Aaron waited three hours to vote.
"Three hours?!" I said. "That's ridiculous."
Aaron shrugged. Three hours, he noted, is not that bad by American standards. It's not uncommon for people to spend twice as long waiting to cast a ballot. Many voters will consider taking a day off work if they want their voice to be heard.
Not every polling place has those kind of queues, but voters who must wait in line know that doing so is much riskier than in a normal year.
On several days this week, the US posted new daily records for confirmed cases of Covid-19. A new case every second.
There will be people voting today who know that doing so is to risk their own life. It's likely there will be Americans whose trip to the ballot box ends up killing them. Democracy in action.
But can you even call a country a democracy if it ignores the will of the people?
Even though Aaron successfully cast his vote, there's no guarantee it will be worth anything.
Legal challenges will likely mean thousands (if not millions) of votes are ruled invalid. The postal voting system has sustained months of attacks.
For years now, Democrats and Republicans alike have cynically manipulated congressional boundaries to suit their own political interests.
For those who believe every vote should be of equal value, the electoral college system is egregiously unjust.
Millions of people in the state of New York might vote for Donald Trump, but their votes will effectively count for nothing. Millions of people in Louisiana or Missouri might vote for Joe Biden, but unless their candidate wins the state, their votes will be similarly worthless.
Smaller states wield power disproportionate to their populations. California has an elector for every 718,000 residents. Wyoming has an elector for every 193,000 residents.
There is an entirely feasible scenario in which Joe Biden wins the popular vote by more than the entire population of New Zealand, but Donald Trump wins the presidency.
American media is a disaster. Cable news and Facebook have created a handful of completely distinct and polarised thought ghettos, in which Americans are pitted against each other. The depth of the tribalism makes these groups a ripe target for foreign interference.
As the President has undermined science and apolitical expertise, his media supporters have legitimised and amplified his message. Oppositional media frequently condescends to his supporters and cannot resist the pull of the President's daily outrages. Donald Trump rates.
This week, I spent an afternoon in Maryland talking to suburban voters in America's largest African American-majority county. The next day, I drove to West Virginia and a county where 90 per cent of voters backed Donald Trump in 2016.
These voters live just three hours apart - Auckland to Tauranga - but their lives and experiences couldn't be more different. Everyone in Maryland wore a face covering. Almost no one in West Virginia was similarly cautious.
A quarter of a million Americans are dead, but wearing a mask or otherwise is considered a political statement.
Who will win the presidency? America is too vast to trust an anecdote or a vibe. The data that is available suggests Joe Biden is the favourite. He is likely but not certain to win.
I will not be surprised to see Donald Trump prevail. It's very likely we won't know the result tonight.
A contested result is quite possible. A contentious result is certain. Supporters on both sides are capable of violence. Rioters and militia.
The authority that handles background checks for gun buyers records eight of the highest-demand weeks of all time have been recorded in 2020. America's capital city has been boarded up.
These are not merely signs of a divisive campaign or of controversial candidates. This is not just a result of Covid-19. The problems here run deeper. American democracy teeters.
• Jack Tame is the host of TVNZ1's Q+A and Saturday Mornings with Jack Tame on Newstalk ZB. He covered the last two US elections as TVNZ's US correspondent.