Candidates relaxed, upbeat amid strong turnout
A little hometown hoops for President Obama. A little last-minute campaigning and some fast food for Mitt Romney. The candidates for president of the United States engaged in entirely American activities Tuesday as the electorate — minus about 32 million citizens who already voted early — went to polls to pick their leader.
Turnout appeared to be high in many parts of the country, though perhaps not on par with 2008’s historic numbers. Some polling places had long waits, including in some of the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. And there were sporadic reports of trouble with voting machines and at least one allegation of voter intimidation.
In Chicago, after visiting with some volunteers in a field office and making a few calls to voters, the president was joined by former Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen and friends in a game against his education secretary, Arne Duncan, and some longtime friends and staff. The president’s team, according to his friend and temporary teammate Alexi Giannoulias, the former Illinois state treasurer and 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, won by “like 20,” with a final score of “like 102, 105, 108 or so to 80-something.”
Meanwhile, Romney was upbeat as he and his running mate Paul D. Ryan dropped by a phone bank in Richmond Heights, Ohio, where volunteers greeted him by singing “God Bless America.” For Romney, Ohio is nearly all important, as his path to victory will be extremely narrow without the state’s 18 electoral votes.
“It is all coming together today,” Romney told campaign volunteers. “This is a big day for big change. The country has been going in the wrong direction; we are going to steer it back onto a course that is going to help the American people have a brighter future.”
Later, the running mates had lunch at Wendy’s. Romney ordered a quarter-pounder, chili and a frosty.
Before returning to Boston, where Romney will wait for the election results, the former Massachusetts governor stopped off in Pennsylvania, a state most analysts expect will end up in the Democratic column. In Moon Township outside Pittsburgh, the sight of hundreds of people who lined up at an outdoor parking garage overlooking the tarmac underscored his confidence about his prospects.
“You know, intellectually, I’ve felt we’re going to win this, and have felt that for some time,” Romney later told reporters. “Just seeing people there cheering as they were connected emotionally with me. And I not only think we’re going to win intellectually, I feel it as well.”
Though there were many voting logistics skirmishes in many states leading up to the election – notably Ohio, where Republicans fought, mostly unsuccessfully, to put limits on early voting hours – voters exercised their democratic rights Tuesday in relative peace.
Voting rights advocates reported problems in New Jersey, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, among other places, although it was not possible to immediately verify all of those reports.
In New Jersey, problems stemming from Superstorm Sandy caused election computers to crash and some polling places were not able to open by late morning, according to Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She also said some poll workers were demanding identification from voters, in violation of state law.
Some Ohio voting machines crashed, she said. In Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo, voting machine scanners malfunctioned.
In Pinellas County, Fla., the county election office mistakenly placed hundreds, and possibly thousands, of automatic calls to voters erroneously telling them they had until 7 p.m. Wednesday to vote. A later call retracted the information.
Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, the youth-oriented organization, said her group had fielded numerous calls from young voters who were being told that they were not registered, despite their insistence that they had registered through Rock the Vote.
A video showing a Pennsylvania voter apparently thwarted by a video touch screen machine from voting for Obama went viral Tuesday, fanning fears about balloting shenanigans. Manufacturers of the machines have attributed such incidents to calibration problems. Voters can use other machines if the problems can’t be fixed, officials said.
Returns will roll in across the country east to west. On the East Coast, polls began closing at 3 p.m. Pacific time. On the West Coast, most polls will close at 8 p.m. Alaska polls close at 9 p.m. local time. It will be hours — maybe even days — before the winners are officially declared.
But experts will immediately start poring over the results to make educated guesses, based on preliminary returns and past voting patterns.
Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this report.
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