US voters cast ballots in swing states

After hours of waiting, US citizens are now streaming through voting centres in crucial swing states.

US President Barack Obama (L) speaking during a campaign event in Jacksonville, Florida and US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R) in Washington. Picture: AFP."

JOHANNESBURG/CHICAGO - After hours of waiting in long lines, United States (US) citizens are now streaming through voting centres in crucial swing states.

This is the final phase of a battle for the White House which began more than a year ago and has cost billions of dollars.

Voting is underway in many states, including Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

While states like California and Texas have already decided, voters in swing states will determine who will become the next US president.

The country is deeply divided at this stage and it could go either way.

A defeat for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in a state like Florida could spell disaster.

In US President Barack Obama's home town of Chicago, polling stations opened several hours ago and will stay open for much of the day.

Many started their day early, waiting in line to cast their ballot before heading off to work.

Speaking to Eyewitness News , some voters at Chicago's Martin Luther King High School said there was a different atmosphere compared to four years ago.

The excitement for Obama was much more evident during the 2008 elections.

On Tuesday, people quietly made their marks.

Just down the street from the school is the community centre where Obama voted in 2008.

The centre is close to his home where he will be having dinner with his family later on Tuesday.

There is a tight police presence in the area, with dozens of security cars parked outside.

Millions of Americans have already participated in early voting and in Ohio, more than 1.6 million of the state's 7.9 million registered voters cast their ballots by Friday

In New York, voters affected by Superstorm Sandy are allowed to vote at any polling station by presenting an affidavit, as per an executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Meanwhile, US observer and policy expert Brooks Spector explains what will happen once the polls close.

"All states will be tabulating votes, recording them and reporting them. You'll start to see that by about 2am (South African time), you're going to start to see results being posted. Results will come in from the cities first."

Meanwhile, there are reports of long lines at some centres and possible law suits being filed as a result.