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Americans Vote for Next US President

Tens of millions of Americans are braving long lines at voting booths across the United States, to cast ballots in a fiercely-contested presidential election. Public opinion polls on the eve of Election Day showed the nation evenly split between Republican President George Bush and his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry.

High voter turnout is a sign of the public's increased interest in this year's presidential election. Experts predict a near-record turnout.

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry spent the days before Election Day making multiple campaign stops in several states. Their focus was on so-called battleground states, where the election is particularly close.

For Election Day itself, the two political parties have launched massive efforts to get their supporters to the polls, even while both sides watch for potential voter irregularities.

Early Tuesday, President Bush, his wife and their daughters cast their ballots at a regular polling place near their home in Texas. Afterwards, the president spoke with reporters.

"I trust the judgment of the American people," he said. "I love our democracy and I have got great faith in the wisdom of the people of this country."

In a departure from tradition, and as a reflection of how close the election is, both candidates are continuing to campaign on election day.

President Bush plans to watch the election results from the White House following a final campaign stop in Ohio.

Earlier in the day, Senator Kerry was in the midwestern battleground state of Wisconsin, where he personally distributed information packets to campaign workers. The VOA reporter with the Kerry campaign said the senator appeared to be "relaxed."

"It's that magic moment when the greatest democracy on the face of the planet gets to show the world how we work. And together we're going to change the direction of this country," said Senator Kerry.

Senator Kerry casts his vote in his hometown, Boston, Massachusetts. His wife cast her ballot earlier in the day in Pennsylvania, another critical state where the result is expected to be very close.

Both candidates have expressed confidence they will win.

But, in another indication of just how tight the race is, the Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards declined to make a firm prediction on the NBC television program, the Today show.

"In all honesty, I do not think it is possible to predict what is going to happen," he said. "I think we are going to see unprecedented turnout. I think we are going to see huge voter participation. And when that happens, democracy works. So, we feel very confident and optimistic."

Voters lined up early at polling stations across the country. In Columbus, Ohio, voter Harriet Robinson said she was impressed with what she saw.

"It was very electrifying because a lot of folks came out to vote," she said. "Normally, when I come out here to vote, there are like three or four people in line. So, it is very good to see the turnout."

Another Ohio voter, Rich Brigga, said the voting process went smoothly.

"The ballots and everything appeared to be well-organized and everything, so it was a good layout of the voting," he said.

Long lines are reported at many polling stations around the country. Some problems with voting machines and voter registration lists have been reported in states were the race is being closely watched by both campaigns.

Election observers say they expect more than 120 million voters to cast ballots in the election, about 60 percent of registered voters. About 54 percent of registered voters took part in the last presidential election.

The results are expected to be close. Pre-election public opinion polls indicate Americans are evenly divided in their support for the two candidates, based on a host of issues, including Iraq, the economy, social issues and security.

In addition to the presidential race, voters are selecting all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 of the 100 members of the Senate and thousands of state and local officials across the country.