Americans woke up to uncertainty after no clear winner emerged from Tuesday’s bitterly fought election. With votes still being counted, Donald Trump has threatened legal action to stop counting in key battleground states as the gap widens between him and Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump promised legal action to stop the count and called the electoral system a “fraud”.
In Columbus, Ohio, Americans went about their daily lives as best they could. But for Democrat voter Michelle Boeshansz, Trump's threat of legal action is a threat to democracy.
"He wants to take away the people’s right to vote. I voted, I want my vote to count and he’s wanting to go to the Supreme Court and say my vote shouldn’t count. Every vote counts. "
Demonstrations broke out on Wednesday in many cities across the US as the election remained too close to call.
Anyone but Trump
The deluge of mail-in votes this year due to Covid-19 has prolonged the count process and raised Republican suspicions of fraud.
"Four years ago, he was yelling too during this time that there was falsification and tampering but when he won he shut up about it,” Michelle added.
Trump won Ohio on Tuesday with 53 percent of the vote. The swing state is known as a bellwether for the national election. No president has ever won the White House without it since 1964.
But for Sarah, a Democrat, Joe Biden still has a path to victory.
“He might have lost Ohio but I don’t think he’s lost everything," she told RFI, saying she had voted for "somebody who would beat Trump".
In 2016, Donald Trump pulled off a surprise victory against Hillary Clinton in a stunning rejection of the political establishment and of a system he has long claimed is rigged.
Despite there being no evidence of vote fraud, then as now, Republican supporters like Peggy Rieser continue to give the incumbent the benefit of the doubt.
"Go ahead and recount it, make sure it was accurate, win or lose we want an honest campaign," she told RFI.
The first mention of a problem with ballots came from President Donald Trump himself in a tweet in September. He claimed dozens of military ballots cast for him in Pennsylvania had been dumped.
"They found some in the ditch in Pennsylvania," Rieser told RFI.
In reality, there were only nine ballots and seven were earmarked Republican, which were wrongly discarded. But in a divided nation, even the facts are polarised.
“He’s not trying to divide anybody, he’s trying to keep the country together, it’s media, it’s all lies, it’s propaganda," Republican supporter Tom Hagg told RFI.
"There’s stories of ballots being thrown in dumpsters right and left across this country: the absentee votes and the types that you mail in. They’re being burned, they’re being discarded, they’re being thrown away; it’s totally dishonest.”
Bracing for worst
It is this apparent bid for transparency that led Donald Trump to file lawsuits in Pennsylvania and other battleground states like Michigan and Georgia, setting up a protracted legal battle beyond Election Day.
The uncertainty has sparked fear of potential unrest.
"I am terrified," 17-year-old student Gerardo Martinez-Cortes told RFI.
"The violence is stirring up now, people are locking their windows and doors. That’s why I came down here to Walmart to see if I can get anything to protect myself if anything were to happen because I live in a very conservative neighbourhood," he said.
In several cities, police departments set up riot plans and businesses boarded up.
Meanwhile in Columbus, Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets to urge that their vote for racial equality be counted. Bystander Jameson was in the crowd.
“They’re here protesting for Black Lives Matter and defunding the police. They want some changes with the election, no matter who is the president there has to be some changes regardless,” he told RFI.
Race was just one of the many divides in the 2020 election. Another was the pandemic, where cases have continued to surge and more than 230,000 Americans have died.
Red and blue
The partisan divide was clearest in the wearing of masks, embraced by Democrats yet shunned by Republicans.
For Democrat supporter Bill Pritchard, the Trump administration allowed the coronavirus situation to spiral out of control.
"He could have done more and he didn’t," he commented, criticising the president for his lack of empathy.
So, where does the US go from here?
"Americans are divided, we have never been divided like this," Pritchard said, accusing Trump of stoking divisions.
Will Americans be able to come together and unite after a divisive campaign? Front-runner Joe Biden has promised there will be no blue and red states if he wins, only a United States. It will be up to the American people, or perhaps the federal courts, to decide.