Turnout heavy in closest US election in years
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: An agreement among major international media networks not to release results of exit polls left people across this vast country wondering who is winning the presidential election.
Companies conducting exit polls, however, are sending their results to major media organisations that used the data to outline some voting trends.
The unprecedented voluntary ban is aimed at preventing undue influence on likely voters.
The official results are expected to start trickling in by noon (Pakistan time) on Wednesday.
Commentators on various US television channels did indicate that President Barack Obama has managed to maintain his slight edge over his Republican rival Mitt Romney in key swing states.
Based on the data they were receiving, the commentators also reported a high voter turnout as tens of thousands of Democrat and Republican volunteers started knocking at doors to get the voters out.
Obama greets Romney
President Obama made a surprise stop at a campaign office in Chicago on Tuesday where he congratulated Mr Romney for his strong campaign.
“I also want to say to Governor Romney, ‘Congratulations on a spirited campaign’. I know his supporters are just as engaged, just as enthusiastic and working just as hard today,” the president said.
Mr Romney was asked on a radio show in Cleveland whether he agreed that voters always get it right in the end. “I won’t guarantee that they’ll get it right, but I think they will,” Mr Romney replied.
Later, Obama aides explained that the president’s gesture was no admission of defeat as the president was still confident that he would be re-elected. The congratulatory message for Mr Romney, they said, was only an expression of goodwill.
“I’m looking forward to the results. And I expect that we’ll have a good night,” Mr Obama said at the campaign office.
He encouraged all voters to head to the polls: “I would encourage everybody on all sides just to make sure that you exercise this precious right that you have that people fought so hard for, for us to have.”
“I can’t imagine an election being won or lost by, let’s say, a few hundred votes and you spent your day sitting around,” Mr Romney said in another radio show. “I mean, you’d say to yourself, ‘Holy cow, why didn’t I keep working?’ And so I’m going to make sure I never have to look back with anything other than the greatest degree of satisfaction on this whole campaign.”
The Obama campaign sent a message to all Obama supporters at 12:35 p.m.; more than six hours after the polling began, saying: “Take calls now. There’s no tomorrow.”
Even at midday on the East Coast, both Republican and Democratic campaigns were still seeking volunteers for bringing out voters.
Reports from the storm-hit areas spoke of high voter turnout even in places like New Jersey and New York. The two states — the worst hit by Sandy — are major Democratic strongholds.
Voters came out in large numbers at makeshift polling stations in areas where polling sites have been destroyed by the storm.
President Obama began the Election Day with a conference call with his senior officials, discussing relief and rehabilitation for victims of last week’s storm.
There are also forecast of another storm to hit the coast already slammed by Sandy this weekend.
Several towns in New Jersey and some New York neighbourhoods have ordered residents to leave the coastal areas.
More than 100 polling places in New York State have been changed, including about 60 in the city.
It wasn’t just the presidency at stake on Tuesday: every seat in the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate and 11 governorships were on the line as well.
Americans were also voting state ballot proposals on topics ranging from gay marriage and casino gambling to repealing the death penalty and legalising marijuana.
Democrats were defending their majority in the Senate, and Republicans doing likewise in the House.
The only result officially announced on Tuesday afternoon was from a small village in New Hampshire, which votes before any other place in America: right after midnight. Ten people voted at this village, five for Mr Obama and five for Mr Romney. More than a third of Americans cast ballots days or even weeks in advance — an estimated 46 million ballots or 35 per cent of the 133 million likely voters.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, were among the first voters on Tuesday in at a polling place in Greenville, Delaware, their home state. “I encourage you to stand in line as long as you have to,” he told television cameras.
The Obamas voted last month in an effort to encourage supporters to vote early.
Mr Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan each voted with their wives at their side on Tuesday morning in their hometowns — Romneys in Belmont, Massachusetts, and Ryans in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Both couples then headed to meet in Cleveland for some last-minute campaigning.
Obamas and Bidens went to Chicago where they will watch the results together.
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