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Live blog: the US Election 2012 as it happened

1708 AEDT While we’re waiting.

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.. click here to see a picture of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak crowd surfing with his mother after President Obama won re-election.

1704 AEDT Obama due to speak shortly in Chicago. Big crowd awaiting the president.

1700 AEDT A short but gracious concession of defeat from Mitt Romney. US commentators speculate this is the end of Romney’s career.

1655 AEDT Romney concedes: “I’ve just called Barack Obama to congratulate him on his victory”.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH MITT ROMNEY’S FULL CONCESSION SPEECH

The Republican candidate is currently speaking to supporters in Boston at the conclusion of his five-year effort to reach the White House. Romney lost the Republican candidacy to John McCain in 2008.

“Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign. I so wish I had been able to lead this country in a different direction.”

“I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation”.

Keep reading: Mitt Romney concedes defeat in White House race.

1652 AEDT We’re hearing Romney is expected to speak shortly. Standby for updates…

1638 AEDT Obama has taken out Virginia, another important swing state for this election. Although it’s clear Obama has lost some ground this election, we’re starting to see a picture that indicates this race wasn’t quite as close as expected in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Obama put Virginia back into play for the first time since 1964 when he wrested the state from Republican hands back in 2008.

1616 AEDT Romney supporters react to results on election night in the US. The Republican candidate appears to have lost the race, but has been reluctant to concede. (Image: Getty)

Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has retained his US House seat in Wisconsin.

1605 AEDT Social news site Buzzfeed is reporting Obama’s “four more years” tweet has become the most popular tweet of all time, gathering around 143,000 re-tweets in 22 minutes.

1556 AEDT Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan has arrived in the loading docks of the Boston Convention Centre. So far, the Republican candidate has stayed out of site since predictions swiftly turned towards Obama less than an hour ago, but a concession speech may not be far away.

1555 AEDT More states to Obama: Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada.

1547 AEDT The Democrats have retained control of the Senate, this means a divided congress, with Republicans controlling the House. This raises the prospect of more partisan gridlock in US lawmaking.

1542 AEDT Reports: Romney campaign not yet prepared to concede.

1540 AEDT AP has just called the election for Obama. Significant because this is the official source tasked with keeping track of the states (and the provider of our wonderful interactive map above, showing detail down to county level of how America voted).

1536 AEDT CNN has projected victory for Obama, and the president himself has confirmed it by a series of tweets. Still quite a few states to come through, though, and both the concession and victory speeches. Not quite over yet — stay with us!

1528 AEDT Obama wins Iowa and Oregon.

1522 AEDT — The President has called it on Twitter — @BarackObama Four more years.

1519 AEDT CNN is projecting an Obama win. Actual confirmation still to come.

1518 AEDT AP RACE CALL: Obama wins Ohio. A very important win.

1516 AEDT Results from battleground states starting to come in. Stand by for key results…

1515 AEDT Obama wins New Mexico; Romney wins Missouri.

1510 AEDT Side point: CNN called the election for Obama at around 3pm (AEDT) back in 2008. McCain conceded soon after, and the whole thing was over by around 4pm.

1502 AEDT More results in: Obama wins California, Washington, Hawaii. Romney has claimed Idaho. CNN is also predicting that the Democrats will keep control of the Senate.

1500 AEDT Minnesota goes to Obama. An expected win, with the state voting Democrat since 1972.

1455 AEDT Romney wins North Carolina, another traditionally Republican state, but one that Obama claimed back in 2008 by just a few thousand votes.

The President’s support for gay marriage may have been an issue in this result — North Carolina residents approved an amendment banning same-sex marriage back in May of this year.

1448 AEDT Nebraska goes to Romney, bringing up the Republican candidate’s number of electoral votes to 170. The winning candidate needs a minimum of 270 electoral votes to succeed.

1442 AEDT As we await the results, here’s an image of unknown origin currently making the rounds on Twitter:

It’s a reference of course to the “I like Big Bird” comment made by Mitt Romney in the first US election debate. See also: Best memes of the US election; and Ten most popular YouTube videos of the US election.

1440 AEDT Romney has claimed Arizona.

1421 AEDT A couple of points from the non-presidential arm of this election: Todd Akin, who was criticized for making a comment about “legitimate rape” in August, has not won his Senate seat.

And wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon has also lost her bid for a senate seat, notable because of the hefty $42 million of her own money she shelled out trying to get elected.

1406 AEDT Obama has just secured another important win, this time in New Hampshire. It’s not the largest state, carrying just four electoral votes, but both candidates have visited the state several times over the course of this election, highlighting its importance in a very close race.

1401 AEDT The electoral votes have been tracking in Romney’s favour for much of the last hour or two, but this can be slightly misleading. It’s worth noting that as of this moment, many west-coast states have not yet begun counting their votes, because of time zone differences.

California, which is expected to fall to Obama, carries a huge 55 electoral votes based on its high population.

1349 AEDT Obama has claimed victory in Pennsylvania. Important win. Until recently this state was expected to fall to the Democrats, but within the last few weeks has fallen into the pool of closely-watched states known as swing states.

It’s geographic location next to Ohio could also provide a clue to how results in that other important bellwether state will play out later today.

1339 AEDT Let’s take a closer look at the maps in those two crucial swing states. First, Ohio. Note a strong Democratic vote around Cleveland, where Mitt Romney and Joe Biden both staged last-ditch rallies overnight.

And here’s a view of Florida votes by county. As we’ve noted before, the race is incredibly close in this state. Votes for Obama appear to be clustered around the major cities, including Miami, Tampa and Tallahassee.

This follows a pattern replicated across the whole of the US. There are clear Democratic clusters around the country’s urban centres, with the broad rural areas across the middle of the nation firmly in the red.

1320 AEDT We’re yet to see any definitive results from the handful of swing states that will essentially decide this election.

To recap: The two biggest swing-state prizes are Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, and Florida, with 29.

If Obama wins in Florida, Romney would need to sweep all the other swing states, including Ohio.

If Romney wins in Florida, but loses Ohio, Obama would still be just 15 electoral votes shy of victory. That would leave him with several paths to victory.

For example, he could win by taking Nevada (six electors) and Wisconsin (10), two states where polls show him leading. Because of those stakes, many analysts see Ohio as the pivotal state on election night.

No Republican presidential candidate has ever won the White House without also carrying the Midwestern state.

The other six swing states are Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Iowa (6), Colorado (9), Michigan (16) and New Hampshire (4).

1314 AEDT Victory for Romney in Mississippi.

1311 AEDT Obama wins New Jersey, New York and Michigan. Romney has picked up Arkansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, South Dakota, Texas and North Dakota.

1302 AEDT Incumbents usually do better in their re-election campaigns than their initial campaigns, says Dr Harry Melkonian of the US Studies Centre. So if Obama wins this time around, he will be breaking the established pattern of presidential re-elections.

1255 AEDT For more in-depth US election coverage, you can tune into our live election coverage on SBS ONE from 1pm AEDT, or watch the live stream of the broadcast by clicking here.

Of course, if you prefer your updates to be text-based, stay with us here at the live blog. We’ll be updating all day and into the evening, right up until the race is called.

1249 AEDT Alabama goes to Romney. AP has aptly described the race so far as: “Obama wins the reliably Democratic Northeast, Romney secures his conservative base.”

1239 AEDT We’re seeing Romney take back a lot of states won by Obama in 2008. But much of this election still depends on the crucial swing states of Ohio and Florida. If you click on these states in our interactive above, you can see that Obama has a comfortable lead in Ohio. Florida is a lot closer — Obama has a slight edge at this stage, but that wasn’t the case less than 20 minutes ago. One to watch.

1235 AEDT Romney wins Georgia.

1229 AEDT Romney has claimed another victory, this time in Tennessee.

1209 AEDT Polls have now closed in Florida and Pennsylvania. Although it’s hardly surprising that this is a race still far too close to call, there are now fears that the results could come down to provisional ballots, which could take days or even weeks to count.

Another worrying scenario: The election could end in a draw, which would mean congress gets to decide who becomes the next president. And that could kick-start a very interesting four years, with one possible outcome being Romney as President, and Joe Biden as Vice President.

1202 AEDT A whole slew of results have just come through: AP RACE CALL: Obama wins IL, CT, ME, DC, DE, RI, MD, MA; Romney wins OK.

That’s Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, Washington DC, Rhode Island, Maryland and Massachusetts for Obama, Oklahoma for Romney.

1200 AEDT AP has just called Indiana for Mitt Romney. Not unexpected; many news organisations have already called this state in the republican’s favour.

1157 AEDT Mitt Romney has won South Carolina – another state secured by Obama four years ago. But as you can see from our state-by-state count above, and the NYT interactive below, there is still a lot of ground to cover in this race. We could be in for a long night.

1143 AEDT Pathways to victory: Great infographic from the New York Times explaining what needs to happen for each candidate to win.

1132 AEDT West Virginia goes to Romney – another state Obama won back in 2008.

1130 AEDT See how the day has played out in the US with our latest image gallery: The US election, in pictures.

1127 AEDT That Indiana win is significant for Romney. Obama won it in 2008.

1112 AEDT AP RACE CALL: Obama wins Vermont; Romney wins Indiana and Kentucky. That’s 3 electoral votes for Obama and 19 for Romney.

Full details in the interactive map above, or click here for more details.

1100 AEDT Nice view of the Empire State Building dressed up for election night, as tweeted by CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist.

1040 AEDT Romney’s ready! The Republican candidate has prepared a 1,118-word victory speech if he wins today’s election.

Meanwhile, Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, 69, has stoked rumours he plans to run in the 2016 campaign by admitting to reporters he doesn’t think this will be the last time he’ll be voting for himself.

1030 AEDT More reports coming in now of voting glitches across the US. There’s also an excellent audio piece from SBS Radio correspondent John Stempin on faulty voting machines in some states, here.

With a population of around 310,000,000, collecting and counting votes manually is a huge logistical problem. As the Washington Post notes, Estonians can vote online, so why can’t Americans? Hacking fears are among the primary reasons, according to the author.

1020 AEDT The first polls have closed in the US general elections, with most of Indiana and the eastern part of Kentucky delivering their verdicts.

The results from those states are unlikely to be decisive in the election as both are widely expected to vote for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Polls in Viriginia, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire will start to close in the next hour to an hour and a half, meaning we should start to get a picture of the results in some of the crucial swing states within a few hours.

For a full list of swing state closing times, click here.

1000 AEDT Speaking of voters struggling to get to the polls, those still feeling the affects of Hurricane Sandy are having particular problems. Dozens of polling stations in New Jersey and New York have been forced to relocate, while delayed opening times and venues affected by mud and rubbish have also been reported. Read more.

0950 AEDT It is nearly 6pm in Washington, DC, and polls are beginning to close. There have been some concerns over voting glitches and long queues in some parts of the US, but on the positive side, voter turnout appears high in many parts of the country.

0920 AEDT What are the candidates up to today? Obama has returned to his home in Chicago to wait out the results. Romney made a last-ditch stop in Cleveland, underscoring once again the importance of Ohio in this race. He also appeared in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Democrats weren’t un-represented in Ohio on US election day. According to media reports, Joe Biden made an unscheduled appearance in Cleveland and arrived in the city at the same time as Romney, resulting in an awkward showdown at the airport.

0900 AEDT Early results from an exit poll conducted by AP indicate the economy is still the biggest concern among voters.

The survey, taken as voters left polling places, found 6 in 10 of those polled believe the economy is the the biggest issue affecting Americans. Click here to read more.

0810 AEDT Voting is underway across the United Sates as US citizens give their final verdict on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s close-fought battle for the White House.

The Democratic and Republican rivals spent around $6 billion between them in the most expensive election campaign in US history but, despite a barrage of ads and months of rallies, neither managed to open a clear advantage. That said, Obama’s slim lead in the handful of swing states that decide the election appeared to offer him the simplest route to victory.

The battleground states will be the ones to watch, like Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida. These states will help either candidates win enough electoral votes to become president. The electoral college was created more than 200 years ago as a compromise between allowing people and congress to choose a leader. Janice Petersen explains:

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann cast their ballots at Beech Street Center in Belmont, Massachusetts. (Getty Images). Obama voted early, over a week ago.

0800 AEDT Good morning, and welcome to our US election live blog. We’ll be updating this article all day with the latest information on the race to the White House.

At the top of this window, you’ll see the results as they’re called, state by state. You can also watch our live stream here, from 1pm AEDT.

The latest polls are showing a slight preference for Obama, but Romney is not far behind, which means we could be in for a long wait to see the outcome of this election.

Stay with us as the day proceeds.

VIEW MORE: Click the links below for more coverage on the US election:

Interactive: What the world thinks of the US election

Online updates: US election social hub

Ten most popular US election-themed YouTube videos

From binders to Big Bird, the memes of the US election

On Assignment: Brian Thomson in the US