WASHINGTON, D.C. – Donald Trump is reportedly preparing to claim victory prematurely on election night before tens of millions of ballots are counted, which would plunge the country into an unprecedented political crisis.
Axios reports that Trump has told confidants he will claim victory if he leads enough battleground states by the end of the night, before many mail-in and early votes are counted.
The plan is reportedly to then challenge ballot counts in swing states that will still be counting early votes over the course of next week.
More than 90m votes have already been cast nationally, including more than 65m mail-in ballots.
Biden leads in the latest Ipsos/Reuters national poll by 51 to 43 per cent, however the picture is closer in many swing states.
The President on Sunday night denied he was preparing to claim victory prematurely, before then questioning the legitimacy of mail-in voting – a now common trope in Trump’s campaign.
“I think it’s a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it’s a terrible thing when states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over,” he said.
“We don’t want to have Pennsylvania, where you have a political governor, a very partisan guy…we don’t want to be in a position where he’s allowed, every day, to watch ballots come in.
“‘See if we can only find 10,000 more ballots’.”
Trump’s rhetoric about the legitimacy of early voting has stoked fears that there will be widespread violence and civil unrest on election night.
The majority of buildings in Downtown Washington, D.C. have now been boarded up, with business owners worried about the prospect of riots and looting.
One Washington local told City A.M. at the National Mall that he had been walking around the area, which is home to the Lincoln and Washington monuments, every day because he was “paranoid that on 4 November civil unrest will break loose right here”.
The feeling is widespread across major cities in the US, with a Fox News poll on Friday showing that 75 per cent of Americans were concerned about the prospect of post-election violence and civil unrest.
A YouGov poll said 56 percent of people anticipated “an increase in violence as a result of the election.”
Far-right groups have upped their rhetoric about the potential of taking to the streets on election night, with radical far-left groups also indicating they were ready to continue the rioting seen earlier this year across US cities.
Gun sales have skyrocketed nationally in response to the feelings of anxiety around the country.