As it happened: The US votes

Voters casts their ballots at Marion Strerling Middle School in Cleveland, Ohio (4 November 2008)


By Justin Parkinson

2102 The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Colorado says: Voting advocacy group Common Cause reports voting problems in the town of Greely in the north of the state. They say Spanish-speaking voters cannot understand polling materials which are printed only in English. They say there are not enough interpreters.

2052 The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Phoenix, Arizona, says: I may have discovered the secret of John McCain's famed energy levels: was just chatting to one of his senior advisers who told me the Arizona senator drinks copious amounts of cafe latte with FOUR shots! We're all going to need a few of those if this turns into a long night.

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JV in Minnesota says:I voted this morning. It took 40 minutes, the longest it has ever taken me to vote. I hope to see more election days like this. More of your comments.

justin Webb
BBC North America editor Justin Webb: This from North Carolina: voters at the Barwell Road Community Center in Wake County, North Carolina, will have one extra hour to cast their votes tonight - until 2030 - because of a delay in ballot delivery there this morning. Christina Pippin of the Wake County Board of Elections confirms the board approved the extension to make up for time lost when a chief judge left the precinct's ballots in a car this morning. More to come I suspect… Read Justin Webb's blog

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Frank in Colorado says: Nobody's cynicism is going to dampen this historic election. Tonight Obama will win and I will be proud of my country and hopeful for its future for the first time in almost a decade. More of your comments.

davisbll1453 tweets: I'm a Republican that is a 48 year old white male that has just voted for Obama. He has inspired me to do so! Read davisbll1453's tweets.

2030 The BBC's Alix Kroeger in Clifton, Virginia, says: All morning, tidal waves of voters have been surging out of elementary schools in suburban Virginia. One woman said her husband turned up at 0600 and waited an hour to cast his ballot. Normally, she said, it takes 10 minutes. Turn-out here is high. Democrats and Republican volunteers have been monitoring closely for any violations of the rules. This is white picket fence country, the prosperous suburbs of Washington. Traditionally it's been a Republican stronghold, but this year the polls indicate it could swing to the Democrats.

2025 The BBC's Keith Adams in Atlanta, Georgia says: It is a sunny day and a steady stream of voters have been coming to North Springs High School in Atlanta, past the stalls run by students selling chocolate brownies, to make their choice for who should be president. The pollsters say despite Georgia's traditional Republican leaning, the state could back Barack Obama if enough African American and young voters turn out. That certainly seems to be happening here.

Gavin Hewitt
2017 The BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Chicago says: At Bryant Park tonight, Barack Obama will speak between two large bullet-proof screens. It will either be a concession that would be unbearable to his supporters or it will be an acceptance that his message of change has persuaded the voters. In that event America will be a changed country, offering a very different face to the world. Read Gavin Hewitt 's blog

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On Politics, USA Today: "It's unbelievable," Robert Ware, a monitor with the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, says about turnout in his area. "The past election was a trade wind blowing. This feels like a hurricane."... There were more people lining up to vote Tuesday than in the 2000 and 2004 races combined, Ware said. Read the On Politics blog.

1956 Media mogul Rupert Murdoch says he fears Mr Obama, if elected, will take the US in a "different and dangerous direction", by encouraging more economic protectionism.

1955 Professor Larry Bartels of Princeton University tells the BBC that Mr Obama has "done pretty well at neutralising what is usually a Republican advantage" when it comes to voters' opinions of which party would handle the economy better.

ladyozma tweets: exit polling done by local high schoolers this morning have Obama leading in our county and larger than normal turnout. Read ladyozma's tweets.

1950 Mr McCain is getting very animated as he says the US "never gives up". His speech ends with the classic maverick's anthem, Here I Go Again (On My Own) by Whitesnake.

1945 The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, says: The official line in this state - an absolute must-win for Mr McCain - is that voting is "orderly and brisk". But there are some reports of confusion, stemming from the fact that voters are allowed to choose between the touch-screen electronic option or the old-fashioned paper ballot. The Election Protection coalition, which is non-partisan, says some voters asking for a paper vote are being directed to cast "provisional ballots" instead. These won't necessarily be counted, and can get disqualified in the legal squabbles that follow a close contest. To show you why this could matter - in 2004, there were more provisional ballots cast in Ohio, than the margin of George W Bush's narrow victory.

1938 After a kiss for his wife, Mr McCain gives a few thumbs-ups and tells supporters that "political courage is a scarce commodity". "We're going to win this election," he says.

1936 Mr McCain's wife, Cindy, introduces him. She mentions his "maverick" image and pays tribute to his "true leadership" on Iraq. The crowd enjoys that.

1933 Mr McCain is on stage at Grand Junction, Colorado. The crowd is giving him a rousing reception, chanting: "USA."

1930 A word of caution amid predictions of record turnout. Curtis Gans, of American University, tells the Chicago Tribune that at least 90% of the total votes have to be cast before an accurate "educated stab" can be made at the final figure. Is it much of a "prediction" by that stage, though?

1927 The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Denver, Colorado, says: I am keeping an eye on Nevada. Officials say a record 1.1 million Nevadans are expected to vote and that as many as 600,000 have voted early. All eyes are on Washoe County, which seems to be one of the tightest races in this swing state.

1924 The US ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, has said he would not rule out a meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the US president-elect at the G20 economic summit in Washington on 15 November.

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Keith B. Richburg, The Trail, Washington Post: On the main commercial streets of Harlem, black America's cultural capital, the vendors' tables are stacked Barack Obama T-shirts and buttons. Some with his face. Some with his wife, Michelle. Some with Obama juxtaposed next to the image of Martin Luther King. The vendors don't seem to be doing much business; in Harlem, it seems, almost everyone is already sporting an Obama button or shirt. Read The Trail blog.

sthamikat tweets: Just found out: We have 4 friends who normally vote Rep. This time 2 will not vote and the other 2 voted OBAMA Read sthamikat's tweets.

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ChemGrrl in California says: I was so amazed by the turn out in my area. Usually we vote in a shooting gallery, but for this election our precinct polling place was moved to the local primary school. At 7:45A, only 45 minutes after polling began, there was a half hour wait!! More of your comments.

1905 The BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles says: I became a US citizen earlier this year and have just been to vote in my first American election. It was a breeze - no queue at the polling place (at a trailer park in a rural suburb of Los Angeles) and a paper punch-hole ballot. It took about five minutes to work through all the candidates and propositions. Everyone was cheerful and excited at the polling station. And I've got my "I Voted" sticker, to prove it.

1900 The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, says: In the affluent suburb of Grandview, I spoke to two different grandmothers with two different views. The Democrat said she hadn't voted for years, but that this was different - this was a day to make history. Her friend had phoned her up bright and early and told her: "Get down there now, don't even stop to finish your face!" The Republican lady said to me very emphatically: "I'm here to save this country." She wanted to tell me: "Mr Obama is associated with terrorists. He's not for America." Her husband looked somewhat worried at the turn of phrase and moved towards us - she said: "I don't care. It's the truth!" Would he like to make any comment, I asked. He just smiled and said: "I think she's said it all!"

1853 UK bookmaker Ladbrokes says it has accepted a £60,000 ($96,000) bet - at odds of 1/6 - on Mr Obama winning.

Matthew Price
1737 The BBC's Matthew Price in Phoenix, Arizona, says: The phone-bank at the McCain HQ is filling up, with volunteers sitting at desks, calling potential voters. They're ringing to see if McCain supporters have already voted and if not, to get them to the polling stations. They're also ringing other voters to try and persuade them to switch sides at this last minute. There's a sense in the room that every little vote counts, and that every minute spent trying to shore up those votes could be crucial. Read Matthew Price's blog

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Denise in Maryland in the US says: I didn't have to wait in line because there wasn't one. I was surprised that I wasn't asked for identification - I only had to give my name, date of birth and address. It was quick and easy. More of your comments.

Kevin Connolly
1838 The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Chicago says: The Obama campaign, meticulous, cautious and self-disciplined to the last is refusing to take victory for granted even though the senator has enjoyed a comfortable, sustained lead in the opinion polls for weeks. The souvenir vendors on the South Side of Chicago are less restrained. Ten dollars will buy you a handful of badges celebrating an Obama victory, commemorating his rally in Grant Park (which won't even get under way for another eight hours) and proudly proclaiming: "I Was There". No-one in Mr Obama's adopted home city is even contemplating the possibility of a Republican victory - McCain merchandise is nowhere to be found.

1835 Mr Obama has experienced what might be called a "trip down memory lane", recalling the early days of his campaign, when small audiences were the norm. In Indianapolis, he stopped at a hall containing about 550 supporters. Well, in a marginal state, every vote could count.

1833 It might not be a compliment that Mr Obama treasures, but Cuba's former leader, Fidel Castro, has praised him as "more intelligent" than "old, bellicose" Mr McCain. But Mr Castro has refused to endorse either man, maintaining he is officially "neutral".

1825 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to express a preference for either candidate, but Wales's First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, is more forthcoming. He says Mr Obama is "undoubtedly a symbol of hope to many people", adding that it would be a "triumph of hope over fear if he is elected".

1822 The Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has cast his vote.

Arnold Schwarzenegger says Mr McCain has won the 'Austrian body-builder vote'

Matthew Price
1820 The BBC's Matthew Price in Phoenix, Arizona, says: I've just spoken to Wes Gullett, the co-chairman of the republican party in John McCain's home state of Arizona. He told me that the Republican Party was in a dreadful mess. He said the party of Abraham Lincoln had a soul but that today it had lost that, and that they needed to find it again. He did insist, as most republicans in his position will on a day like this, that he genuinely believes John McCain can still win this election. Read Matthew Price's blog

1812 It's official: the weather is having an impact on the election. Some voting machines in Chesapeake, Virginia, have not been working properly after rain-soaked ballot papers played havoc with electronic scanners.

martin_kelley tweets: Wonder if lack of lines here in McCain country is sign of luckwarmness. Even my GOP friends are voting more for party than for MCain. Read martin_kelley's tweets.

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Joey in Wisconsin says: As a single mother I can only hope for great change for the sake of the world my young children will inherit. I watched my beloved America turn from the gentle giant to the evil empire. More of your comments.

1808 Police in Toledo, Ohio, are gearing up for possible civil unrest during and after the election by carrying gas masks and helmets, NBC News reports.

1807 The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Denver, Colorado, says: Coloradoans have been voting for four hours now. Lines were moderate before polls opened, but queues have died down. Polling officials say it is brisk and efficient. Remember, half the people registered to vote in this state did so early. But both sides are energised in a tight race. George Bush won here by 5% in 2004, but now polls put Barack Obama 6-8% ahead. I've seen Obama supporters with placards on several busy street corners. Sarah Palin rallied in Colorado Springs yesterday, John McCain will do so today. It's a sign both sides are fighting for this key swing state.

1803 Fox News reports that Republicans in Philadelphia are saying two members of the Black Panthers have been intimidating voters at a polling station in the city.

1800 The eastern states have been voting for seven hours now, with most having six or seven hours left. In some places, though, the process could go on for slightly longer than officially stated, as voters will be counted as having "arrived" as soon as they start queuing. Stewards with markers will then stand in line to show the cut-off point. Anyone who arrives after the official close will be turned away.

1758 The BBC's Adam Brookes in Chicago says: Grant Park, the scene of tonight's Obama rally is getting noisy. Helicopters - police and news - are hovering overhead. The emergency system - we assume that's what it is - has just been tested, with a deafening and very spooky siren echoing along the shore of Lake Michigan.

1754 The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, says: I've been to four polling stations so far, two in the city and two in the suburbs. They all told me up to a third of voters had cast their ballot before election day this time, and that has made life on the day much easier for poll workers. They all said there were lines at the door at opening time, but now it's going smoothly. However, there is a big rush expected when voters leave work tonight.

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Dan McGee in Reno, Nevada says: I see many parallels between this election and when President Kennedy was elected. My country was ready for change and we thought it was coming. Unfortunately I feel there won't be as much as I would like but it might be a start. More of your comments.

1747 BBC News website readers have been sending their videos of voting in various places in the US. They sent their footage using the video upload site Qik and to our own website.

BBC viewers' footage of voting in the US election

1746 Republican vice-presidential contender Sarah Palin is on her way to the McCain party in Arizona. I hope these candidates are collecting airmiles.

Matthew Price
1737 The BBC's Matthew Price in Phoenix, Arizona, says: McCain HQ is a hive of activity. Volunteers are manning the phones trying to get the vote out. They still think they can do it if they can get everyone to the polls. Read Matthew Price's blog

1735 Wall Street, for once upstaged by other events in the US, seems to be having a good day. The Dow Jones shares index has surged by almost 3%.

1733 A bit of a look-ahead for those of you following our live text coverage late into the US night. The earliest either candidate can realistically reach the magic 270 electoral college votes is about 0200 GMT (2100 EST), according to the boffins in the BBC's political research department.

1730 Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says he hopes the US election will "lead to a great renewal in confidence in the global economy".

1728 More problems for voters. In Ohio a car hit a pole supporting a power line, cutting supplies to two polling stations for more than an hour. Unusually large queues are also reported in New York.

1714 Mr Obama is in Indiana, working the phones at his campaign headquarters there in an effort to gather more votes.

1706 The BBC's Rachel Harvey, in Phoenix, Arizona, says: Tables are being laid in the ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel, where Mr McCain is holding his party later. There's a drum kit and some amps on stage - John Rich with "raising McCain" perchance? Just spoken to someone from McCain campaign who said we could be in for a very long night. I wonder if that is a bit of wishful thinking. If it is a very long night before the result becomes clear, their candidate is still in with a chance.

1700 Mr Obama is en route to Indianapolis - less than 200 miles from Chicago - for his very last bit of campaigning. Just six hours to go until the polls start to close.

1653 The Republican candidate's trip to the polling station is far less high-profile than Mr Obama's earlier. A small crowd outside chants: "Go, John, go."

1650 Mr McCain has voted at a church near his home in Phoenix, Arizona.

John McCain cast his vote

1644 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin casts her vote in Wasilla, Alaska. She says she has a "very optimistic, very confident view" of the election outcome.

By David Gritten

1640 Time for me to hand back the baton to Justin and take a break myself.

1635 Businesses in central Chicago are reportedly closing early in anticipation of the crowds descending on the Obama rally. All police leave has also been cancelled. Chicago's police chief Jody Weis said he was "extraordinarily confident" that everyone would behave themselves."We can't have foolishness. We can't have mischief," he said.

1634 The BBC's Adam Brookes in Chicago says: Tickets for the Barack Obama rally in Grant Park tonight are already selling for hundreds of dollars on the internet. Craigslist Chicago is festooned with offers - and with pleas from desperate would-be buyers. It's prompting online expressions of anger from loyal Obama volunteers who stand no chance of getting in to the ticketed event. But the city authorities estimate that hundreds of thousands more people will gravitate to neighbouring Butler Field.

1625 Mr McCain is scheduled to hold one final rally today, in Colorado, before visiting staffers in New Mexico. Then, he will return to Phoenix and await the results.

Matthew Price
1616 The BBC's Matthew Price in Phoenix says: Voting has started in John McCain's home state of Arizona, which has not been kind to previous candidates, who have local links. "Tomorrow, we're going to reverse that unhappy tradition and I'm going to be the president of the United States," he said at his final rally held just after midnight in Prescott, Arizona. Read Matthew Price's blog

justin Webb
1605 BBC North America editor Justin Webb says: Out and about this morning in Northern Virginia and DC I met all the expected enthusiasm, though no long lines - no signs of people turning up and going away again. But this fact in itself is causing concern among Democrats: where is the turnout, they murmur? Where is the record-breaking surge (I am talking now about Virginia in particular) which could propel Obama to the White House? The answer may well be that the surge came early. Or will come later. Or… Read Justin Webb's blog

1600 In an interview with CBS television earlier today, Mr McCain insisted that although he understood he was "still the underdog", he was still confident of victory because "these battleground states have now closed up". Of today's events, he said: "You can't imagine the excitement of an individual to be this close to the most important position in the world, and I'll enjoy it, enjoy it."

1559 The BBC's Richard Lister in Sarasota Florida says: I was surprised to find no line outside the polling station nearest me. An official inside said 40 people had been waiting at 6am but it had been quiet since.

1546 Now that the polls in California have opened, voters in 36 states are having their say on some of the most divisive social issues in the US. Of the 153 measures up for debate, one of most important is Proposition Eight in California, which would amend the state's constitution to say, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised." The proposition has been put forward by opponents of gay marriage in the state.

1523 The BBC's Keith Adams in Georgia says: There are hundreds of voters in the hall of this recreation centre in south west Atlanta, waiting to cast their ballot. Many turned out hours before the polls opened to be among the first to vote. Now voting has begun and there is a real sense of excitement and pride here. This is a largely African America area of the city, which is the birthplace of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

By Justin Parkinson

1535 OK. It's time for a break from me. I leave you in the capable and informative hands of my colleague, David Gritten. See you in a little while.
1527 Who says politics doesn't have much to do with everyday reality? A group of "avatars" in the virtual online world called Second Life has erected a "gazebo" in an "outdoor park" to discuss the election. And they are not trendy Obama-backers, it seems. Their "enclave" has been named the Straight Talk Cafe - after Mr McCain's campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express. If that entire live text entry makes no sense to you, you are not alone.

1523 The BBC's Sarah Morris in Washington says: It is quite possible that one of the candidates may win the required 270 electoral college votes from the results in the East, the Midwest and South before polling booths close in the western states. All eyes will be on the swing states, and the first of these to watch as counting starts will be Indiana and Virginia.

1518 Another gobbet of fun for statistics fans. The two presidential candidates spoke 45,000 words between them during their televised debates. How many were said during the entire campaign?

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Peter Baker, The Caucus, New York Times: In 16 of the 17 presidential elections since the Redskins moved to Washington in 1937, the incumbent party has kept the White House if the team won its last home game before the election while the out-of-power party has taken over if the Redskins lost. (The only exception came four years ago, when the Redskins lost to the Green Bay Packers but President Bush won re-election). Read The Caucus blog.

1513 Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus tells the BBC that Mr McCain is not a "man to underestimate", and that there is a "large number of undecided voters".

1506 The BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles says: The polls have just opened in California. Here in Los Angeles it is a wet, foggy morning, but the weather does not appear to have dampened the enthusiasm of local people for this historic election. Long queues developed well before dawn. Turnout is predicted to top 80%.

1503 The polls in some states have been open for four hours now. Only another eight till the first stations close.

1452 Senator Clinton predicts a "big win" for Mr Obama and says it will be "all hands on deck" to deal with the current economic crisis if he is installed in the White House.

1451 Bill and Hillary Clinton have voted in New York. Mrs Clinton says she expects Mr Obama - her former bitter rival for the Democratic nomination - to announce some of his key appointments within the next two weeks. She adds that she is "gratified" that he has sometimes "referenced ideas that I brought into the campaign".

1445 Second only to Kenya in its admiration for the Democratic contender - sorry, that's definitely the last mention for a while - Mr Obama's hometown of Chicago is set to go berserk later. Up to 70,000 people are expected to attend his rally later at Grant Park, with an estimated one million others lining the shore of Lake Michigan.

jpgardner tweets: It's not looking good for McCain. Especially with these long lines I'm seeing in my hood. Obama voters are coming out in droves. Read jpgardner's tweets.

1440 Sarah Palin is back in her home state of Alaska, where it is now coming up to 6am. It is her first trip there since early September, when she saw her soldier son, Track, off to Iraq.

1437 As the eastern US states head towards mid-morning and thoughts of snacking, another bit of food-related trivia. The Obama campaign had spent $900 at Domino's Pizza by 15 October, compared with the McCain camp's $550. Why have no figures been given for muesli and sushi?

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Sherine Shallah in Beirut says: As a Lebanese living in the centre of the Middle East conflict, I am following the US election very closely. I am also following it because I enjoy watching democracy at full play. As an Arab and a Muslim, I am appalled by the turn that the Republican campaign has taken. More of your comments.

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Adam Nagourney, New York Times: [This election] has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage - and withstand - political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago. It has challenged the consensus view of the American electoral battleground, suggesting that Democrats can at a minimum be competitive in states and regions that had long been Republican strongholds. Read Adam Nagourney's New York Times article

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Elaine Cahill in Raleigh, North Carolina says: I just voted for the Republican ticket. Politicians like Obama are why I left England and immigrated to the USA where I was tired of paying for other people to stay on the dole. More of your comments.

1420 Germany's Bild newspaper has bucked the apparently rather pro-Obama trend among European media, describing Mr McCain, a famous Vietnam veteran, as "the War Hero". Republican vice-presidential contender Sarah Palin is dubbed, rather romantically, "the Beautiful Unknown".

1417 The Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, is voting in Delaware. Unlike Mr Obama, he has to do so behind a photo opportunity-denying blue curtain.

1415 Eamon Javers of tells the BBC there are two big unknowns today. The first is the number of new voters who are coming into the process, who pollsters find very difficult to gauge. The other is the number who refuse to vote for a black candidate, but tell pollsters the opposite - the so-called "Bradley effect".

1408 More news from Kenya - the last for a while, I promise. A group of youths in the western city of Kisumu has held a mock parallel election, with six ballot boxes placed in different locations. How will that result go, one wonders?

1353 Mr Obama finally places his ballot paper in the box, to loud applause. I make that 16 minutes in all.

'Barack Obama casts his vote, saying: 'I hope this works'

1351 The Democratic senator for Illinois has left the polling booth.

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Cowboy Frankie in Jacksonville says: I'm amazed and humbled at the level of interest in this election outside the US. The American "brand" has suffered greatly in the last 8 years around the world, and I want that to change. I just hope Florida doesn't go through a replay of 2000. More of your comments.

1349 Mr Obama has been in the polling booth for more than 10 minutes now. If that is typical, no wonder the queues are so long.

1347 Enough of all this momentous, historical stuff for a minute. The UK's Whipsnade Zoo solemnly informs the BBC that two American bison - named Barack and John - are involved in a tightly fought popularity contest, to be judged by staff. The winner receives a carrot. Surely it beats the sort of crunch their human counterparts are going to have to deal with.

1342 In a while, Mr Obama is expected to "shoot some hoops" - or practise basketball, to the uninitiated. He will then jet off to Indiana, a state he hopes to take from the Republicans.

1339 It looks like Mr Obama is using a paper ballot.

1337 After what must have been the briefest of sleeps, Mr Obama is casting his vote Beluah Shoesmith Elementary School in Hyde Park, Chicago, with his daughter, Malia, by his side.

1331 There are reports of problems with electronic voting machines in New Jersey, with paper ballots having to be used instead (see below). In Virginia, a line of electors had to wait longer than usual because the head of a branch library - doubling up as a polling station - had overslept.

1346 The BBC's Phillippa Thomas in Columbus, Ohio says: Not since 1860 - since Abraham Lincoln - has a Republican got into the White House without winning Ohio. That is why Mr McCain has campaigned in Ohio on 22 separate days since wrapping up the Republican nomination in June.

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Stephen in Jersey City says: The polls have just opened, the long lines are forming, and already the problems are appearing. I was at my polling station at 6:10am in Jersey City to find a long line out the door and both of the two voting machines non-functional. One machine was completely out of commission. The other machine would accept votes for the various offices but not for two of the three ballot referendums. More of your comments.

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Jill Zuckman, The Swamp, Chicago Tribune: Look for McCain to wear his lucky blue sweater - which used to be green before he lost the Michigan primary - today. Read The Swamp blog.

1317 The vote cast already by Mr Obama's grandmother Madelyn Dunham will count, despite her dying just hours before election day, a campaign spokeswoman says.

RIJulianne tweets: Laughing at my 85-year-old grandma who called to tell me McCain is too old and that she's heading out to vote wearing her Obama pin. Read RIJulianne's tweets.

1309 The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says: Mr Obama is planning to play some basketball while waiting for the results to come in...

1307 Voting is now under way in 26 states. Mr McCain is expected to cast his ballot in his home state of Arizona in a few hours' time. Like millions of other voters, Mr Obama is set to vote as he takes his daughters to school in Chicago.

1259 Almost two hours into voting now and turnout, as Robert (below) suggests, is looking high. The weather is holding too.

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Robert Emory in Barnstead says: I live in a rural New Hampshire town. Polls opened at 7am. Went to Town Hall to vote and parking lot at Town Hall, local Library, behind Police Station and all along the main road through town were blocked with cars. Line coming out of Town Hall was at least 150 folks waiting to vote. A wonderful sight but I will have to wait until later today to vote. More of your comments.

1251 Some headlines from the French press. Le Figaro says: "The world is watching America." Le Parisien goes with: "America is going to choose." Is the latter a bit of a statement of the obvious?

1247 Huge queues are reportedly forming outside polling stations in Virginia, which was won by Republican George W Bush in 2004, but is seen as far more marginal this time.

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Mark Memmott, On Politics, USA Today: Some pollsters are releasing their final, final, final estimates on where the presidential race stands this morning, even as "real" voters go to the polls. The Marist Poll, done yesterday, gives Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama a 52%-43% lead. The final Zogby/C-SPAN/Reuters tracking poll has Obama ahead 54%-43%... And as always, remember that polls are just educated estimates. Read the On Politics blog.

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Susan Croft in the UK says: It will be the biggest mistake America will ever make to vote in Obama, they will be voting in the same policies that have brought the UK to its knees under Brown. The mistakes in the American economy started under Clinton, this began the decline. More of your comments.

mizbabygirl4 tweets: Lines at my polling place at opening time: 6 AM. One out of four machines was broken from the get-go. Didn't seem to deter anyone. Go Obama! Read mizbabygirl4's tweets.

1234 More reports of Obamania sweeping Kenya. The village of Kogelo has named a school and - the ultimate accolade for some - a beer after him.

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Dave in Utah says: I don't really like either McCain or Obama, I feel like McCain is just Bush 2.0, and I just don't trust Obama. A one-term Senator being our next president seems kinda scary. I feel like I have no good option this time. More of your comments.

1224 Jonathan Powell, who was chief-of-staff to the former UK prime minister, Tony Blair, says Mr McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running-mate was a "mistake" as it showed him "rushing to judgement". But she has a big future on the US and international stage, he adds.

JR_son tweets: I am voting for all the young people -- they deserve to feel hopeful and Obama will give them a new future and make it a great country. Read JR_son's tweets.

1220 Did you know that voters in the western state of Oregon are required to cast their ballots by mail? They can either post their papers in advance or drop them off at the county election office on the day. Washington state's voting is almost all-mail too. No queues, but a little lacking in atmosphere?

1215 The BBC's Andy Gallacher Miami says: Passions are running high among Floridians - people here know their votes could well decide who becomes the next president.

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Jim Archer in Funchal, Madeira says: I am an Anglo/Canadian so cannot vote, but if I qualified, I would vote for McCain... When choosing leadership my first requirement is experience or time served... Obama has neither, he is a chancer, a manufactured man. More of your comments.

1210 UK-based pollster Bob Worcester, founder of the Mori research firm, tells the BBC he thinks Mr Obama will win.

1207 Relatives and friends of Mr Obama have reportedly massed around the former home of his late father in western Kenya. They are apparently planning to slaughter a bull if the Democratic candidate is victorious. The East African country has temporarily changed its clocks to US time. That's what you call keen.

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Trisha Jacobs in the US says: I already voted for Obama and I hope he wins. While I do not believe that McCain is a second Bush, his VP pick convinced me that his judgement is shaky. More of your comments.

Ballot box
1202 Polling stations in Florida - which became, in 2000, the infamous home of the "hanging chad" - have opened. This is again one of the key contests, carrying 27 electoral college votes.

1156 Both candidates will want one, but what constitutes a landslide? Some define it as taking at least 350 of the 538 electoral college votes available. The last person to do this was Bill Clinton in 1996. Another analysis says taking 55% of the popular vote constitutes a landslide, as Ronald Reagan did in 1984.

gbyehuda tweets: in line for about an hour. FIRST. line now out the door. people really excited. mood: nervous, ebullient. Read gbyehuda's tweets.

1146 While the voters are busy deciding the future of the US, a bit of background. The winning candidate needs to win 270 electoral college votes, decided by who does best in each state. Most state contests are "winner-takes-all", meaning whoever does best there takes all the votes in that state. For instance, whoever wins California, by whatever margin, takes the 55 electoral college votes on offer there.

1134 Told you so. Large queues are forming outside polling stations in New York. I wonder how patient people will be?

1126 Spare some pity for those poor souls working at polling booths and the campaign giving voters a final push towards the ballot box - and, perhaps, live text writers. The first states where polls will close are Indiana, Kentucky and New Hampshire, at 2300 GMT. Some of Alaska's polling stations will stay open until 0600 GMT on Wednesday.

1118 Another statistic which astounds those of us living outside the US: the estimated total cost of the 2008 election is $5.3bn - up from $4.2bn in 2004.

1115 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has described the US election as a "landmark", which has "shown a renewed interest" in politics. It has certainly attracted more media coverage than any other.

1110 The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says: US electoral officials are bracing for a record turnout - at least 135 million people are expected to vote on Tuesday.

1108 A reminder. The presidential election is not the only contest going on. The entire House of Representatives is up for grabs, as are 35 Senate seats, 11 state governorships and numerous official posts.

1106 Voting booths in New York look pretty busy. Record turnout is expected across the country.

1103 Expect to see pictures of snaking queues and hopeful faces outside polling stations, with cutaways to parties and other events all over the world. Although only a couple of hundred million people get a say, the presidential election is a uniquely global democratic event.

1100 The polls have opened.

1058 Almost there. After all those months, it comes down to a few hours and a lot of bitten nails - and, for the flagging teams, a few more doughnuts.

1055 All those late nights planning and plotting must have played havoc with the campaign teams' waistlines. According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Obama camp spent $2,500 on Dunkin' Donuts by 15 October. The McCain team spent a comparatively svelte $1,010. Still, that's a lot of calories.

1051 To give some idea of the scale and length of this contest, it is 633 days since Mr Obama announced his candidacy and 559 since Mr McCain did so.

1048 The weather forecast is generally quite good across the mainland United States. That should boost voter turnout.

1045 As usual the BBC is asking you to have your say on the day's events. Send your thoughts and observations to the BBC here. We'll publish a selection on this live blog.

1042 Before the main event starts, it is worth noting that more than 29 million Americans in 30 states have voted early. Opinion polls seem to be suggesting Mr Obama is favourite, but many experts were left red-faced last time round when they predicted a John Kerry win, only to see George W Bush reinstalled in the White House.

1038 After all the months of waiting, the millions of dollars spent and the thousands of miles travelled by candidates, the biggest political event of at least the last four years is about to happen. Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama face the US electorate, with polls in some states opening at 1100 GMT. Voter turnout is expected easily to exceed 2004's 126 million. The eyes of the world are watching.

1030 Welcome to our live coverage of the US presidential election. As per usual, we will have insights from BBC North America editor Justin Webb and other BBC correspondents, some of your e-mails, and the best of the blogs. From 2315, we'll be streaming the BBC election night programme from our studio in Washington.

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Electoral College votes

Winning post 270
Obama - Democrat
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