ll set another record.”

At Mr. Trump’s rally at the airport in Fayetteville, Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican facing his own tough election fight, asked the crowd, “How many of you’ve already voted?” Nearly every hand seemed to rise. But even with the vote processing well underway, not every race here may be decided Tuesday night.

The two most closely watched races in the state are the presidential election and the contest for the United States Senate, where Mr. Tillis is in a tight race with Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and Iraq war veteran. The race was upended a month ago after Mr. Cunningham admitted to exchanging flirtatious texts with a woman who is not his wife.

Polls give Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Mr. Cunningham the edge in those races, but only slightly. Roy Cooper, the incumbent Democratic governor, has a more comfortable lead.

Mr. Trump spent much of his remarks Monday lamenting polls and pollsters, who were included among the grievances he brought up in a speech that also included a blooper reel of Mr. Biden’s gaffes. “We are looking good, we’re really look good all over, in the real polls, not the Fox polls,” Mr. Trump said, taking particular issue with Fox News. “Some of these pollsters work magic, and the amazing thing is they hang onto their job. They do horribly.”