Long lines, harassment for IDs plague voters

But it was unclear whether any flaws would affect results

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In Virginia and Texas, some voters waited in line for four hours. In Pennsylvania, there were inappropriate demands for official photo IDs. Recorded calls went out to Florida residents saying misleadingly that they had until 7 p.m. "tomorrow" to vote. And in Ohio, there seemed to be an unusually high number of provisional ballots, causing concern that they might not all get counted.

Election Day had its share of flaws and partisan disputes, but it was unclear Tuesday evening whether any would cause a major shift in the result or set the stage for a big lawsuit.

A judge in Galveston, Texas, ordered polls to stay open a bit late because of crowds, and there were court orders in Pennsylvania barring observers from interfering with voters. Still, the day was largely uninterrupted by judicial activity.

Legal action might follow later, once margins of victory in swing states were clearer. As for Election Day itself, the lack of court activity may have been because both Democrats and Republicans had trained and planned for months and were out in force watching poll workers -- and each other.

Liberal nonpartisan groups, gathered into an alliance called Election Protection, said they received more than 80,000 calls to their hotline seeking help from confused voters. The alliance, organized by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, had 5,000 lawyer volunteers in the field and 2,000 people on phones in 28 call centers in 80 jurisdictions.

One of their biggest concerns was the apparently large number of provisional ballots given to voters in Ohio, the state many considered the central battleground for the presidential election.

Provisional ballots are given when information presented by the voter does not match the registration roll or insufficient identification is presented. By law, provisional ballots must be counted if officials later determine the voter is legitimate. Many provisional ballots end up not getting counted.

At the Mother of Christ Church in Cincinnati, there was frustration among those advised to use such ballots.

"I don't want to vote provisionally -- I want to vote for real," Canessa Harrell, 42, told poll workers. She said poll workers at another precinct had told her to come to Mother of Christ Church to vote, but when she arrived there, she was not listed in the rolls for the precinct.

"Will my vote count?" she asked.

"It will still count," said a worker, following Ms. Harrell, who had decided to leave instead.

Another woman, Shanika Jones, 22, stood with her two young children waiting to vote, only to learn that she would also have to cast her vote on a provisional ballot. She had applied to vote by mail weeks ago, she said later, but forgot to send that ballot in and figured that she could still vote in person Tuesday.

In Columbus, Annie Womack, volunteering for the NAACP to watch polls, said she saw people walk away rather than agree to wait in another line and receive a provisional ballot. In Ohio in 2008, about 20 percent of provisional ballots were discarded.

Latino voters said they faced daunting lines in Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and especially South Florida, but many Latino leaders said the wait was largely a result of robust turnout.

"Latino community members are convinced this is a critical election for their issues, and they are going to vote no matter what," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, a Latino mobilization network.

The misleading phone calls to 12,500 voters in Pinellas County, Fla., saying they had till "tomorrow" to vote, was an error, according to a spokeswoman for the county supervisor of elections. She said the calls had started going out Monday night and inadvertently continued Tuesday. Corrections were issued.

In New Jersey and parts of New York, the Hurricane Sandy left some stuck without heat, gas or electricity, making voting an exceptional burden and causing worry that the vote tallies would slide down.

And in Fulton County, Ga., which includes Atlanta, some machines failed to operate, and there were too few workers. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said through a spokesman that the situation was "extremely concerning." Some voters there, too, had to use provisional paper ballots until glitches at dozens of polling places were resolved.

electionspresident


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