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Record Voter Turnout Expected To Cause Polling Problems

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email
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A likely record voter turnout on Election Day has polling officials across the country braced for problems, and some difficulties surfaced early Tuesday as people turned out in droves even before balloting began in Eastern Seaboard states.

Voters needed to use paper ballots because of problems with electronic voting machines in some New Jersey precincts, and in Virginia, long lines of voters waited longer than necessary in one instance because, poll workers said, the head of a branch library had overslept.

If New York sets a pattern, voting turnout definitely will be higher than ever. Many people began lining up as early as 4 a.m. at some polling places to avoid long lines, leading to erroneous reports that some sites were not opening on time.

Pennsylvania voters were urged to "hang in there" as state and county officials braced for a huge turnout. More than 160 people were lined up to vote by the time polls opened at one location.

Officials in Ohio were again dealing with typical glitches, like jammed backup paper tapes on voting machines.

Republican John McCain's campaign sued the Virginia electoral board hours before polls opened, trying to force the state to count late-arriving military ballots from overseas.

McCain, a former POW from the Vietnam War, asked a federal judge to order state election officials to count absentee ballots mailed from abroad that arrive as late as Nov. 14.

Lawsuits have become common fodder in election battles. The 2000 recount meltdown in Florida was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Ohio, there was the turmoil in 2004 over malfunctioning machines and long lines was beset by litigation.

What is uncommon about Tuesday's contest is the sheer number of voters expected to descend on more than 7,000 election jurisdictions across the country.

Lines stretching around buildings and lasting for hours have already plagued many states with early voting, including Florida, Georgia and Colorado.

About 50 percent of those going to the polls Tuesday will vote on a new system — something voting advocates fear may confuse folks. Armies of lawyers dispatched by political parties and candidates McCain and Democrat Barack Obama will monitor polling places looking for signs of vote tampering and voter intimidation.

Extra ballots and additional touch-screen machines have been dispatched by voting officials across the country. Still, voting advocates worry that those efforts aren't enough.

"We have a system that is traditionally set up for low turnout," said Tova Wang of the government watchdog group Common Cause. "We're going to have all these new voters, but not a lot of new resources. The election directors just have very little to work with."


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