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05.11.2008 US & Canada

Record turnout reported in Ohio and Virginia

Record turnout reported in Ohio and Virginia
NOV 5, 2008 US & CANADA

Some polling places looked deserted, while others looked as if they were handing out free money, as voters across the nation - including Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama - hit the polls in a historic election Tuesday.

June Smith says she was surprised Tuesday to find her Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, polling place empty.

When the ballots are counted, the United States will have elected either its first African-American president, or its oldest first-term president and first female vice president.

"It feels great to be an American today. The best hour and a half of my life," exclaimed Jude Elliot, an 8th-grade social studies teacher in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Elliot, who has been voting in Orangeburg since 1998, said it usually takes him five minutes to vote, but on Tuesday it took about 90 -- and he arrived at 6:45 a.m.

"Polling station was packed -- young, old, black, white, disabled, not," he said. "It was amazing."

But high turnout was not necessarily a theme at every polling station around the country.

June Smith, an iReporter in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, said there was no line when she arrived at her polling place.

"I was surprised," she said.

iReporter Jason Dinant also said there were no lines at his polling place in Syracuse, New York.

Most iReporters, however, said there were long lines and waits as they prepared to cast their ballots.

Indeed, footage from Shoesmith Elementary in Chicago, Illinois -- where Obama voted -- and from Albright United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Arizona -- where McCain voted -- showed plenty of voters in line besides the presidential candidates.

iReporter Lindsey Miller, 23, votes at the same polling place as Obama. She said Secret Service agents were checking names off a list and using metal-detecting wands on some would-be voters as they entered the polling place. The line was around the block at 6 a.m., she said.

"A lot of people were in pajamas. I know I was -- not the time you want to be on national TV," the University of Chicago graduate student said.

iReporter Lynn Linnemeier said it took her about two hours to vote in southwest Atlanta.

"The line wrapped all the way around the front of the building and into the back parking lot," said Linnemeier, whose 9- and 16-year-old granddaughters woke up early to join her at the polls.

In Catonsville, Maryland, iReporter Jennifer Shelton said, "Everybody is so excited." She had to wait almost 40 minutes to vote because of long lines. In past elections, it has taken her about 10 minutes.

Some voters, however, had no point of comparison because this is their first election.

iReporter Juan Bedoya Castano, 24, of Northampton, Pennsylvania, emigrated from Colombia to the United States 15 years ago, but he just became a citizen last month. He said he waited in line about an hour, texting his friends to remind them to vote as well.

"I've never voted for something and this actually means something," Castano said.

Ronnie Senique, a math teacher from Landover, Maryland, said he, too, is voting his first U.S. presidential race. Senique is originally from the Bahamas, but he became a U.S. citizen about three years ago.

He got up well before dawn and was the first one at the polls when he arrived at 4:10 a.m., almost three hours before the polls opened. By the time he left, he said, "The lines were around the corner. They snaked around the school. They went into the street."

Those standing in line to vote gave him a round of applause after he cast his first ballot in an American presidential election.

McCain and Obama, meanwhile, hit the campaign trail after casting their ballots.

McCain is scheduled to make visits to Grand Junction, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Colorado and New Mexico both voted for President Bush in 2004, but the latest polls have them leaning toward Obama.

Obama's schedule includes a stop in Indianapolis before he returns to Chicago, where he plans to play basketball - something he's done on past election days.

Americans are expected to head to the polls in record numbers Tuesday, election officials have predicted.

In Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, 100 percent of registered voters - all 21 of them -- cast their ballots just after midnight in the first moments of Tuesday morning. For the first time in 40 years, the town voted Democratic in the presidential election, 15 to 6.

Reports of minor problems and delays in opening polls began surfacing early Tuesday, shortly after polls opened on the East Coast. Among them: Palm Beach, Florida, reported minor sporadic voter machine failures, and wet voters in rainy Chesapeake, Virginia, were being asked to dry off before voting because they were getting their optical-scan ballots wet, according to election officials in those locales.

CNN is asking people to call its Voter Hotline at 1-877-GO-CNN-08 (1-877-462-6608) if they witness any problems or irregularities.

Record numbers have already cast ballots in early voting. As of Monday, more than 24 million people had voted. Election experts predicted more than a third of the electorate would have voted before the polls opened on Election Day.

The 2008 presidential election has proved to be the most expensive in history.

Obama repeatedly shattered fundraising records by soliciting donations over the Internet. As of Monday, Obama had raised more than $454 million, compared with the $230 million raised by McCain.

As McCain and Obama emerged from their parties' conventions, the race was essentially a tossup, with McCain campaigning on his experience and Obama on the promise of change. But the race was altered by the financial crisis that hit Wall Street in September.

Obama began to pull away in the polls nationally as well as in key battleground states. A CNN poll of polls calculated on Monday showed Obama leading McCain 51 percent to 44 percent with 5 percent undecided.

Obama also opened a lead in the race for electoral votes. As of Monday, CNN estimated Obama would win 291 electoral votes and McCain would win 157, with 90 electoral votes still up for grabs.

Source: CNN