Nov 6 2012 By Cheryl Mullin
THE first votes cast in the US have given Barack Obama a slight lead over challenger Mitt Romney, in what is expected to be one of the closest fought elections in recent American history.
Two tiny villages in northern New Hampshire headed to the polls at midnight on Monday.
Thirty-three votes were cast in 5 minutes, 42 seconds with Obama winning 23 votes, Romney nine and Libertarian Gary Johnson receiving a single vote.
The hard-fought contest has laid bare one of the most polarised American electorates in decades choosing between very different paths for the world's most powerful country.
Follow our live blog for up-to-the-minute news and views as the election drama unfolds.