U.S. voters are casting ballots to choose who will be the next president - Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama. Long lines have formed at polling stations nationwide and election officials are prepared for a record voter turnout. Leta Hong Fincher has more.

Americans turned out before sunrise outside many polls across the country to cast their ballots. In the closely contested state of Ohio, polls opened at 6:30 in the morning Tuesday, but voters were lined up well in advance.

"I went in early and saw the line and decided not to wait my two and a half hours, whatever it was, and showed up 5:30, waited one hour," said one voter.

In Arlington, Virginia, many voters skipped work in the morning to cast their ballot.

"I am making up the hours to work later this evening in order to come out here this morning," Renu Ahluwalia told VOA.

In Atlanta, Georgia, many early voters were African American.

"I thought it very important to get up early, extra early to vote," said Adrienne Jefferson.

Election officials are prepared for a record voter turnout in this historic election.

If Democrat Barack Obama wins, he will become the nation's first African American president. If Republican John McCain wins, he will be the oldest man elected to a first presidential term, while running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will become the first woman vice president.

The unprecedented turnout has caused some problems in states like Virginia, where some electronic voting machines failed.

Tova Wang of Common Cause, a nonpartisan group that promotes election reform, says many precincts do not have enough voting equipment.

"We're just not prepared in this country for elections in which there is full participation," Wang said.

Donita Judge, of the voting watchdog group the Advancement Project, wants every vote to be counted. 

"People will still be in the line come two to three o'clock in the morning," she said.

Meanwhile, Obama voted at an elementary school in Chicago, Illinois just before nine in the morning local time. He made a quip about the balloting machine. 

"I hope this works," said the senator. "I'll be really embarrassed if it doesn't." His vice presidential running mate, Joe Biden, voted at a school near his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Hours later, McCain cast his ballot at a church in his hometown, Phoenix, Arizona. 

Running mate Sarah Palin voted in Wasilla, Alaska.

"Tomorrow, I hope, I pray, I believe," Governor Palin told reporters, "that I'll be able to wake up as vice president-elect and be able to get to work in a transition mode with the president-elect, John McCain."

The last public opinion polls before Tuesday's vote showed Obama leading McCain by an average of eight percentage points.