With an anxious world watching, Americans began voting Tuesday on whether to send the first female president or a volatile populist tycoon to the White House.The kickoff marks the end to a campaign like no other — exhausting, often bitter — as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump presented radically different visions of how to lead the world’s greatest power.
Polls opened at 6:00 am (1100 GMT) in nine states, mainly in the east. The name of the winner was not expected to be known before 0300 GMT. Clinton has a slim lead in the polls but no one was ruling out a Trump win.
Democratic frontrunner Clinton and Republican maverick Trump campaigned into the early hours of election day, capping a grueling final day of wooing voters.
The 69-year-old former first lady, senator and secretary of state — backed by A-list musical stars and incumbent President Barack Obama — urged the country to unite and vote for “a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America.”
Trump meanwhile pressed his message with voters who feel left behind by globalization and social change, wrapping up with a flourish on his protectionist slogan: “America first.”
“Just imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people, under one God, saluting one American flag,” the 70-year-old billionaire reality television star told cheering supporters.
Some 40 million Americans have already cast ballots in states that allow early voting, and opinion polls suggest Clinton has a slight edge.
In their kick-off midnight vote, the residents of tiny Dixville Notch in New Hampshire cast their traditional first-in-nation ballots with a total of eight votes — Clinton getting four and Trump, two.
The others went to a fringe candidate and Mitt Romney, the failed Republican hopeful in 2012.
A polling average by tracker site RealClearPolitics gave Clinton a 3.3-percentage point national lead, but Trump is closer or even has the advantage in several of the swing states that he must conquer to pull off an upset.