MIAMI — The United States appeared to be on the verge of record-setting voter turnout Tuesday, as people on all sides of the political spectrum flocked to the polls.
Well before the voting sites even closed Tuesday, election officials reported long lines and shattered voting records — the final exclamation mark on a tumultuous, yet riveting, presidential campaign.
More early voting locations around the country led to a record 46 million votes cast before Election Day, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. That left many wondering whether voters, specifically African-Americans, Hispanics and independents who would help decide the race, would still turn out on Tuesday or whether they simply "cannibalized" Election Day turnout.
"That's the question," said Daniel Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida.
Judging from early results Tuesday, the surge to the polls only seemed to build.
Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in the critical swing state of Florida, beat its previous voting record by midday on Tuesday. The county set its previous record in 2012, when 888,033 people, or 68% of eligible voters, turned out. By 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 971,000 people had voted, already at 71% before the expected after-work rush.
"We've already destroyed the record, and we could go much higher than that," said Michael Hernandez, a county spokesman. "(Voter turnout) could reach into the high 70s or low 80s."
In Michigan, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said the state broke a 44-year record during its March primary when 2.5 million voters turned out. On Tuesday, she told MLive that early reports showed a similar trend. "Turnout is robust," she said.
In Connecticut, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said more than 20,000 people took advantage of a new law that allows people to register to vote on Election Day. She told the Hartford Courant she was worried, in fact, whether some voting locations were fully prepared for the rush of voters.
"We suspected these numbers would be high, but this is a surprise even to us," Merrill said.
Even in New York City, which is accustomed to larger crowds, people reported lines of more than two hours at some polling sites. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife had to wait in line to cast their vote at the Park Slope library, prompting the mayor to renew his call for the state to adopt early voting, according to CBS New York.
PHOTOS: Election Day in America 2016