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Voting in US begins
Published on 5 Nov. 2008 12:39 AM IST
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Democrat Barack Obama appeared poised to make history as America’s first African American president as voters across eastern United States headed for the polls to choose between him and his feisty Republican rival John McCain. Obama got a head start with a symbolic first win in the isolated New Hampshire village of Dixville Notch where its residents lined up to cast their ballots just after midnight (10.30 a.m.IST). The village, home to around 75 residents, has opened its polls shortly after midnight each election day since 1960, drawing national media attention for being the first place in the country to make its presidential preferences known. Obama won 15 of the 21 votes cast, and Republican John McCain won six votes. It was the first time since 1968 that the village leaned Democratic in an election. Since 1996, another small New Hampshire town - Hart’s Location - reinstated its practice from the 1940s and also began opening its polls at midnight. The tally was Obama 17, McCain 10 with two votes written-in for Ron Paul. Polls opened at 3.30 p.m. IST in Vermont and 4.30 p.m. IST in Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. Polls opened at 5.00 p.m. IST in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. Voting began at 5.30 p.m. IST in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Some 29 million voters chose to cast their ballots in the days and weeks before the election in 30 states that allow early or unrestricted absentee ballots. The early vote tally suggested an advantage for Obama, with official statistics showing that Democrats voted in larger numbers than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa. All four states voted for President George Bush in 2004. Democrats also anticipated strengthening their majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, although Republicans battled to hold their losses to a minimum and a significant number of races were rated as tossups in the campaign’s final hours. On election eve, the 47-year-old Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, was favoured to win all the states Republicans captured in 2004, when Bush defeated Democratic nominee John Kerry. That would give him 251 electoral votes. He was leading or tied in several states won by Bush, giving him several paths to the 270 vote threshold such as victories in Ohio or Florida, or in a combination of smaller states. McCain, meanwhile, must hold as many Bush states as possible while trying to capture a Democratic stronghold, such as Pennsylvania. While no battleground state was ignored, Virginia and Ohio, where no Republican president has ever lost, seemed most coveted. Together, they account for 33 electoral votes that McCain must win. To win the White House a candidate must win half plus one of the 538 electoral votes allocated to 50 US states and the capital Washington, D.C. based on their population. Under the winner take all system, a candidate getting most popular votes in a state gets all its electoral votes. A USA Today/Gallup poll published Monday found likely voters nationwide favouring Obama by 11 points over McCain, 53-42 percent, with a margin of error of 2 percentage points. Other polls showed Obama with a 7 or 8 percentage-point lead. Polls conducted by Quinnipiac University showed Obama with significant leads in two critical swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and tied with McCain in Florida, where the prize is 27 electoral votes. A win for Obama in any of these three states would be hard for McCain to overcome.

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