US President Barack Obama accompanied by First Lady Michelle and daughters Sasha (left) and Malia (right) appears on stage on election night in Chicago, Illinois. -- AFP

This ends AFP's Live Report on the reelection of Barack Obama to a second term as president of the United States.

With at least 303 electoral college votes and a lead in the popular vote, Obama won comfortably. He secured victories in almost all of the hotly contested swing states, losing only North Carolina. Only Florida remains undecided.

The House of Representatives remains in Republican control, however, as the Democrats hold onto the Senate, leaving gridlock as the status quo in Washington and the future of Obama's agenda unclear.

0701 GMT: Red, white and blue confetti rains down on the stage and Obama is joined by his extended family and Vice President Joe Biden. They wave warmly to the crowd and exit.

0658 GMT: A fired up Obama vowed to move his agenda forward and called for unity.

"We remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America."

0656 GMT: Michelle Obama, whose fashion choices are closely followed, is wearing a red Michael Kors she has worn at official events in the past.

0651 GMT: Obama begins to outline an agenda for his second term, including tackling the problems of a "warming planet," after barely raising the issue on the campaign trail.

0646 GMT: Obama thanks every voter, including those who waited for hours in line to vote.

"By the way, we have to fix that."

0642: Obama gives a shout out to his wife, Michelle, with whom he just celebrated 20 years of marriage.

"I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago."

And then he warns his daughters not to expect a new post-vote puppy.

"One dog is enough," he jokes.

0639: "For the United States of America, the best is yet to come," he says.

0635 GMT: Obama takes the stage before an adoring crowd with his wife and two daughters, wearing a bright blue silk tie and navy suit.

The band is playing Stevie Wonder's "Sign, Sealed, Delievered" as the crowd chants, "Four More Years!"

0630 GMT: Massive presidential motorcade arrives at the convention center full of cheering, chanting supporters.

0619 GMT: Obama's motorcade, including his wife and children, leaves the hotel and heads to the convention center where he is due to speak.

The crowd is waving small US flags in unison to the music as they anxiously await Obama's arrival.

0614 GMT: The crowd in Chicago is chanting "Fired up and ready to go!" along with an Obama promotional video. Now chanting USA! Lights dim. Anticipation builds.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives on stage on election night moments before conceding defeat to US President Barack Obama. -- AFP

0611 GMT: Fox news reporting that Obama's first call after hearing a "very classy" concession from Romney was to former president Bill Clinton.

0608 GMT: Romney is joined by his wife Ann, their five sons and several of their grandchildren on the stage. Running-mate Paul Ryan also joins him, along with his wife Jana and their two children.

After a brief round of emotional hugs and waves to the crowd, everyone exits the stage.

0602 GMT: Romney says he called Obama to offer his congratulations.

"This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.

"I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction but the nation chose another leader and so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and this great nation.

0552 GMT: Mitt Romney comes to the stage at his election night party to offer his concession.

0540 GMT: Obama has won the battleground state of Virginia and has increased his lead in the psychologically important national popular vote. With the Virginia win, Obama looks to lock up almost all of the battleground states. He lost only North Carolina and Florida remains too close to call.

0538 GMT: An elderly woman collapses to the floor at the Obama party, looking exhausted. She keeps clutching her US flag as paramedics climb barricades to lift her over and into a wheelchair.

0532 GMT: Obama racks up victories in Western states Colorado and Nevada, bringing his electoral college total to 290.

0527 GMT: Extraordinarily loud and prolonged booing from the Romney election party when CNN host Candy Crowley goes live. The supporters do not like what they see on TV.

0516 GMT: NPR says that Romney will concede within the next hour. Tradition dictates that the loser speak first, followed by an acceptance speech from the winner.

0507 GMT: Car horns and cheers echo through the streets of Washington as supporters rush to the area near the White House.

0459 GMT: Twitter announces that as the networks declared Obama had won releection, election-related tweets spiked to 327,453 per minute at 11:19 p EST.

0455 GMT: Initiatives to legalize marijuana use pass in Washington and Colorado.

0446 GMT: Obama tweets his thanks to supporters: "We're all in this together. That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are. Thank you. -bo"

0439 GMT: Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove is insisting the networks have called a winner too soon. Romney has not yet called Obama to concede.

0429 GMT: The Empire State building in New York is topped in blue to mark Obama's reelection.

0425 GMT: Obama supporters are dancing in Times Square in New York, on the strip in Las Vegas, at Faneuil Hall and in Boston and in Kenya, where Obama's father was born.

Supporters of US President Barack Obama celebrate as CNN projects victory for their candidate. -- AFP

0420 GMT: Obama headquarters explodes in cheers as supporters dance to Aretha Franklin's "R.E.S.P.E.C.T."

0418 GMT: There is silence in the hall of Romney headquarters as the results are announced. Some supporters begin to leave.

0416 GMT: On Twitter and Facebook Obama claims victory. "Four more years."

0413 GMT: MSNBC projects that President Barack Obama is reelected for a second term.

0411 GMT: Networks are showing footage of supporters dancing as results roll in.

0409 GMT: Obama wins the battleground state of Iowa.

0404 GMT: Obama advisor David Axlerod on MSNBC says that the president's campaign is still confident it can win in Virginia and Ohio.

"We feel there are pockets of strength for us in Virginia that are outstanding. Ohio, we like the pattern that we see. It's going to be close as we always anticipated."

0400 GMT: The polls close in California, Washington and Hawaii, all of which were called for Obama. Polls also close in Oregon, which is too close to call.

0347 GMT: Along with Akin, Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock also lost his bid after controversial comments about rape in the context of abortion. The pair of losses has led to an unfortunate theme on social media.

@MiaFarrow tweets: The two rape guys lost #Akin #Mourdock

CNN's Piers Morgan tweets: "Cheer up Todd Akin: if it's a legitimate loss, the body has a way of shutting it down".

0338 GMT: Al Gore, who famously lost Florida in 2000, tweets that based on what he's heard from insiders, he's confident that @BarackObama will win the state!

0331 GMT: Americans around the world are watching the results tonight. US expatriates in London are staging all-night parties fueled by American-themed refreshments as they nervously await the vote counts.

Guests at the US embassy in the British capital don red, white and blue party hats and pin badges of candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney while they watch huge screens transmitting the latest poll results.

"There will be umpteen millions of people voting, and we are here to celebrate that event," Ambassador Louis Susman tells AFP

0316 GMT: The Democrats hold a hotly contested Senate seat in Missouri. Clarie McCaskill fights off a challenge from Todd Akin, who famously said that he opposed to allowing abortion in the case of an abortion because women could not get pregnant from a "legitimate rape."

0308 GMT: Deathly atmosphere at Romney headquarters as a Fox News analyst implicitly explains that Romney is on a very, very bad track. Difficult to spot anyone smiling, guests are all riveted to their smartphones.

0302 GMT: The trends do not look good for Romney, who has a very difficult path to the 270 electoral college votes he would need to win.

Some of his staff has begun to tweet notes of congratulations to Obama supporters. From @aviksaroy "Congrats to my Dem friends. Best wishes for the new administration. Will continue to provide the loyal opposition."

0300 GMT: Polls close in Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Utah.

0255 GMT: Democrats pick up Senate seats in Massachusetts and Indiana and the president has won the close state of New Hampshire.

0244 GMT: The Washington Post TheFix blog tweeted that the youth vote may be higher than in 2008.

"Most amazing stat of night so far for me: 19% of electorate is 18-29 years old. That would be HIGHER than '08 if it holds."

0235 GMT: With losses in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, Romeny-Ryan becomes the first ticket to lose both home states since George McGovern and Sargent Shrvier in 1972.

0228 GMT: Obama wins the key state of Wisconsin, the home to Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

0225 GMT: Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell tells the crowd gathered at Romney headquarters that turnout has been higher than 2008 in some areas.

"We are really excited about the momentum we have going into the campaign."

"The turnout here has been exceptional. In fact in some areas, it exceeds the 2008 numbers. Some areas are up to 75, 80 percent turnout."

0214 GMT: Obama has won the battleground state of Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral college votes.

0212 GMT: Early vote counting in Florida shows the result tied at 50-50.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney react to results on election night in Boston, Massachusetts. -- AFP

0210 GMT: The Republican Party has retained control of the House of Representatives, according to US networks.

0207 GMT: White House correspondent Tangi Quemener notes that @MittRomney lost two key states: Michigan (where he was born), Massachusetts (which he governed). There's New Hampshire left where he has a house.

0202 GMT: Huge cheers at Obama headquarters Chicago as CNN calls Michigan, New York and New Jersey for Obama. None of those were hotly contested, but Romney grew up in the state of Michigan where he father was CEO of American Motors.

0200 GMT: The polls close in: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

0152 GMT: Romney communications director Gail Gitcho speaks by video from the Romney political war room to the folks in Romney election watch party.

"We feel really encouraged about how things are going tonight."

In Ohio: “We are doing well in some of the very strong Republican areas, and Obama is underperforming” in areas where he normally does well.

She had a message to late voters. "Stay in line and make sure that your vote is counted and your message is heard."

0144 GMT: A Democrat beat out a former wrestling promoter for a US Senate seat in Connecticut that Republicans had hoped to pick up.

Representative Christopher Murphy was projected to defeat his self-funded opponent, Linda McMahon.

0138 GMT: The first wave of supporters streams into the Obama watch party at the McCormick Place convention center. Some 10,000 people have been invited to share the night with the president.

0132 GMT: In parts of New York hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, voters wait in the cold to cast ballots.

John Luisi, member of the electoral board of the Rockaways in Queens, which still has no power, said the board had to make some tough choices.

"We only have one generator so we had to choose between light and heating -- we chose light. People can warm up in buses parked right outside"

0130 GMT: Polls close in Arkansas.

0123 GMT: AFP's Michael Mathes reports that the hall at Romney headquarters is eerily quiet as one of the governor's sons, Craig, takes the stage for the Pledge of Allegiance.

"What a night. What a night,” he tells a few hundred people in the ballroom.

All five sons and their families are gathered at a hotel across the street "gathered together enjoying this last night of the campaign."

0115 GMT: Long lines at polling places mean that many people are still voting in the hotly contested state of Virginia. The Washington Examiner reports that as of 0030 GMT, 30 minutes after the voting was to stop, only two of the 237 precicts in massive Fairfax county had actually closed. The paper cites one big polling place where more than 100 remain in line.

0112 GMT: In Beijing, Chinese people were watching the election process as it unfolded on TV.

"At the Bridge Cafe in Wudaokou (Beijing) watching election returns. Strangely, some Romney supporters even among these youngsters":@KaiserKuo, spokesman for Chinese Internet giant Baidu.

0104 GMT: Romney is predicted to win Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Obama is predicted to win Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

0100 GMT: The biggest batch of the states of the night close. The polls close in the states of Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

A worker cleans up the stage where US President Barack Obama will speak on election nigh in Chicago, Illinois. -- AFP

0054 GMT: Twitter reports that more than 11 million tweets labeled #election2012 have been sent just today.

0050 GMT: Politico reports that Romney has already decided what one of his victory gifts will be: a dog.

"Asked on his final campaign flight whether he might get a puppy if elected, Romney said "one of the benefits would be to get another Weimaraner."

Obama also got a dog when he moved into the White House, a Portuguese water dog named Bo that was a gift for his daughters.

0046 GMT: US media is predicting Romney will win South Carolina, bringing his Electoral College vote up to 33.

0039 GMT: CNN reports that Cuyahoga County, Ohio, home to the big city of Cleveland, has issued more provisional ballots than usual. In Ohio, provisional ballots cannot be counted until ten days after the election.

0032 GMT: Exit polls show a tie of 49 to 49 in North Carolina, a state Obama carried in 2008, but which was tipped to Romney in polls ahead of election night.

0030 GMT: The polls close in the key states of Ohio and North Carolina, but the networks do not predict a winner. Polls close in West Virginia, too.

0026 GMT: Mitt Romney says he is convinced he will win the White House, and has penned an 1,118-word victory speech. His campaign says he has not drafted a concession speech.

0017 GMT: The unique US system, the candidates need 270 Electoral College votes, which are allocated by state, to win the presidency. Based on projections, Romney now has 19 and Obama has 3.

0011 GMT: The Obama campaign sends out a text message:

"Volunteers are needed right now to make sure everyone who's still in line gets to vote! Reply with VAPOLLS and an organizer will call you."

0006 GMT: The Washington Post reports that because of long lines, some polling stations are remaining open in Virginia. By law, if a voter is already in line at the time polls close, they must be allowed to cast a ballot.

0004 GMT: CNN is showing exit polls in the battleground state of Virginia, which Obama carried in 2008, showing a dead heat of 49 percent to 49 percent.

0002 GMT: US networks have called the states of Indiana and Kentucky for Romney and Vermont for Obama. No winner is predicted in the other states.

0000 GMT: The polls close in Virginia, Vermont, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, South Carolina.

2353 GMT: Obama goes into the night with a slight lead in national polls and more importantly, in many of the battleground states, including Ohio.

2347 GMT: President Obama spent the day near his home in Chicago, Illinois, playing his traditional game of election day basketball with friends. His daughters, Sasha and Malia were due to fly in after school for a family dinner.

Romney carried campaigning into the final day, with sprints to the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, but is now in Boston to await the results with his family.

2344 GMT: The polls have closed in parts of Indiana and Kentucky, but we do not yet have early results.

Welcome to AFP's Live Report on the hotly contested US presidential election between Democratic President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

After a gruelling 18-month campaign, the decision was finally put in the hands of the voters today. Nearly a third of the votes were cast in early voting, but millions of Americans waited in lines, some hours long, to cast their ballots on election day.

Because the US president is actually elected by state, instead of by the popular vote, all eyes are on eight "battleground" states where the votes are expected to be close: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and the tightest contest of all -- Ohio.

The polls will close in Virginia at 0000 GMT, but no one will be declared the winner until the polls close at 0400 GMT in California.

Stay with us through the night as the results roll in. You can follow our political correspondents on twitter as well as they offer color from the field. @TangiQuemener, @MichaelMathes, @StCollinson, @ivancouronne, @miraoberman, @mstockwoman, @verodupont.