The 2004 presidential election may prove that, along with perhaps a voter identification card, Americans should have an attorney present when they go to the polls.
Lawsuits over which votes would count were being decided as Election Day turned into night. Voting machine malfunctions were reported across the country. Polling precincts ran out of provisional ballots. And terror fears, one of the major themes of the presidential campaigns, closed precincts in Arizona and New Jersey.
Huge turnout combined with the heightened passions that come with a nail-biter made for a volatile combination in some precincts. Activists were accused of taunting and otherwise harassing people waiting to vote. A Democratic official in Cleveland said he was thrown out of a church basement by a screaming poll judge. And in Florida, two Bush supporters complained they were punched, pushed, shoved and spat on by Democrats.
People who arrived at polling places in time found themselves still waiting in line to vote as many Americans were home watching the election returns on TV. The long waits — two to three hours, according to multiple reports — were enough to make some would-be voters give up.
Lindsey Graham, who had stood in line for 2½ hours at the University of Miami, which only had five voting machines, walked away because she needed to study but said she might try again later.
"I'm voting for Kerry if I ever get in there," she said.
Laila Hlass, a Columbia University law student who traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, with election-watchers Impact 2004, told FOXNews.com that long lines resulting from too few machines or booths topped the list of voter complaints.
Among the irregularities reported in the battleground Buckeye State was a poll worker who refused to help a colleague because of the first-time worker's party affiliation, and a poll worker who told Democrats they could use only certain voting machines, Hlass said.
Even after President Bush (search) or John Kerry (search) emerges as the undisputed victor, it's clear that lawsuits over everything from physical assault to election fraud will abound in the coming days.
It's Not Over on Election Day
Some problems that popped up on Tuesday will likely become points of contention in the weeks ahead.
More Machines and Ballots, Please
A spike in voter turnout meant hours-long waits at precincts used to accommodating fewer people.
Observers at some polling locations in Miami-Dade County in Florida said waits in some areas exceeded three hours. In Tampa, retired postal service executive Bill Dennis, 65, said the lines were longer than any he'd ever seen. "I usually just walk right in and can vote without any lines," he said.
Students at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, endured a seven-hour wait to vote at a precinct with just two electronic voting machines.
Paper ballots were delivered to speed things up, but lines remained more than five hours long. Those who arrived before polls closed were permitted to stick around to vote.
"We're trying to find out how many people are still out there. We've estimated finishing between now and 2 or 3 a.m," said Bill Moody, a member of the Knox County elections board.
Jocelyn Travis of Ohio Election Protection said there were reports that voting machines were broken or in short supply.
"It's been extremely busy," she said. "We've got a lot of problems on the ground."
Ohio Democrats filed a lawsuit against the state board of elections in Franklin and Knox counties on Tuesday, claiming the board did not make enough voting booths available, party official Dan Trevas told FOX News.
Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart said that Ohio Democratic precincts reported voter turnout at 115 percent of expectations, with Republican precincts hitting 94 percent.
An attorney volunteering for the Kerry campaign in Pittsburgh told a FOX News producer that polling places were running out of provisional ballots.
"It's a mess here .... We had a report from one location that 2½ hours after additional ballots were requested, they had not yet been delivered — that was before noon. Many people were turned away as a result," she said.
Some precincts had such a high voter turnout that officials said absentee ballot counting would be put off to later in the week.
Miami-Dade county officials said absentee ballots would not be tallied until Thursday.
In Pennsylvania, glitches prompted a week's extension for overseas absentee ballot returns. The ballots were sent out later than normal because of a challenge by Ralph Nader to be included on the Pennsylvania ballot, which was rejected.
Some servicemen and women stationed abroad had complained that absentee ballots arrived too late to make the Nov. 2 deadline.
And in Florida, a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union alleges that Florida election supervisors mailed out absentee ballots too late.
The suit, filed against Secretary of State Glenda Hood and election supervisors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, asks that completed absentee ballots mailed in the United States that arrive at county offices before Nov. 12 be counted. State law required those ballots to reach county offices by Tuesday night.
In New Mexico, a judge ordered that a ballot box containing about 200 absentee ballots not be counted.
Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera said there was a mixup and the box was not opened and stamped by the 7 p.m. deadline.
Judge Theresa Baca's ruling can be appealed, and the ballots will be sequestered.
Ohio Election Protection's Travis said the group was sending lawyers to investigate a precinct in a Hispanic neighborhood in Cleveland where several voters said they were forced to use provisional ballots. Those are counted later if officials verify that the voter was legally registered and in the correct precinct.
Travis said her group wants to make sure minority voters were not unfairly challenged or purposely left off rolls.
In Lake Andes, S.D., a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order directing Republican poll workers to stop writing down the license plate numbers of Native American voters and to stop following them, according to the Argus Leader newspaper.
In one Mississippi county, election officials were sent to a predominantly black precinct amid reports that voting machines were separated for Democrats and Republicans, and that GOP voters were allotted more machines, the Clarion-Ledger reported. The situation was later corrected.
And in states including Michigan and Minnesota, voters complained that volunteers with the left-leaning MoveOn.org were operating too close to polling places, with some even doubling as poll workers.
A court in Marion, Ohio, issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state's Democratic Party, two county Democratic Parties and America Coming Together from making misleading phone calls to voters.
Jason Mauk of the Ohio Republican Party told FOX News that an attorney for a county Democratic Party admitted that calls wrongly stating the date of the election and required voter documentation were made from the Marion headquarters of the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
The order restricts the Democrats from making calls "misstating the date of the November 2 election, directing them to the wrong location to which they should report to vote, telling such voters that they must bring certain documentation to the polls in order to vote, and suggesting to, telling to or implying to such voters that there are procedural and/or documentary hurdles they must overcome in order to vote in the November 2, 2004 election."
In Arizona, voters claimed they received calls instructing them to vote on Nov. 3 that were traced back to Tuscon's GOP headquarters, the Columbia Journalism Review reported. The Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights has filed a complaint with the FBI against the state's Republican party
Some of the phone-related charges may even result in jail time.
Former New Hampshire GOP director Chuck McGee and former president of GOP Marketplace Allen Raymond await sentencing after pleading guilty last summer for their role in jamming a voter hotline set up by the Democratic Party and a nonpartisan group in 2002.
At their plea hearings, they acknowledged speaking to an unidentified national political official — believed by Democrats to be James Tobin, President Bush's former New England campaign chairman — about the jamming. Lawyers for the two parties have been in and out of court over how much information can be disclosed during the investigations.
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At least one county in Florida is so overwhelmed by a larger-than-usual turnout that it will not even begin to count absentee ballots until later this week, FOX News has learned.
The state's election supervisor, Constance Kaplan, was told by officials in Miami-Dade County that the crush of balloting on Tuesday will put off a tally of mail-in votes until as late as Thursday. Republican strategists believe that if either candidate wins the state by a slim margin, the final count could very well tip the state to the other side.
Elsewhere in the Sunshine State it became evident that four years and $32 million couldn't produce a perfect Election Day.
Nine voting machines in a Boynton Beach precinct weren't plugged in properly, causing them to lose battery power along with as many as 37 votes.
Poll clerk Joyce Gold said voters seemed "very distressed" at the prospect of losing their votes.
"When it happened I was really panicking. They were panicking," Gold said.
Twenty-one touch-screen voting machines in Broward County were replaced because of technical problems, said Gisela Salas, the county's deputy supervisor of elections. At least one of the machines had shown votes cast for the wrong candidates.
Ben Wilcox, a spokesman for nonpartisan voting advocate Common Cause (search), said the organization's hotline has gotten more than 15,000 calls from voters in the state.
"It's hard to really say at this point whether there's going to be the overall disaster that there was in 2000," he said. "I do think we will have new election related issues to work on and address following this election."
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Ohio voters who did not receive absentee ballots before the Oct. 31 deadline could cast provisional ballots at the polls.
U.S. District Court Judge David Katz, reversing an earlier directive by the Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (search), ordered Blackwell to notify all the state's boards of elections within 30 minutes of the 3:01 p.m. EDT decision of the ruling.
The lawsuit was filed by Ohio resident Sarah White, with the help of the San Francisco-based Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights (search).
White is an 18-year-old student who works two jobs and takes a full load of classes. She said she could not travel home to Toledo to vote and requested an absentee ballot Oct. 1 that she never received despite verifying that the elections board had received her request well before the deadline.
The first voting complaints of the day were issued from the nation's first capital, Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania Republicans told FOX that four voting machines at four different polling locations were found to have more than 1,500 votes already registered on them, and wanted the machines confiscated for inspection.
And investigation by the city later found that the numbers were from a device that counted how many votes had ever been recorded on the machine, not how many would be cast Tuesday.
Also in Philadelphia, the Republican City Committee (search) filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to give them more time to challenge absentee ballots cast by Democrats. The suit demands that the city turn over a list of every Philadelphian who received an absentee ballot, and then delay counting any of their votes until at least Nov. 5 to give the GOP time to investigate whether any ballots were cast by ineligible voters.
Though it reconsidered asking a judge to bar election challengers from Detroit's polling places on Tuesday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search) will meet on Wednesday to decide if it will sue the Michigan Republican Party.
The civil rights group said it had received 35 complaints about Republican poll watchers harassing voters at eight or nine polling places in the city.
"You don't have the right to question, intimidate, harass or touch the electorate," said Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. "We don't want to wait until after the election to send up red flags."
Earlier on Tuesday, state Republicans filed suit against Detroit, accusing election workers of wrongfully expelling some GOP poll challengers from precincts. It also asked the Wayne County Circuit Court to order Detroit officials to remove members of MoveOn.org (search) from polling places, executive director Greg McNeilly said.
Activists charged thousands of New Orleans residents were disenfranchised by malfunctioning voting machines and less-than-knowledgeable poll workers, but a judge refused to grant a request for extended polling hours.
Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates gave no reason for denying a bid to keep the polls open two hours past the standard closing time until 10 p.m.
Alaina Beverly, an attorney with the Legal Defense Fund (search), which filed the suit, said her group had reports of machine malfunctions at 29 precincts, including one case in which no one could vote until 9 a.m.
"That caused long lines. That caused frustration and confusion. Many voters were frustrated and left their polling place," she said.
Precinct workers were forced to tell voters to come back because of problems including machines that did not boot up properly.
"New Orleans wins the award for the worst voting situation in the country when it comes from electronic voting machines," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (search).
But Louisiana's Republican Secretary of State Fox McKeithen said only six of New Orleans' 850 voting machines had mechanical problems, three of them because polling commissioners accidentally turned them off, meaning they could not be restarted. Replacement machines were delivered and voting continued as normal, he said.
A Hennepin County judge refused to grant a restraining order against Kerry-supporting group MoveOn.org.
State Republicans complained after reports that MoveOn activists were operating inside the 100-foot no-campaign zones around polling places. Judge Frank Connolly declined to intervene, saying it appeared poll judges were enforcing the law against electioneering properly.
Six women in Duluth said they were challenged by a GOP monitor who called police after an election judge cleared the women to vote. The women were eventually allowed to vote.
And in Red Lake, a Republican election monitor was ejected from a polling place.
Police Capt. Dwayne Dow said the chief election judge decided the GOP watcher "wasn't following the rules that were set" for conduct in precincts.
"The chief judge who handled these challenges was trying to deal with all the challenges but then it became a problem where she'd write things down and he'd do another one," Dow said. "It just became intimidating in there."
Giving a pre-dawn Election Day boost to the GOP, a federal appeals court early Tuesday cleared the way for political parties to challenge voters' eligibility at Ohio polling places. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to step in.
Overturning the orders of two federal judges, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) ruled 2-1 early Tuesday that the presence of Election Day challengers was allowed under state law. It granted emergency stays that will allow Republicans and Democrats one challenger per precinct each.
Plaintiffs' appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful. Early Tuesday, Justice John Paul Stevens (search), who handles appeals from Ohio, refused a request to stay the 6th Circuit decision.
Republicans say they wanted challengers in many polling places because of concerns about fraud. Democrats have accused the GOP of trying to suppress Democratic turnout. Hundreds of thousands of voters have been newly registered in a state Bush and Kerry both say they need to win.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.