Voting precincts in the eastern United States have begun to open their doors to citizens who will cast votes for President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the hotly contested 2012 presidential election.
Millions of voters across the country have already cast ballots under early-voting rules. But the vast majority of the electorate will head to polling places Tuesday in schools, firehouses, churches and elsewhere.
Last minute stops
President Obama and Romney dashed across several key battleground states Monday in a final effort to sway any remaining undecided voters.
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 boasted of 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.
"Our fight for change goes on. Because we know this nation cannot succeed without a growing, thriving middle class and sturdy ladders for everybody who's willing to work to get into that middle class," the president told supporters."Our fight goes on because America's always done best when everybody's got a fair shot and everybody's doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same rules. The people of Iowa understand that. That's what we believe, that's why you elected me in 2008, and Iowa, that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States."
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 his record as both a successful businessman and politician shows he, not Obama, would bring about real change for the nation.
"I built a business, I turned around another one, I helped put an Olympics back on track, and with a Democrat legislature, I helped turned my state from deficit to surplus, and from job losses to job growth, and we went from higher taxes to higher take-home pay," the presidential hopeful said. "And that's why I'm running for president, because I know how to change the course the nation is on, and I'll do it."
Romney votes in his hometown of Boston Tuesday, and has scheduled two last-minute Election Day events in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The president and his wife, Michelle, will spend Tuesday in their home in Chicago.
Voters in the small New Hampshire towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location cast their ballots at midnight (0500 UTC) Tuesday, keeping with tradition in being the first locations in the nation to vote on Election Day. Obama and Romney tied at five votes each in Dixville Notch. In Hart's Location, the president won 23 votes while Romney finished with nine.
A wide collection of polls shows the two candidates in a very close race nationally. But state-by-state polls show Obama with steady, but narrow leads in most of the closely contested states likely to determine the outcome.
U.S. political analysts say a handful of the country's 50 states will decide Tuesday's election, with the remainder leaning toward or firmly in the grasp of either the president or Romney. U.S. presidential elections are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by an electoral college system in which the importance of each state on the outcome is roughly equivalent to its population.
Along with the race for president, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 Senate seats are being contested in Tuesday's election. Analysts generally say Republicans will continue to hold their majority in the House, while the president's Democratic party could maintain their slim majority in the Senate.