Lines stretched around buildings and blocks. Some machines malfunctioned, yet overall, voting appeared to go smoothly.
There were long lines, computer glitches, the occasional argument and even a few lawsuits. But the process of voting in Tuesday's presidential election -- which may set a record for turnout -- was relatively smooth, with no reports of catastrophic failures that kept large numbers of people from casting a ballot.
Voters waited as long as seven hours in some precincts in Virginia, and five hours in a mostly black section of north St. Louis County, Mo., as poll workers and machines became overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.
Election officials in Virginia reported lines of up to a half-mile long in Petersburg, south of Richmond. In Philadelphia and Detroit, lines stretched over 1,000 people long, while electronic malfunctions were reported in Cleveland and in Kansas City, Mo.
Despite the scattered problems, patient voters held steadfast in their passion to participate, many for the first time, undeterred by rain, sore feet or the long waits.
Voting experts and election officials estimated that about 130 million voters cast ballots, which would be the highest percentage turnout in a century, and would shatter the record of 123.5 million people who cast ballots four years ago.
Election officials said one of the reasons lines moved quickly in many states was the large number of people -- about 29 million -- who cast their ballots early in the last few weeks, or who voted absentee.
A national hot line received more than 60,000 complaints, led by calls from battleground states such as Florida, with about 2,500 complaints, Pennsylvania (2,600), Ohio (1,800), New York (5,000) and California (4,000).
The biggest complaints were about the long lines. Voters also called about broken voting machines -- particularly in Pennsylvania and Virginia -- and paper ballot problems, including cases in rain-drenched Virginia where some voters dripped water onto their paper ballots, causing them to be rejected by the optical scanning machine.
A half-dozen or so counties in Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania kept polling places open late for a variety of reasons, including delays in voting that were caused by a bomb scare, fire alarms and poll workers not having enough ballots. Idaho counties were photocopying extra ballots Tuesday afternoon after preprinted stocks run low.
For many voters, especially in states such as Florida and Ohio with a history of voting problems, things were mercifully uneventful. "It took me longer to park than to vote," said Brian Smyth of Cincinnati. "I would like to thank all the early voters for clearing out of my procrastinating way."
Fears not realized
Last-minute lawsuits challenging election procedures were lodged Tuesday in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, New Hampshire and Ohio. But election law specialists said that potential problems at the polls had been averted by nearly a dozen lawsuits nationwide filed in recent weeks, in which federal and state courts upheld the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of voters.
"From the national view, we just haven't had the kind of breakdowns people feared," said Doug Chapin, director of electionline.org, a nonpartisan project that monitors election administration.
The logistics of voting have emerged as a large-scale partisan and legal issue since the 2000 election, in which George W. Bush's victory hinged on a series of court rulings about the handling of ballots in Florida.
In 2002, Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act to try to smooth out election procedures, getting rid of outdated voting machines. But parts of the law are controversial and still being put into place.
With touchscreen machines falling out of favor, an increasing number of the nation's voters -- just over half -- on Tuesday used paper ballots read by optical scanners that produce a paper trail in the event of disputes.
For the most part, the mood among voters was determined and celebratory. Ian Comer, a 22-year-old Army private, drove 18 hours from Fort Benning, Ga., to cast his ballot in Princeton, W.Va., then drove straight back. In Hilton Head Island, S.C., a pregnant woman went into labor in a long voting line, her contractions coming three minutes apart as she was escorted to the front of the line to cast her ballot before she was rushed to a hospital.
In Alexandria, Va., Ahmed Bowling was not deterred by a very long line. "What matters," she said, "is to cast my vote."
The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press contributed to this report.veep candidates make their mark Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin returned to where her political career began to cast her vote at the snow-dusted, two-story city hall where she once presided as a small-town mayor.