Both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney say they will win the presidential election Tuesday, but the winner may not be known for days, or weeks, if the initial results are near a tie.
Legal challenges, extra voting time for victims of Superstorm Sandy, and Ohio’s complicated absentee voting system could delay the declaration of a clear winner.
Even worse, a tie in the Electoral College vote would throw the whole ball of wax into the hands of Congress, where the House of Representatives and Senate theoretically could break the tie with a new administration of Republican President Romney and Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
Last-minute polls indicate the contest is too close to call, especially in the popular vote without taking into account the Electoral College system whereby a one-vote victory in the popular vote gives the winner all of the state’s electoral votes.
The most expensive campaign in history, and one of the most negative, saw more than $6 billion unleashed by the rival camps in a fight to persuade the American people over very different visions of the future, according to AFP.
Obama, 51, seeks to defy historical precedent that suggests incumbent presidents fail to win a second four-year term at times of high unemployment.
No president since World War II has been elected with the unemployment rate above 7.4 percent, and Obama is hoping to avoid the fate of a host of European leaders who paid for the economic crisis with their jobs.
Romney, 65, a former Massachusetts governor blasted by critics as a rich plutocrat indifferent to middle class pain, would make history as the first Mormon president and promises to ignite economic growth and job creation.
Polls opened in the first clutch of eastern states -- including battlegrounds New Hampshire and Virginia -- from 6:00 a.m., with the rest of the country's six mainland time zones following suit through the day except for two towns in New Hampshire that insist on being the first voters by turning up at the polling stations at midnight and shortly after.
"Tomorrow, from the granite of New Hampshire to the Rockies of Colorado, from the coastlines of Florida, to Virginia's rolling hills, from the valleys of Ohio to these Iowa fields, we will keep America moving forward," Obama said at the end of the campaign.
Romney stated, "Tomorrow is a moment to look into the future and imagine what we can do, to put that past four years behind us and build a new future.”
Below are some Reuters pictures of the campaign, including Tuesday’s balloting.