The first election results have started appearing in the United States, but with polls still open on the West Coast it may be several hours before a definitive result is reached.
As night falls across the United States, president Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have gone into last-minute campaign mode, organising interviews and announcements as they await the outcome.
Early results show Romney is likely to take the Republican-leaning states of Kentucky and Indiana, winning eight electoral college votes, while Obama is likely to win Vermont and the swing state of New Hampshire.
Romney is also likely to win West Virginia, while South Carolina is leaning towards Obama.
However, some voting samples are so far too small to provide any definitive result.
A victor needs 270 electoral votes to win. Votes are won by winning individual states.
Early exit polls have started revealing some interesting information – including that both candidates are tied in Virginia so far, a key swing state.
ABC News is reporting exit polls show more voters believe the economy is getting better, and that Obama is more in touch with the American public. However, Romney is winning on an important point – which candidate is better to handle the economy.
The electoral situation is made even more complicated by the fact several “swing states” – states in which the result will determine the outcome of the election – won’t start handing in results for some time.
These battleground states include Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.
Obama and Romney are spending the last few hours convincing Americans – who are not compelled to take part in the election – to vote. Voter turnout numbers may also be affected by hurricane Sandy, which has left many voters on the east coast without electricity and transport.
Obama visited a campaign office earlier today, where he congratulated volunteers in Wisconsin and his opponent on running a “spirited” campaign.
“We feel confident we’ve got the votes to win, that it’s going to depend ultimately on whether those votes turn out.”
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The president spent time giving interviews, while Romney has made last-minute campaign stops in Ohio – a key state in the election. Whoever wins Ohio may end up winning the election, as it provides 18 crucial electoral college votes.
While the results come in, be sure to read our feature on which political candidate would be best for Australian SMEs.
SmartCompany will update this story as the election results become clear, and will report if a winner is decided later this afternoon.