Obama scripts history; becomes 1st US Prez to vote early

Washington: Barack Obama scripted history when he cast his ballot 12 days ahead of the November 6 polls, becoming the first sitting US President to vote early in the election described by him as an "extremely tight" race between him and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

Amidst his hectic electioneering schedule, 51-year-old Obama flew in from Richmond in Virginia to cast his vote at the Martin Luther King Community Center in his home town of Chicago yesterday.

As Obama entered the polling booth, he greeted everybody and said it is exciting to get to vote early. "This is the first time a President's ever going to be early voting," he said. "That's pretty exciting."

After a woman election official asked for his driver's licence for identification purposes, he said: "Oh, you're right" and took out his driver's licence from his pocket. "Now ignore the fact that there's no grey hair in that picture," he said in a lighter vein.

Following this, the election official asked him a question about paperwork, something about whether it was the right form he had, according to a White House pool report. "I assume it is," he replied. "I hope so. If not, this will be really embarrassing."

While waiting, he asked if they had been getting a lot of early voters and was told they were. "It makes such a difference," he said. Then he remarked, "I'm just glad I renewed my driver's license."

According to the pool report, the woman, who took his licence, held it up and gave it the sort of skeptical examination a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer would.

Obama laughed. "Did you see that?" he said, then mimicked her looking over the licence.

Thereafter, Obama was brought over to one of the voting stations. It took him about three or four minutes to go through the apparently long ballot, including down-ballot races.

Then a poll worker helped him through the process of finalising the vote, which seemed involved and took a couple more minutes. During this process, the poll worker's phone rang, much to his embarrassment.

"Is that your wife?" Obama asked. No, he said, "That's my wife," pointing to a woman across the room.

"I just wanted to make sure," Obama said. "Always take that phone call," he added.

The other voters, no longer even pretending to work on their ballots, recorded the scene with their smart phones. When he was done, Obama asked, "I voted?" The poll worker said, "Yes, sir."

Obama gave his testimonial to early voting, then asked if it was okay to take a picture with all the poll workers. "I don't want to break any laws in front of this many cameramen," he said. The local election official said it was okay and pictures were taken.

Earlier in the day, Obama in an email to his supporters said that he is going to vote early. "This afternoon, I'm casting my ballot in my hometown of Chicago. I'm told I'll be the first sitting president to take advantage of early voting," he said.

"Look, this race is extremely tight. It's going to come down to which side can more effectively turn out the vote in these final days, and early vote is a huge part of that."

"Whether people get out to vote this year, in this election, is even more critical than the last time around. So this is serious, and I'm going to need your help if we want to win," said Obama who, according to snap polls, won two of the three high-stake presidential debates against his Republican challenger Romney.