Raleigh, N.C. — Editor’s note: WRAL.com will cover Election Day live with pictures, updates from local polling places and more, including any reports of voting irregularities at sites around the Triangle. Hit refresh for the latest updates from our team coverage.
11:35 p.m.: Dems, GOP flee election night parties – for different reasons
A fire alarm at the Marriott hotel in downtown Raleigh forced people attending the state Democratic Party's election night gathering outside.
Meanwhile, people at the state Republican Party's gathering at the North Raleigh Hilton filtered out in disgust after TV networks projected that President Obama would be re-elected.
11:15 p.m.: Lt. Gov. race a dead heat
Slightly more than 12,000 votes separate Republican Dan Forest and Democrat Linda Coleman in the race for lieutenant governor, with 99.6 percent of the votes counted. Looks like a recount for the state's No. 2 seat.
11 p.m.: Romney wins NC, but still may lose war
North Carolina ended its brief run as a blue state, voting for Mitt Romney for president.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the former Massachusetts governor led President Obama in the state by 50 to 48 percent, or about 90,000 votes.
10:50 p.m.: Big Bird's friend attends N.C. GOP party
WRAL News reporter Adam Owens sent this photo from the state Republican Party's election night gathering in Raleigh with the note, "Big Bird was not at the NCGOP, but Cookie Monster was..."
Of course, Big Bird became a cause celebré in the presidential campaign after Republican Mitt Romney said during the first debate that he would cut funding to PBS, which broadcasts Big Bird and his "Sesame Street" friends into homes nationwide.
10:25 p.m.: Wake goes for Obama
After early votes were tallied, President Barack Obama carried Wake County 55 to 43 percent over Mitt Romney, according to figures from the State Board of Elections.
Two Wake County Board of Education members seeking statewide offices were trounced in local voting. State Auditor Beth Wood defeated Republican Debra Goldman by a 65 to 35 percent margin, while Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson topped Republican John Tedesco by 62 to 38 percent.
Neither Goldman nor Tedesco were able to overcome such poor showings, losing their respective races.
Other interesting Wake County results: The county was evenly split between Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, and 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers was defeated in the county by Democratic challenger Steve Wilkins.
10:05 p.m.: Tension building at Obama, Romney headquarters
WRAL News reporters Bryan Mims in Boston and Ken Smith in Chicago report that tension is building at the respective headquarters of Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
The crowds at both headquarters are focused on giant video screens that are broadcasting election results. Every time their candidate wins a state, cheers erupt. Every state that goes for the opponent brings anxious murmurs.
9:55 p.m.: First incumbent congressman falls
Eighth District Congressman Larry Kissell has conceded defeat in his re-election bid. Republican Richard Hudson held a 56 to 42 percent lead, with 80 percent of precincts reporting.
"Things didn’t work out as we had hoped, but as I told Richard earlier on the phone, he'll be representing some of the best people in the world," Kissell said in a statement. "I'll be working with Richard to make sure we have a seamless transition so that our folks who need help will be ensured the world- class constituent service they deserve and have come to expect."
9:50 p.m.: Many Wake County early votes uncounted
Elections officials say that, because of technological issues, they cannot count the thousands of early votes cast in Wake County until Election Day votes have been tallied.
Those results could impact some local races.
9:40 p.m.: Romney's road gets tougher
CBS News has projected President Obama will win the battleground states of Wisconsin and New Hampshire. Their analysis projects that Mitt Romney will have to run the table and win every other swing state to capture the presidency.
9:30 p.m.: More congressional incumbents heading back to D.C.
WRAL News has declared the following incumbents as winners in their congressional races: Renee Ellmers in 2nd District, David Price in 4th District, Patrick McHenry in 10th District and Mel Watt in 12th District.
Those are in addition to Congressmen G.K. Butterfield in the 1st District and Howard Coble in the 6th District that were already called.
9:20 p.m.: U.S. House to remain in GOP control
CBS News projects that Republicans will keep a majority in the U.S. House. So far, the GOP has secured 174 seats of the 218 needed for majority. Republicans gained a 51-member advantage in 2010's midterm elections.
9 p.m.: Orange transit tax wins
Orange County voters have overwhelmingly approved a half-cent increase to the local sales tax rate to generate money for public transit projects. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the tax won by a 59 to 41 percent margin.
"With today’s vote of confidence, two of the three counties served by Triangle Transit are moving forward with expanding their bus networks locally and regionally and beginning work on a light rail connection between Chapel Hill and downtown Durham," Triangle Transit General Manager David King said in a statement.
Durham County voters approved a similar transit tax last year. Wake County officials haven't put a tax proposal on the ballot yet.
8:40 p.m.: Incumbents win at least two congressional seats
The Associated Press has declared 1st District Congressman and G.K. Butterfield and 6th District Congressman Howard Coble the winners of their respective re-election campaigns. The AP also is reporting that former U.S. Attorney George Holding has won the 13th Congressional District.
Fourth District Congressman David Price also appears poised for another term, winning more than 70 percent of the vote with 60 percent of the precincts reporting.
8:30 p.m.: McCrory camp celebrating
The Associated Press and Fox News have projected that Pat McCrory will be North Carolina's next governor, sending up cheers at McCrory's campaign headquarters in Charlotte.
Only 25 percent of precincts have reported statewide, so WRAL News isn't prepared to put the race in McCrory's column yet.
House Majoity Leader Paul Stam said a McCrory victory would mean North Carolina's legislative process would be completely in Republican hands for the first time since Reconstruction 143 years ago.
8:20 p.m.: Black voters out in force for Obama
CBS News exit polling shows that 96 percent of black voters in North Carolina are backing a second term for President Obama, which is even stronger than the 95 percent who voted for him four years ago.
Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer said such turnout raises the possibility for Obama to carry the state again, which would enhance his re-election chances. Most political observers had put the state in Romney's column in recent weeks, Schieffer said.
8:15 p.m.: Mixed results for Wake school board members
The two members of the Wake County Board of Education seeking statewide office were trailing the Democratic incumbents in their races, while a third running for state House is poised for victory.
With 16 percent of precincts reporting, State Auditor Beth Wood and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson hold 54 to 46 percent leads over Debra Goldman and John Tedesco, respectively. Meanwhile, Republican Chris Malone held a 56 to 44 percent lead over Democrat Lori Millberg in the House District 35 race with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting.
8 p.m.: Wake Tech bonds winning big
With 122 of 200 precincts reporting, 71 percent of Wake County voters are in favor of issuing $200 million in bonds so Wake Technical Community College and upgrade and expand its campuses and facilities.
Wake Tech President Stephen Scott said the bonds are needed for the school to keep up with the growing area population and its educational and workforce training needs.
7:45 p.m.: McCrory grabs early lead
Initial vote totals from the State Board of Elections give Republican Pat McCrory a 53 to 45 percent edge over Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton in the gubernatorial race.
David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh, said those early numbers don't play well for Dalton since they likely reflect some early voting results, which is typically a Democratic stronghold.
Republicans did a much better job at piling up votes in the early period than they did in 2008, McLennan said. Also, McCrory's coattails could help other Republicans running for statewide office.
7:30 p.m.: Polls close in NC
The waiting game begins as polls close statewide. For some people, the waiting is literal, as they remain in line trying to cast their ballots at some polling sites.
Meanwhile, other states' results are beginning to roll in. CBS News has already projected Mitt Romney will win in Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, while President Obama will take Vermont. None of the states are among the key battlegrounds, and none of the projections is surprising.
7 p.m.: Obama campaign fighting for every NC vote
Obama campaign officials believe North Carolina will be the closest election margin nationwide, and they are advising voters to remain in line at polls past the 7:30 p.m. closing time to get every possible vote they can.
6:10 p.m.: Warm up in the voting booth
Tom Murry, first-term state representative Tweeted to his followers, "It's cold outside but you've got 90 minutes to heat up the voting booth for our children's future. #NCVotes #nc41 #NCGA #ncelex #ncpol"
5 p.m.: Media set in Raleigh, Chicago
WRAL News reporters Sloane Heffernan at North Carolina Democratic Party headquarters in Raleigh and Ken Smith covering the Obama campaign in Chicago shared photos of media preparations for election night.
Sloane's photo shows a bank of news cameras set up at the Marriott hotel in downtown Raleigh.
Ken's photo shows him in an ad hoc audio booth to record his voice for an evening news story.
3:02 p.m.: Proud voters take to Twitter
The election provides a shared experience for Americans and those on Twitter were using it Tuesday to tout their preferences and concerns.
A North Carolina State University program tracking Tweets by keyword showed mentions o the presidential candidates neck and neck throughout the afternoon, with the words "vote," "elected" and "win" trending strongly. Check out the Twitter visualization
1:20 p.m.: Dalton makes a poll stop
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton stopped by Southern High School in Durham as part of a last-ditch swing through the state today. Dalton, a Democrat, is running against Republican Pat McCrory for governor.
"I feel good," said Dalton, who was wearing a blue blazer and no overcoat as he greeted voters on a chilly afternoon. "I thought this was enough," he said.
Nearby, Nekel Satterfield handed out literature for the Democratic Party, giving a boisterous hello to all those who arrived, especially first-time voters.
"Oooh, let's hear it for Miss Chelsey," Satterfield said as she greeted Chelsey Vaughan, 18, a student at Durham Technical Community College.
Satterfield said this year is her first working for voters, and said she was recruited because of her upbeat personality.
Asked why she gives a standing ovation to first-time voters, Satterfield explained: "My daughter was a first-time voter."
1p.m.: Soldier advocates for voter ID after ballot confusion
Even as the election seemed to go smoothly in most places, there were periodic reports of problems throughout the day.
Rafael Beltran, a staff sergeant in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg, said he went to vote today only to get a surprise.
"They told me I already voted," he said. "I told them, 'There's no way I voted. I've been in California the past three weeks,'" Beltran said.
Beltran, a communications specialist, said he has been on vacation and had not voted an absentee ballot.
"It seems like fraud or something," Belltran said, adding that he was allowed to cast a provisional ballot.
Officials with Cumberland County Board of Elections did not immediately return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
However, a check of the state's voter registration database shows only one Rafael Beltran in Cumberland County.
"There needs to be a way for them to check ID or something," Beltran said.
2:41 p.m. update: Election officials say poll workers made a mistake when they told Beltran he had already voted.
“I do not show him voting by absentee,” Cumberland County Election Director Terri Robertson wrote to the State Board of Elections in an e-mail. Most likely, she said, a poll worker accidentally hit a button that put him in the already voted category.
Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, says it’s almost certain the provisional ballot that Beltran cast will count.
“This is not someone voting for him. This is a screw up,” Bartlett said.
12:35 p.m.: Voters share photos as they cast ballots
From before-dawn lines to hand-shaking with candidates, voters shared their photos of Election Day 2012.
11:45 a.m.: Board of Elections teams ready to fix problem machines
During a stop at the Republican party's north Raleigh headquarters, a volunteer passes on that they've had a report of a broken vote-tabulating machine at the Unitarian Church on Wade Avenue. Wake County uses paper ballots, which voters typically feed into a machine before they leave a polling place.
"Every election we'll have a jam or two," said Gary Sims, deputy director of the Wake County Board of Elections. He didn't speak directly to the problem at the church, but he said that it's not an uncommon problem.
Wake County, Sims says, has teams on the road with replacement machines that can be dispatched to any of their more than 200 locations. Once there is a report of the problem, technicians go to either fix or replace the broken tabulator.
In the mean time, polling places are instructed to store ballots in an "emergency box." Those ballots that are stored will be entered into the tabulator before the end of the day, typically during a period when voting slows down, he said.
11:30 a.m.: Busy day for Republican Party volunteer
Donna Williams, a self-described "busy grandma of seven," was helping coordinate volunteers at the Republican Party's north Raleigh campaign office on Spring Forest Road.
She said the day off from school for Wake County students hasn't hurt her volunteer corps' numbers.
"We have a lot of moms out there with children at the polls – and a dad with his daughter. Those kids are involved," she said.
Williams, who said she was up at 4 a.m., has had people who are registered Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated volunteer to work the polls.
"They tell me 'This isn't about Republican or Democrat, this is about America.' That's something I hear over and over,'" she said.
As volunteers came in, Williams and her colleagues sent them out to understaffed polls or to their phone bank to turn out voters and offer rides to the polls.
"This is most energized that I've seen, and I've been doing this for years," she said.
10:30 a.m.: Big Romney sign on display in Cary
James Powers arrived at the Cary polling site on Good Hope Church Road before the polls opened at 6:30 a.m. to hold a 4- by 8-foot sign backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"I got my first 4-by-8 sign for George Bush," Powers said, adding that he was referring to the elder Bush who ran in 1988.
"I held a sign all day that year, and then my daughter was born that night," he said.
Powers, a landscape contractor who ran for Congress in the Republican primary in 2004, said he's backing Romney because the banking laws supported by President Barack Obama make it hard for small businesses to get loans.
Asked if people at the polls were friendly, Powers said yes and quickly drew attention to a letter that had recently been left in his mailbox.
Four years ago, the letter writer said, he or she had taken a sign from Powers' yard.
"Please accept the money enclosed to buy yourself a Romney sign if you wish," the letter said. "What I did was wrong, rude and insensitive."
A $10 bill was enclosed.
"When you're at the point where you think people don't have a heart anymore, God gives you that little glimmer," Powers said.
9:30 a.m.: Democrats, Republicans work side by side at Optimist Park
Over the summer, Republican Kristine Radloff was given an old box of costume jewelry. In it was a small, gold-ish donkey pin, obviously meant to be a Democratic symbol. She saved the pin until Tuesday morning, when she hand-delivered it to Mike Schaul, a Democratic precinct chairman.
"She said, 'You're my favorite Democrat, so I saved it for you,'" Schaul said.
The two were all smiles following the exchange. Radloff said she began working for candidates in 2006, when she was a teenager. Every time she's been at the poll, Schaul has been there working for the other side.
Schaul said most poll workers get along, even if they are from different parties.
"There's one guy who comes in and is kind of unpleasant, but he's already gone," Schaul said.
9 a.m.: Husband works hard to promote wife's candidacy
There was a slow but steady stream of voters heading into the Optimist Park polling location in Raleigh Tuesday morning, and many of them received fliers from Joe Major for a write-in candidate.
When asked why he was spending his time working for a long-shot, Major's chuckled.
"There's a simple answer. She's my wife," he said.
Apryl Major in running against Rep. Debra Ross (D-Wake) in state house district 34. Although she wasn't able to get enough signatures to be put on the ballot, she was still campaigning hard in the weeks before the election.
Joe Major said she'd be back on the trail in 2014 even if she falls short of her goal Tuesday.
8:30 a.m.: Man campaigns for judge who provided 'wake-up call'
Karash Skaggs, 39, was telling an interesting story to show support of incumbent Judge Abe Jones outside Millbrook Elementary School Tuesday morning. Skaggs first met Jones more than a decade ago.
"I was on the other side of the court room, let's say," Jones said.
Skaggs said he faced a number of larceny and other charges related to stolen goods, and said Jones provided a wake-up call for him.
"He said 'Something about your record says this is not you,'" Skaggs said. "I say it was prophetic, like a prophet. But to actually hear it, it was life-changing to me."
After spending 22 months in prison, Skaggs said he turned his life around. He works as a transporter in Rex Hospital's radiology department and works in prison ministry. He said he plans to be at the polls throughout the day, telling his story in support of Jones.
"They always say you want a judge who is fair," Skaggs said. "He was fair to me."
7:45 a.m.: Campaigning ends, voting begins
Polls are open across North Carolina, meaning that months of campaigning has come to an end.
WRAL multimedia investigative reporter Mark Binker captured this image outside Millbrook Elementary School early Tuesday, a reminder that the campaign portion of election season in 2012 has officially come to an end.
Poll workers and voters at Millbrook Elementary reported steady but quickly-moving traffic. Melissa Jeffries, 33, who just moved to Wake County, had to confirm her home address for poll workers but said the process was quick.
"It's more exciting this year," she said.
7:15 a.m.: Long lines at some polling places
Big crowds are expected to crowd polling places throughout the day, and the waits started early at some locations.
A WRAL-TV viewer submitted this photo from the Richland Creek Community Center in Wake Forest, where dozens were waiting about 7 a.m.
6:30 a.m.: Polls open across NC
The months of campaigning, negative ads, polling and political spin are over. Election Day has arrived.
For anyone who didn't cast an early ballot – and a record 2.55 million North Carolina voters did – polls open at 6:30 a.m. and will close at 7:30 p.m.
Undecided voters have no more time to deliberate and must make their selections as to who will lead the state and nation for the next few years.
In addition to the bitter battle for president between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, North Carolina voters will elect a new governor, 13 members of Congress, all House and Senate members in the North Carolina General Assembly, nine other statewide officials, four statewide judicial candidates and scores of local officials.
North Carolina is among eight to 10 swing states that could decide the presidency. Four years ago, Obama became the first Democrat to win the state in more than three decades, but a WRAL News poll released a week ago shows that Romney has a 50 to 45 percent edge over Obama.
Republican Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, had a 17-point lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton in the race to succeed Gov. Beverly Perdue, according to the poll. A win would make McCrory the first Republican governor in North Carolina in 20 years.
Control of the U.S. Senate could be as hotly contested as the presidential race, with 33 seats up for grabs after the Democrats held a slim 53-47 majority in the most recent Congress. The U.S. House is expected to remain firmly in Republican control.
Republicans also are expected to retain control – and possibly expand their majorities – in the state House and Senate because of favorable voting districts that GOP lawmakers drew last year.
In addition to officials, Wake County voters will have to decide whether to approve $200 million in bonds for Wake Technical Community College to upgrade and expand its facilities. Orange County voters face a referendum on raising the local sales tax rate by a half-cent to generate money for public transit projects, while voters in Harnett and Edgecombe counties will each decide whether to raise their sales taxes rates by a quarter-cent.