The U.S. Is Voting. The World Is Watching. Here's the Latest 

UPDATE: 11/8/16 2:30 PM EST

What if Americans were forced to vote?

It’s been really hard for some Americans to make up their minds this election. Many undoubtedly will sit this vote out.

But what if we had no choice? What if, like in over a dozen other countries, we had a mandatory voting law?

Brazil’s law says voting is obligatory for every literate citizen between the ages of 18 and 70. It’s voluntary for those 16 to 18 or over 70. But military conscripts cannot vote.

The fine for skipping the vote may not sound so bad: about $1.50. But the knock-on effects can get pretty nasty. It has the potential of costing you a passport, a government loan, even certain jobs.

— Alex Leff

UPDATE: 11/8/16 2:10 PM EST

You know who’s enjoying this election? Cartoonists.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump provide pretty great material for political cartoonists to work with. As the US casts its ballots, cartoonists all over the planet are tuned in. Our cartoon editor Carol Hills is curating their best work all day on Twitter. Follow her Global Cartoons account to see it all.

Meanwhile, here’s a selection of the best so far:

UPDATE: 11/8/16 2:00 PM EST

This Aleppo resident is watching the US election as a major battle looms for his Syrian city

As citizens across the United States cast their ballots, residents of east Aleppo are preparing for the worst. Many are anticipating a final push any day now by Syrian government forces and their Russian backers to retake the rebel-held part of the city.

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher who lives in the east, shared his thoughts on Election Day: “How many times did Obama say ‘Assad should leave’? ... We hope the coming American president will do more than he will say. Otherwise Assad is staying [longer] than all those people who say ‘Assad should leave.’”

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“All the world is watching [the conflict in Syria], shedding tears, speaking, promising and leaving without doing anything as if they lack power to help,” Hamdo said. “We are convinced that our uprising not only was to liberate [us] from the dictatorship of Assad, but also to reveal the inhumanity of the international community who claimed themselves for years as the defenders of humanity.”

Hamdo said of the rumored offensive: “We are sure that the offensive is coming. Today, tomorrow or the day after. They will make these areas hell. During this period, during the election, they will not miss a chance to take revenge. We know that America is the strongest country in the world, so they are the only ones who can stop it. Now they are busy.”

— Richard Hall in Beirut

UPDATE: 11/8/16 1:30 PM EST

Voting while Muslim

A few reports have surfaced on Twitter about the messages people have for Muslim voters (or voters they believe to be Muslim).

Advocates are encouraging people to tweet about negative experiences using the hashtag #IslamophobiaAtPolls.

Law professor Khaled Beydoun in Detroit, Michigan says that he saw a voter at his polling place wearing a T-shirt calling for a Muslim ban.

Jana Al-Akhras in Ohio said a fellow voter asked how long she planned to stay in the US while she waited in line to vote.

Sireen Zayed, who owns a hijab store with her sisters in Indianapolis, reported this variation on "Where are you from?":

In December, a campaign press release said: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." During the Republican National Convention in July, he said the US should “suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”

His comments didn't sit well with many Muslims. Even David Wright, known for staging armed protests in front of Dallas-area mosques, said Trump's plan went too far. “It’s inefficient, ineffective, and it opens the door for him to be labeled a racist and a bigot and it takes the spotlight off the actual concern, which is our safety and security. I don’t want someone like that running my country,” Wright told us in March.

But some good news out of Shoreview, just north of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Trump stumped yesterday and criticized the state's Somali population: Activist Tamara Gray reports no issues while voting.

— Angilee Shah

UPDATE: 11/8/16 1:15 PM EST

This election needs prayers

“Religious Twitter” is joining much of the rest of America getting caught up in Election Day fever.

Jesuit priest James Martin, who’s also the editor-at-large of "America," The National Catholic Review magazine, was one of many clergy members offering an election day prayer on Tuesday.

“God, I know that I don’t have to get angry,” Martin’s prayer begins. “I don't have to get worked up. I don’t have to get depressed. I just have to use my conscience and vote.”

But some Catholic leaders told people of the faith to vote against the Democratic Party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, because she supports abortion rights.

On Sunday, one Catholic priest from a group called Priests for Life even put an aborted fetus on an altar in a dramatic gesture of support for the GOP’s candidate, Donald Trump.

Many Christian leaders, however, took to social media to emphasize the importance of participating in American democracy by getting out to vote. Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, has said that voting is “a Christian obligation.”

Muslim Americans went to the polls with a new sense of urgency, thanks to Trump’s calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States, with some eagerly joining the hashtag campaign #MyMuslimVote.

In Texas, Simran Jeet Singh dedicated his vote for Clinton to some of his detractors.

And in Brooklyn, Yosef Rapaport tweeted about his personal motivation for getting out to vote.

— Matthew Bell

UPDATE: 11/8/16 12:15 PM EST

Track the election results in real time

Graphiq has built this map, which will update as states are called tonight.

UPDATE: 11/8/16 11:45 AM EST

Understanding why many Americans want to close US borders

"Maybe American exceptionalism isn’t dead," writes The World's radio host Marco Werman.

"The world is watching the vote on Tuesday for a reason. The United States sets trends — whether they’re positive or not, whether the rest of the world likes them or not. And now the globe awaits news that either the US will continue to be a strong if flawed exponent of democracy, or whether it’s about to become something no one even here can quite imagine yet, with reverberations far beyond our shores."

But Marco says he's learned more this campaign season within US shores than he expected to. While reporting in Arizona near the Mexican border last month, interviewing a cattle rancher named Ed Ashurst, "I became aware of a blind spot in my vision as a reporter," he writes.

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"Here I was covering the globe for the past two decades, constantly considering outsiders’ perspectives on the United States. But I was kind of forgetting to put myself in the shoes of Americans who are affected by events beyond our borders that are out of their control."

Ed Ashurst faces regular trespassing on his property by thieves and smugglers who cross the border in both directions. He wants to borders sealed up.

And the thing that really got through to Marco: "Ed believes that people like me, from another part of the country, don’t get what he’s going through. And he’s right."

UPDATE: 11/8/16 11:15 AM EST

Some election day traditions from around the world

Here's a tradition that's weird to a lot of the world: In the United States, we always vote on a Tuesday. When we could be doing it on the weekend, or even a special holiday.

But Americans aren't the only ones with odd electoral traditions. We've rounded up some voting-day practices from around the world that might make you go:

Here's one from Spain that actually started out as a Christmas tradition, but finds its way into political cycles, too.

These, friends, are caganers. They're dual-purpose: symbols of "fertile" opportunity, and excuses to depict the world's most powerful people pooping. Thanks, Catalonia.

UPDATE: 11/8/16 11:00 AM EST

Jordanian passengers encouraged to visit the US 'while you're still allowed to'

Royal Jordanian Airlines is an early contender today for Best Election-Related Ad Campaign. Seeing other good snark out there?

UPDATE: 11/8/16 10:15 AM EST

Americans in Lebanon get ready for a long night

It's already after 5 p.m. in Beirut, Lebanon. Americans living there are stocking up on booze and coffee, and taking preparatory naps to make it through the long night ahead.

The first US polls close at around midnight Beirut time, and many Americans here are planning to see it through till the bitter end, which could be as late as 5 a.m. Wednesday, local time.

Alex, a writer from Michigan, is among those hosting a results watching party.

“I’ve watched both elections since I moved abroad in 2007 — 2008 from Cairo, 2012 from Khartoum. ... It's a tradition to get together with some other Americans hardcore enough to stay up 'til the results are called. Which in my experience is most Americans abroad. I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway.”

So what’s it like to watch your country go through such a potentially transformative event from so far away?

“You can see a bit more clearly how the process keeps the rest of the world in suspense. When you're in the US it's easier to lose perspective on how much it impacts billions of people outside the country. Seeing how influential the process is makes the idea of not voting seem especially insane.”

— Richard Hall in Beirut.

UPDATE: 11/8/16 9:30 AM EST

Thanks to legalizations, US weed is better than ever — and Mexico wants it

Let's just come right out and say it: A lot of people in the United States like marijuana, for a bunch of different reasons — to the extent that marijuana legalization is even a ballot measure in nine states.

In Mexico, drug cartels still benefit from smuggling huge quantities of "grass" across the border into the United States. But even if just one of those ballot measures passes on Election Day, it will impact the cartels' business.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Mexicans are now buying US-made marijuana. It’s better, stronger and in demand.

“There’s been anecdotal reports of boutique, very high-THC-concentration, marijuana being brought down from the US for sale in Mexico,” says Deborah Bonello, a senior researcher with InSight Crime, a group that monitors organized crime and security threats in Latin America. “Those products would be more expensive than your standard Acapulco Gold," Bonello says. "But there are people who are prepared to pay for it.”

UPDATE: 11/8/16 8:30 AM EST

In Southeast Asia, Trump’s fans include dictators and radical Buddhists

Cambodia’s leader is a harsh authoritarian who is famously corrupt. Apparently, he’s also a Trump fan. Prime Minister Hun Sen recently announced that he’s cheering for a Trump victory because he admires his business acumen. The Cambodian strongman, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, has also referred to Trump’s opposing candidate as “Clinton’s wife.”

In Myanmar, Trump is admired by another hardliner: Wirathu, perhaps Southeast Asia’s most notorious Buddhist monk. His screeds against Muslims are incendiary and, regrettably, quite popular. The monk is fond of conspiracy theories depicting Muslims as malevolent invaders. “Muslims are like the African carp,” Wirathu said in 2013. “They breed quickly and they are very violent and they eat their own kind.” This week, the monk wrote a Facebook post stating: “We stand with DONALD TRUMP.”

But among Asian hardliner circles, Trump’s biggest endorsement of all comes from North Korea. One of the tyrannical state’s propaganda services, DPRK Today, has called Clinton “thick headed” while praising Trump as "not the rough-talking, screwy, ignorant candidate they say he is … but ... actually a wise politician and a prescient presidential candidate.”

— Patrick Winn in Bangkok

UPDATE: 11/8/16 7:30 AM EST

View from France: Trump and Brexit are definitely connected

French reporter Laure Mandeville has recently been traveling around the United States to speak with American voters, and writing about her observations in Le Figaro. Mandeville is also the author of a book called, "Who Is Donald Trump, Really?"

Mandeville believes there is a clear connection between the rise of Donald Trump, the success of French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen, and the Brexit vote. All three, she says, have been part of a similar movement:

"It's a huge and very serious rebellion of the people against the elites."

Mandeville says some voters in all three countries feel like their needs have been ignored. Immigration, globalization, and the decline of manufacturing jobs have also fueled a common fear — that people are losing their way of life. The issue of immigration in particular has touched a nerve.

"People see open-ended immigration as something that is going to change the heart of their country, and they don't want that," she says.

But Mandeville remains optimistic about the future of the United States, regardless of who wins the presidential election. A strong system of checks and balances, she says, will limit any president's power to dramatically effect change.

"I think your system and your country would survive even Donald Trump," she says.

UPDATE: 11/8/16 7:00 AM ET

It's Election Day. Look out for Russian hackers.

Former CIA chief Leon Panetta is worried that Russian-backed hacking could peak on Election Day.

He told reporter David Rohde that he expects an overall disruption in the internet — the type of online slowdown Americans experienced in mid-October. Panetta told Rohde internet users are likely to see fabricated documents alleging voter fraud posted online.

"One scenario is you could have a higher number of votes cast, let's say in a predominantly African-American or Hispanic district, than the number of registered voters. That could all be based on a fake document showing those results," says Rohde, an investigative reporter for Reuters. "The hope there would be from the Russian side, that it would be picked up by the US media and political parties."

Panetta also warned that a final giant tranche of documents and emails hacked by the Russians could be released on voting day. Some of those documents might be fabricated, but there may be little time to verify them before many Americans cast their ballots.

"If there are strange things on Election Day, the public should sort of view them skeptically,” Rohde says. “Be patient and wait for final results and have faith in our institutions.”

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