CHICAGO, November 4, 2008 – Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama on Tuesday cast his ballot in his home city of Chicago.
On a historic day across the United States which could see Obama elected the first black US president, the Hawaii-born Illinois Senator was greeted at a polling station in a school gymnasium by dozens of reporters and photographers.
Obama, who is leading Republican John McCain in national polls, was joined by his wife, Michelle, and his young daughters Malia and Sasha.
He showed Malia, 10 his ballot and smiled as he cast his vote.
Obama’s running mate Joe Biden turned out at the polls in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware with his 91-year-old mother, and wife Jill to vote.
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, who fought a long, hard battle with Obama in the Democratic primaries as she sought to become the first woman US president, voted in Chappaqua, New York.
She and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have a home in the town in New York, which the former first lady represents in the Senate.
Republican McCain had yet to cast his ballot by 1500GMT, and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, was to fly back to her home state to vote before heading to McCain’s home state of Arizona to watch the results come in.
As the day progressed, voters flocked to polling stations clutching cups of coffee or the morning paper to cast their ballots in the hard-fought race for the White House across the US.
At the St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic church on the outskirts of Washington, several dozen voters waited patiently under grey skies for the polls to open at 1200 GMT.
Early turnout was even higher at nearby Lafayette Elementary School in Chevy Chase, an affluent, strongly Democratic neighbourhood of lawyers, lobbyists, government employees and educators.
"I’ve never seen it like this," said Alice Hayes, a hospital administrator who said she was so excited "I couldn’t sleep." "I hope to see a change in this country," Hayes said, echoing Obama’s campaign theme.
While turnout was heavy, voting was moving smoothly in Maryland as voters used paper ballots or touch screens to tick off their choices for president, the House of Representatives, local judges and ballot initiatives.
As voters left the polling stations, they received a sticker saying "I voted/Yo voté" – which earned them a free coffee at their local Starbucks.
At Lafayette Elementary School, Don Preston, who works for a trade association, said he voted for Obama, the 47-year-old Illinois senator bidding to become the first African-American president of the United States.
"It’s about one thing: hope or fear," he said. "The last eight years have been pretty miserable. The rest of the world hasn’t liked us with Bush."
At a polling station in downtown Washington, a line stretched around the block as a diverse mixture of black, white, Latino and Asian voters, some carrying young children, waited patiently to cast their ballots.
The crowd looked on quietly as an African-American man dressed as Uncle Sam was handcuffed and taken away in a police car. Police told AFP the man had been selling American flags without a vendor’s license.
Alnett Wooten, 86, carried an American flag with her to the polls.
"I never thought I would live long enough to do it," she said of voting for a black president. "I just pray that He will keep him safe."
In Lake Worth, Florida, the southern state considered critical to the hopes of both Obama and McCain, residents expecting long lines were pleasantly surprised when they were in and out in about 30 minutes.
Jenna Sokolobsky, 24, of Boynton Beach, said she voted for McCain. "My brother has served four times in Iraq and I like his stance on protecting our country," she said.
Laura Burke, 46, of Lake Worth, went for Obama. "There was no way in hell I would put Sarah Palin in the presidency. The running mates is what it came down to for me," she said.
In Decatur, Georgia, another early voting state, the wait was about an hour-and-a-half at the Avondale Middle School.
Karla Stumpo, a 35-year-old accountant with the Cartoon Network in Atlanta, said she voted for McCain though she’s "not really happy with either candidate.
"It’s the lesser of two evils," said of her vote for the 72-year-old senator from Arizona.
In Kansas City, Missouri, lines began forming by at least 5:30 am at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church. By 6 am, its huge parking lots were nearly full and voters in long lines waited for the doors to open.
The softleaded pencils provided by the election board to fill in bubbles on the paper ballots soon were in short supply and short lines formed for them.
Voters waited for about 40 minutes before they finally could slide their paper ballots into scanners.
Many said they came early to vote before going to work and to avoid a crush later in the day.
Voters also thronged the polls early in Blacksburg, a Democratic stronghold in southwest Virginia, in a bid to cast their ballots before going to work.
At the Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, Elaine Daily, a 55-year-old reading teacher, said she voted for Obama.
"I feel he can do something to help restore the economy and end the war. I think he is the one who will help bring change," she said.
"Everyone in my family are voting for Obama, except for my parents who are voting for McCain because they are very conservative," Daily added.
Another voter, Norma Jean Lundis, said she cast her ballot for McCain.
"McCain stands for what I believe in – less government, lets me control my money, the right to bear arms, life begins at conception, marriage between man and woman," she said. "He’s been tested, he’s a true American hero."