A record number of women, including a record number of women of color, could be elected to Congress on Tuesday, in what would represent a further step towards a US government that represents the makeup of the nation.

An unprecedented 318 women are running as Democrat or Republican candidates for the 535 seats available across the House of Representatives and the Senate, up from a previous record of 257 set in 2018.

Of those candidates 117 are women of color, building on the midterm elections of two years ago which saw high profile women such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in New York, and Ilhan Omar, in Minnesota, elected.

Activist Cori Bush, left, is congratulated by St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, in St. Louis.

Activist Cori Bush, left, is congratulated by St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, in St. Louis. Photograph: Jeff Roberson/AP

In Missouri, Cori Bush, a nurse who cut her teeth politically during anti-police brutality protests in Ferguson in 2014, is likely to be elected to the House of Representatives for the state’s first district. The election of Bush, a progressive, would be a boost for the left of the Democratic party.

Bush would be the first black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. The first district includes St Louis and Ferguson, where she rose to prominence as a fearless activist after the police shooting of Michael Brown.

Teresa Leger Fernandez is expected to clinch a victory in New Mexico. If elected she would join Deb Haaland, a Native American woman who was elected in 2018, in the House.

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At Donald Trump’s final rally of the 2020 campaign, thousands of supporters trudged through muddy fields and waited in endless lines to hear the president speak, on the eve of what could be his defeat – or the start of another four years.

Trump delivered his speech at midnight in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a critical swing state where the president is hoping for a repeat of 2016, when he unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton.

In the darkness, as temperatures dipped to 40F (4C), Trump’s supporters were upbeat and optimistic, but many also said they were expecting unrest in the wake of the election.

At the rally.

At the rally. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

“There’s going to be violence either way,” whether Trump or Biden wins, said Angela Young, 43. As a gun owner from a small town in Michigan, she said, she was not worried about her personal safety. But the prospect of election-related violence in the United States was “straight-up unacceptable”.

It was less than a month after prosecutors foiled a rightwing plot to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan and put her on trial for treason, but rally attendees were more focused on the risk of renewed protests from the left in response to a Trump victory. “Lock her up!” the Grand Rapids crowd chanted early in the night, at a mention of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s name.

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The crowd was small at first. But as the night wore on, the numbers grew and so did belief in miracles. In the early hours of 9 November 2016, Donald Trump and family walked into the ballroom of a midtown Manhattan hotel to celebrate one of the greatest political upsets of all time.

“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division – have to get together,” the new president-elect said. “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

The speech is now all the more striking because, in the view of countless critics, Trump spent the next four years doing precisely the opposite. His norm-busting presidency deepened divisions, poured oil on flames, stress tested institutions to breaking point and rendered truth itself a partisan issue.

And on Tuesday, millions of Americans will deliver their verdict in a referendum on Trump’s first term, after a bitterly fought election campaign that has left the nation with even deeper wounds than those exposed four years ago.

Donald Trump is seen in silhouette against a US flag as he speaks at a rally on September 18, 2020.

Donald Trump is seen in silhouette against a US flag as he speaks at a rally on September 18, 2020. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Trump’s opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden, has left the president trailing in every major national opinion poll since becoming Democrats’ presumptive nominee in April. Biden commands a bigger lead over Trump, nationally and in several crucial battleground states, than the ill-fated Hillary Clinton did at the same stage in 2016.

Yet the stunning repudiation of the political establishment that year has left Democrats haunted. There is little sign of complacency in the Biden camp amid the profound uncertainties of an election campaign waged against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, and fears that the incumbent will seek to declare victory prematurely and prevent every vote being counted.

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Americans are bracing for an election day unlike any in US history, overshadowed by a direct threat from Donald Trump of “violence on the streets” if the vote count is not cut short, stoking fears that democracy itself is at stake when the polls close on Tuesday night.

The president’s incendiary tweet, which was quickly labelled by Twitter as potentially misleading, was fired off amid a febrile atmosphere on the last night of his campaign, with reports of mobs of his supporters driving around the streets in flag-waving motorcades seeking to intimidate opponents, while business districts in major cities boarded up windows.[…]

The dark warnings from the president marked the conclusion of a campaign that was in many ways unprecedented.

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots with social distance on the final day of early voting for the 2020 presidential election on November 2, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots with social distance on the final day of early voting for the 2020 presidential election on November 2, 2020 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

It is the first election in which the incumbent president has said he would try to stop the vote count if early returns on election night show him to be ahead, and has openly encouraged acts of intimidation by his supporters.

It also set a record for early voting. More than 94 million Americans had already cast their ballots by Monday, in the midst of a pandemic. It was equivalent to 70% of the 2016 turnout even before election day dawned.

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