It's about to go down

Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY

We have mere hours to go until Election Day, and the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden is expected to be a close one.

I told a colleague last week that it feels like we're preparing for a big "sports game." She laughed and rightfully shamed me for my terrible use of sports lingo – but it's true. The fight's not for a trophy, but for the power to steer American history for the next four years. Are you ready? The USA TODAY team sure is.

It's Ashley. Let's do this thing.

But first, an early break from the news: Here are a few things you can do to take your mind off all things presidential for the next 24 to TBD hours if that's what your mind needs:

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (left) and President Donald Trump are pictured during their respective campaigns.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (left) and President Donald Trump are pictured during their respective campaigns.

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First thing's first: Go ahead and bookmark this election results page. This is where USA TODAY will be tallying votes for all races the second they are called. Along with this comprehensive page, I'll be delivering critical election updates in our election text group. You can subscribe to that here.

Speaking of calling races, here's how USA TODAY is covering Election Day

USA TODAY has a crucial role to play in providing accurate information until our next president is elected. To call races, we will use election results from The Associated Press, which calls winners and does not make projections. We'll be balancing these calls with information we are receiving from 260 USA TODAY Network news properties nationwide. If a race is too close to call or too early to call, we'll be specific in our language and let you know. For an inside look at how we will get results, check out this Backstory from our editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll.

Will we have a winner tomorrow? Unlikely

There is a good chance the end of voting won't mean the end of the election battle between Trump and Biden if the result isn't clear as Tuesday's vote count draws to a close. Though ballots are counted after Election Day in every election – particularly mailed-in or absentee ballots – Trump has insisted the final tally must be in on Tuesday. The delay won't mean there's a problem – it will mean every ballot is being counted. Realistically, this presidential election could drag on well beyond Election Day.

The battle of the battlegrounds

All eyes will be on these six states Tuesday night.

The Great Lakes battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and the Sunbelt battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida and North Carolina are more likely than any others to determine whether Trump or Biden captures an Electoral College majority. These six states represent 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

The great Senate showdown

There’s more than just the presidency on the line. Democrats and Republicans will battle across the country over control of the Senate. The Senate is currently split 53-47 between Republicans and Democrats. There are 35 seats up for election in the Senate, and of those, 23 belong to Republicans and 12 to Democrats. Democrats would need to win four seats for a majority, or three seats if Democrats win the White House. South Carolina, Georgia, Iowa and Arizona races will surely be exciting to watch.

Will your ballot be safe?

Millions of voters going to the polls Tuesday will cast their ballots on machines blasted as unreliable and inaccurate for two decades by computer scientists from Princeton University to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. That's comforting, right?

But will your ballot arrive? A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Postal Service to remind managers that they must continue to implement "extraordinary measures" to expedite the delivery of ballots ahead of the election.

The walls are up: Emotionally and physically

Federal agents are expected to build a fence around the White House on Monday, the latest example of security measures authorities are taking ahead of potential Election Day violence, according to reports. The "non-scalable" fence will encompass the White House and Lafayette and Ellipse squares, and 250 National Guardsmen have been put on standby in the nation's capital.

Real quick: Here's what else happened in the news Monday

Why are you voting? Duty. Future. Right.

We asked our election texting group why they are voting this year. Are you subscribed to receive these texts? Because you definitely should be. Their responses were heartfelt, passionate and absolute motivation to get out and vote tomorrow (if you haven't already!). Here's what they had to say:

  • "I'm voting for the millions in our country who can't vote because of their immigration status. I'm voting for my future and for our future daughters so they can grow up in a country where young girls and women can see themselves as future Vice Presidents and Presidents." – Maria C., New Mexico

  • "Voting is our right and responsibility! I vote in every election so my voice is heard. I may not always like the outcome, but at least I know I contributed." – Jessica K., Pennsylvania

  • "I had an amazing teacher in high school who impressed upon me the importance of voting. Especially as a woman. My sisters of the past fought hard for me to have this right and I do not take that for granted. I've been voting since I turned 18. That was 24 years ago!" – Nicole J., Arizona

  • "I have voted in every election since I became a citizen in 1967. It's my duty as a citizen to vote. This year is particularly important as our choice is between authoritarianism or Democracy. This makes my choice very clear." – Diane S., Kentucky

  • “I always vote. As a naturalized American I think of it like a sacred duty. It is the very smallest token of appreciation for living in a democracy. I also volunteer in many ways – being able to do so is a pleasure and a privilege. I am involved with voter registration, voter education, GOTV and (pre-pandemic) as an election judge. I also do nonpartisan social media monitoring.” – Lali W., Illinois

For live updates on all things Election 2020, make sure to head over to our live blog for coverage. See you all again tomorrow for Election Day! – Ashley

This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for The Short List newsletter here.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump, Biden, Election Day, voting, Johnny Depp, Eta: Monday's news