These are the voters that could decide the election

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Millions of Americans are heading to polls today to cast their vote at the height of a global pandemic that has surged in recent weeks.

Safety concerns have already led to a record number of people voting early this year, both in person and by mail. All eyes are on those voters in swing states like Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where President Donald Trump won by margins of less than 2 percentage points in 2016. And although Joe Biden is ahead in polls, these last-minute voters could change the course of the race.

POLITICO collected portraits of key groups of voters in these battleground states, such as white suburban women, people of color and young, first-time voters.

College-educated white women in the suburbs have shifted toward Biden, making Trump more vulnerable in districts that he carried in 2016. In response, Trump has rallied his support in rural parts of the state. Neither, however, will be able to win without the support of Black voters, who make up nearly 23 percent of the state’s population.

Why did you vote in person?

“I don’t trust the mail in votes and I’d rather be up front where I can see that my vote is going to count.”

— Michelle Renee Cherry

Trump’s historic victory in Pennsylvania — the first time the state had picked a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 — was fueled by white working-class voters. He will need their full support and an even higher turnout this year to win a state where he won by less than half a million votes in 2016.

Why are you voting in-person?

“There is a lot at stake in this election. There has never been a line here when I have come to vote before. Just one or two people at the door. So I can tell this is an exciting election. I am voting in-person because of the excitement around this election.”

— Beverly Capets

Trump won Michigan by a narrow margin in 2016 thanks to the support of working-class communities. Democrats are hoping to flip the state this time around with the help of people of color who had sat out the last election. Trump’s falling popularity with suburban women, who are turned off by Trump’s lack of decorum, also works in Biden’s favor.

Why did you vote for Trump?

“For me, he did good for me for the last four years.”

— Crystal

Why did you vote in-person?

“It’s the process. It’s the experience. Just like jury duty or anything else — I don’t mail in my jury duty verdict. I show up to be present. Hell, if I don’t vote, they don’t count my voice.”

— Eric Kirkland

The fate of Florida could lie in the hands of two electorate groups: Hispanic voters and retirees. Among the Hispanic electorate, which makes up 17 percent of the state’s registered voters, Biden is popular with Puerto Ricans, while Trump has strong support from Cuban, Venezuelan and Colombian communities. Polls show that Biden has had a narrow lead among Hispanic voters so far.

But Trump has the advantage of appealing to the state’s retirees, a large group that showed up for the president in 2016 — although even some voters from his most trusted group are shifting to Biden.

What was your voting experience like?

“It was very, very easy. Not what I expected. I thought there would be lines and lots of waiting.”

— Yuliya Sidorevskaya <br><br>

What was your voting experience like?

“It was definitely a very powerful feeling for sure. I mean we have two people running who are both very intense. We are just in a position that is very tough for our country.”

— Nicole Marshall

The struggles of holding an election during a pandemic are particularly visible in Wisconsin, where Covid-19 cases are at an all-time high. In April, the state was criticized for holding an ill-prepared in-person primary while still under lockdown. The virus has yet to die down in the state seven months later: As of Sunday morning, four of the 10 cities with the worst ongoing outbreaks are from Wisconsin.

Why did you vote in-person?

“I feel it’s my civic duty to vote on Election Day.”

—Darlene Queen

Hispanic voters, who make up 24 percent of the state’s electorate, will play a decisive role in Arizona, especially if turnout is high. And although Hispanic voters have long been loyal to the Democratic Party, their support is wavering this election. Trump will have to capitalize on this shift while still maintaining his support from older white voters to win Arizona again.

Why did you vote in-person?

“If you would have asked me in the morning if I was going to vote today, I would have said ‘no,’ but then I said I need go make my vote count. So I stopped what I was doing and went to vote. My work can wait.”

—Olga Gambon

What was your voting experience like?

“My experience was great. I think everyone needs to come out and vote. It’s a way to speak your mind without speaking. It’s a way to get across to the government that you want change.”

—Samuel Magallon

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