Long queues as voters head to the polls in 2012 US presidential election

Voters across the United States are heading to the polls Tuesday, to decide whether to re-elect President Barack Obama or pick a new American leader for the next four years, Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

There were long lines of voters at polling places throughout the country, with some sporadic problems reported. Both candidates have dispatched legions of lawyers to monitor the voting for any irregularities. The government’s Justice Department has nearly 800 observers scattered at polling places in 23 states to respond to any allegations of fraud.

As the national presidential election nears the end, the outcome is uncertain. After a year-and-a-half of campaigning, three debates and thousands of televised campaign ads, nationwide pre-election surveys show the two candidates in a virtual deadlock.

But the surveys also show Mr. Obama with a slight edge in a handful of key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome. U.S. presidential election campaigns are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by a two-century-old electoral college system in which each of the 50 states’ influence on the outcome is roughly equivalent to its population.

Each candidate needs at least 270 of the available 538 electoral votes to win the election.

In addition to the presidential contest, voters are electing all 435 members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, and 33 of the 100 members of the Senate. Analysts generally say Republicans will continue to hold their majority in the House, while the president’s Democratic Party could maintain its slim majority in the Senate.

Millions of Americans have already cast ballots in early voting over the last month. But the vast majority of the electorate is heading to schools, churches, firehouses and other polling places across the country on Election Day.

Mr. Obama voted a few days ago in his home city of Chicago, Illinois, and plans to spend Tuesday there. He is taping interviews for broadcast in key states and playing basketball with friends, one of his Election Day traditions.

Mr. Romney, a one-time venture capitalist, voted Tuesday morning in Massachusetts, the northeastern state he once governed but where Mr. Obama is expected to win easily.

The Republican contender is continuing to campaign. After voting, he headed to the closely contested state of Ohio in the central part of the country to visit a campaign office and then flew to neighboring Pennsylvania, a state long thought to be safely in Mr. Obama’s grasp but one where Mr. Romney hopes to spring an upset.

Mr. Obama’s running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, also headed to Cleveland, Ohio, to counter Mr. Romney’s visit. The Republican challenger was joined by his running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, who then headed to another battleground state, Virginia.

President Obama and Mr. Romney traveled across several key battleground states Monday in a final effort to sway any remaining undecided voters.

Mr. Obama made campaign stops in Wisconsin and Ohio, before holding a final rally in Iowa, the state that gave him his first primary victory in his historic 2008 White House campaign. The Democratic incumbent touted his accomplishments during his presidency, including the bailout of the U.S. auto industry and the killing of Osama bin Laden, but said he needed another term to complete his agenda.

Mr. Romney held a rousing late-night rally in New Hampshire, where he launched his campaign more than a year ago, after events in Florida, Virginia and Ohio. The former Massachusetts governor said his record as both a successful businessman and politician shows he, not Mr. Obama, would bring about real change for the nation.

Voters in the small New Hampshire towns of Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location cast their ballots at midnight Tuesday, keeping with tradition in being the first locations in the nation to vote on Election Day. Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney tied at five votes each in Dixville Notch. In Hart’s Location, the president won 23 votes while Mr. Romney finished with nine.

Source: VOANews.com