9 Nov 2016

120 million Americans head to polls to elect next president

From Morning Report, 7:10 am on 9 November 2016
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Photo: AFP

Seven voters choose their candidate at midnight on on November 8, 2016 in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, the first voting to take place in the 2016 US presidential election.

Seven voters choose their candidate at midnight on 8 November in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, the first voting to take place in the 2016 US presidential election. Photo: AFP

Polls are now open across the United States after what's been a long and divisive presidential campaign.

120 million are expected to cast their votes today, and 40 million people have already voted in early ballots.

In a hectic final dash of campaigning yesterday, candidates chose to end on a positive note.

Speaking at a midnight rally in Michigan, Republican nominee Donald Trump made a promise to the American people.

"I'm asking you to dream big because with your vote we are just hours away from the change you've been waiting for your entire life.

"So to every parent who dreams for their child, and to every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I am with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you, I promise."

And at her final rally of the campaign in North Carolina, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton promised a legacy for all those who voted for her.

"It is a choice between division or unity, between strong steady leadership or a loose cannon who could risk everything.

"It's a choice between an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. And it is a choice that really goes to the heart of who we are as Americans.

"What I saw before I came in and what I see now is a sense of potential, of joy. There is no reason, my friends, why America's best days are not ahead of us."  

Speaking on behalf of Mrs Clinton in Philadelphia yesterday, Barack Obama made a prediction for election day.

"I'm betting that America will reject the politics of resentment and the politics of blame and choose the politics that says we are stronger together.

"I am betting that tomorrow you will reject fear and you'll choose hope."

It's the first time in 70 years that two US presidential candidates will be in New York on election night.

Donald Trump preparing to vote in New York.

Donald Trump preparing to vote in New York. Photo: AFP

But all eyes will be on the battleground states, including Virginia which has 13 electoral votes.

The state went for Obama in the past two elections but before that it was staunchly Republican.

Our correspondent Kate Fisher was at a polling station at St Agnes Church Hall in Arlington, Virginia.

Florida is also seen as key to the election – our correspondent Steve Mort is there.

Back home, MPs are either being optimistic, diplomatic or recommending New Zealanders build bomb shelters ahead of today's US Presidential election.

RNZ Deputy Political Editor Chris Bramwell asked the major party leaders what they thought.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Photo: AFP

From Syria and Russia to North Korea and China, the next American president will face a range of global policy challenges.

So what impact will today's election winner have on the United States' relationship with the rest of the world?

Professor Rouben Azizian is a former deputy Soviet Union ambassador to New Zealand and also lectured for 13 years at the US Defense Department's Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies – he is now the director of Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security Studies, and says instability is to be expected.