NEW HAMPSHIRE - Millions of Americans went to polling stations on Tuesday, November 6, to elect a new president for the next four years, in a neck-to-neck race between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
"I hope it will inspire people to get out and make their voice heard," Tanner Tillotson, 24, who cast the first ballot at 12.00 a.m. in the tiny New Hampshire town, about 30km from the Canadian border, told the Australian Associated Press.Polls opened first in the eastern states, including battlegrounds New Hampshire and Virginia, from 6:00 am (1100 GMT).
Nearly 120 million Americans were expected to cast ballot on whether re-electing Obama for another four years or replacing him with Romney.
Polls will begin to close in Indiana and Kentucky at 6 p.m., Tuesday EST (12pm, Wednesday NZT), with voting ending across the country over the next six hours.
The first results, by tradition, were tallied in Dixville Notch and Hart's Location, New Hampshire, shortly after midnight local time.
The vote results will set the country's course for four years on spending, taxes, healthcare and foreign policy challenges like the rise of China and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
If elected, Romney, the multimillionaire former head of a private equity fund, would be the first Mormon president and one of the wealthiest Americans to occupy the White House.
Obama, the first black president, is vying to be the first Democrat to win a second term since Bill Clinton in 1996.
This year's election is expected to be the tightest presidential election in US history.
I think (the result) is very indicative, that this is the first time in Dixville Notch's history that there is a tie, said Tillotson, who cast the first vote.
We're still a very divided nation and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the country is."
National opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a close race, although the Democratic incumbent has a slight advantage in several vital swing states - most notably Ohio - that could give him the 270 electoral votes he needs to win.
On election day eve, Obama focused on Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, the three Midwestern swing states that, barring surprises elsewhere, would give him 270 electoral votes.
"It's not just a choice between two candidates and two parties, it's a choice between two different visions for America," Obama told 20,000 supporters in Ohio.
Obama's voice broke and he wiped away tears from his eyes as he reflected on those who had helped his campaign.
"I've come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote. I came back to ask you to help us finish what we've started, because this is where our movement for change began.
Romney, on the other hand, visited the must-win states of Florida, Virginia and Ohio before finishing in New Hampshire, where he launched his presidential run in June 2011.
"We're one day away from a fresh start. We're one day away from a new beginning," the candidate, sounding hoarse at his fifth rally of the day, told a crowd of 12,000 at a sports arena in the centre of the city.
The close presidential race raises fears of a disputed outcome similar to the 2000 election, which was decided by the US Supreme Court.Both campaigns have assembled legal teams to deal with possible voting problems, challenges or recounts.