Its up to you now.
The candidates have debated, polled and canvassed, occupying your homes for months. Now its just you and the voting booth. Close to 3 million people have voted in North Carolina; more than 3 million more still need to today.
Heres what you need to know at the polls Tuesday and how to keep score if youre watching from home Tuesday night.
How to vote
Poll hours: Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. If youre in line at 7:30 p.m., you will be allowed to vote.
Poll locations: If youre unsure of your precinct, go to www.app.sboe.state.nc.us/webapps/OS_sites.
Good to know: You dont need a photo ID to vote. You cannot pull out your cellphone while in the voting booth, but you can take in a piece of paper with a reminder of whom you want to vote for. A straight party vote does not include the office of President/Vice President or any nonpartisan race or issue. You must vote for those separately.
Got problems? If you feel intimidated or suspect fraud, report it to the State Board of Elections at 919-733-7173, or call the FBI at 336-855-7770. Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination also can be made directly to the Civil Rights Divisions Voting Section in Washington at 800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767.
How to watch the election
The presidential contest is focusing on less than a dozen battleground states where the polls show a tight race. Here are five key states to watch closely as indicators of the larger map on election night. (All times eastern.)
North Carolina: President Barack Obamas campaign is making a late play for the states 15 electoral votes, and recent polls suggest he is tied with Republican Mitt Romney. The GOP feels confident, though, and what happens here also could signal the direction of Virginias 13 electoral votes, where Obama has had a similar strategy. A new voter ID law may complicate voting there. Polls close: 7:30 p.m. (7 p.m. in Virginia.)
Ohio: No Republican candidate for president has won the White House without taking Ohios 18 votes, and no president since John F. Kennedy in 1960, making it the ultimate battleground. The last-minute polls favor Obama, with some giving him a 5-point edge and others showing the spread within the margin of error. If its close, ballot counting may continue into Wednesday. Polls close: 7:30 p.m.
Florida: Election Day isnt complete without controversy in the hanging chad state the largest prize among swing states with 29 electoral votes. GOP efforts to limit early voting led to confusion and accusations of voter suppression. John McCain lost by just three points in 2008, and most of the latest polls lean slightly toward Romney. Polls close: 8 p.m.
Colorado: Behind Virginia, Colorado has the closest margin in the Real Clear Politics poll average at a 0.6 percent advantage Obama. The state and its nine electoral votes helped elect George Bush twice before picking Obama in 2008. Polls close: 9 p.m.
Iowa: With six electoral votes, Iowa is one of the last swing states to close its polls same time as Nevada, also six votes. On average, Obama is narrowly favored in both states, but Iowa is geographically split. An Obama victory in eastern battlegrounds like Ohio and New Hampshire (four votes) makes this state important for Romneys electoral math. Polls close: 10 p.m.
Staff writer John Frank
Five key North Carolina counties
Wake: Went for George W. Bush by two points in 2004, but voted for Obama by more than 56 percent in 2008. The president came out of the county with a 100,000 vote margin. Campaigns and Elections Magazine earlier this year named Wake County one of 10 counties in the country that Romney needs to win. No wonder the Obama campaign sent President Bill Clinton here Sunday.
Forsyth: Won by Bush with 54 percent in 2004, but Obama won it with 54 percent in 2008. Also listed by Campaigns and Elections Magazine as one of the top 10 crucial counties in America for Romney earlier this year.
Mecklenburg: Democrat John Kerry carried the county by 52 percent in 2004, but Obama carried it by 62 percent in 2008, coming out of the county with a 100,000 vote margin. Romney must do better in the states most populous county. But it wont be easy since the Democrats held their national convention there in September and sent First Lady Michelle Obama for a rally on Monday.
Buncombe: Carried by Bush in 2004 by a narrow margin, but Obama won it by 56 percent in 2008. Jill Biden visited Asheville on Friday.
Wilson: Bush carried the county by 53 percent in 2004, but Obama carried it by 53 percent in 2008. As in other places, Obama accomplished the flip by greatly expanding the vote. The Republican vote expanded from 16,221 to 17,375 between 2004 and 2008, while the Democratic vote exploded from 13,994 to 19,652.
Staff writer Rob Christensen
Pick a channel
Expect wall-to-wall TV coverage of the returns.
Rule of thumb: The cable news outlets will be in election mode pretty much all day long, but official coverage for most broadcast networks will start around 7 or 8 p.m. Heres a quick guide.
• CBS is starting coverage at 7 p.m., anchored by Scott Pelley, who is joined by Bob Schieffer and Norah ODonnell.
• ABC also starts at 7 p.m., and will have Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos anchoring. Barbara Walters and Katie Couric are also on hand.
• NBC starts at 7:30 p.m. with Brian Williams. Theres also coverage on MSNBC (Rachel Maddow) and CNBC (Maria Bartiromo) both starting at 7.
• PBS starts at 8 p.m. with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff.
• Fox has you covered on broadcast Fox (WRAZ Fox-50), Fox News and Fox Business News. Fox News starts at 6 p.m. with Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly. Neil Cavuto heads the main election coverage on FBN starting at 7, and Shepard Smith covers things on the main Fox station (Fox-50).
• If its anything like last year, CNN will probably have a thousand people on air throughout the night, but their main coverage is led by Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, starting at 6 p.m.
• Current TV begins coverage at 8, led by Al Gore and Jennifer Granholm.
• C-SPAN will air results along with victory and concession speeches from around the country.
Staff writer Brooke Cain
By the numbers
Early vote totals so far show fewer Democrats cast ballots at one-stop sites or by mail this year than they did in 2008. Republicans have improved on their early voting and mail-in balloting from four years ago.
This years absentee numbers are incomplete. The State Board of Elections will continue to update them.
2012 early vote total: 2,751,435
Democrats: 1,310,192, 47.6 percent
Republicans: 865,942, 31.5 percent
Unaffiliated: 569,133, 20.7 percent
Libertarians: 6,168, 0.22 percent
2008 early vote total, 2,638,915
Democrats: 1,355,390, 51 percent
Republicans: 795,456, 30 percent
Unaffiliated: 486,256, 18 percent
Libertarians: 1,813, 0.07 percent
Staff writer Lynn Bonner