WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Millions of Americans head to the polls Tuesday to choose the nation's 45th president, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. More than 42 million ballots have already been cast.
In a handful of crucial battleground states that will decide who wins the Electoral College, early voting records have been smashed.
In all-important Florida, 6.6 million voters have already cast votes for Clinton or Trump. Early indications point to record turnout among Hispanics, a key voting bloc that favors Clinton by wide margins, according to polls. Early voting data show Clinton has also surpassed the number of black votes amassed prior to Election Day four years ago when Barack Obama narrowly won the state and became the nation's first black president.
In virtually every plausible scenario, if Trump, who trails Clinton nationally, is to pull off the victory, he must carry Florida's 29 electoral votes.
Early votes are not officially counted until after polls close Tuesday. But demographics and voter registration offer some harbingers.
Hispanic voters have increased their share of early votes cast by 5 percentage points, nearly doubling the overall total from this time four years ago. And while black voters decreased as a share of the early vote, the number of voters has increased by about 50,000 versus 2012 -- when Obama was on the ballot.
On the other side are white voters, who Trump will need to win by a large margin if he is to offset his difficulties with blacks and Hispanics. Overall, whites in Florida are by far the largest voting group. Though their percentage of the early vote decreased slightly from four years ago, 4.4 million white voters have already gone to the polls, marking 1.1 million more than this time last year. Trump will need them to break decisively in his favor or face a huge deficit to overcome on Tuesday.
The Florida early voting data were compiled by Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida.
The titanic clash of Clinton and Trump has made for a presidential election unlike any in U.S. history.
Poll: Clinton's Electoral College standing firm
Headed into Tuesday, Clinton held a lead of roughly 3 points in the popular vote, and would have a strong standing in the Electoral College, which requires 270 electoral votes to win. The election has come down to four states -- Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina, in which the UPI/CVoter state-by-state tracking poll shows a 1 percent or less difference between the two candidates.
A Clinton victory in any of the four would likely assure her the presidency. A Trump loss in any of those states would leave him virtually no path to the presidency.
If the election were held as of the last day of polling in the UPI/CVoter 50-plus-one analysis, Clinton would win the electoral college 279-259.
Two worlds and 20 blocks apart
Though they often appeared worlds apart during the campaign, both candidates who call New York home will learn their fate Tuesday night just 20 blocks apart in Midtown Manhattan.
Clinton has scheduled an event at the Javits Center, a convention center on Manhattan's West Side. Trump will hold his election night rally at the Midtown Hilton.
Both events are invitation only, though large, boisterous crowds are expected at each.
How they got here
Clinton and Trump took surprising paths to their party's nomination. Clinton beat back an unexpectedly stout challenge from the liberal wing of the party led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Trump bested a deep field of 18 mostly sitting and former senators and governors.
Though she was still nominally fending off Sanders' primary challenge, Clinton pivoted to the general election by late spring, weeks before either eventual candidate would claim their party's nomination.
Neither candidate shied away from launching attacks in what quickly became an all-out assault from both sides. For all the intense scrutiny the candidates have received, the race has been relatively close. The UPI/CVoter poll has shown both candidates have led the race at different points since before the conventions in July.
Trump briefly took the lead after his Republican convention, but Clinton took it back after her convention a week later.
Then came the much anticipated first debate. Democrats hoped Clinton's advantage in policy nuance would help her stand out. Trump's supporters pointed to his unconventional debate style and penchant for off-the-cuff banter. In the end, experience carried the day and polls showed viewers rated Clinton the "winner" by a wide margin.
Then came the first October surprise -- a video from 2005 in which Trump can be heard speaking into a hot microphone off camera during an interview with Billy Bush for the entertainment show Access Hollywood about grabbing women's genitals without their consent.
Just when all appeared lost for Trump, then came October surprise 2.0 -- and this time it was Clinton on the receiving end of the bad news.
Clinton's email scandal resurfaced when FBI Director Jim Comey notified congressional leaders the FBI had come across a new trove of Clinton emails after their investigation months earlier, concluding she should not face criminal charges. Comey has since said the newly discovered emails did not change that conclusion.