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US Voters Come Out in Big Numbers for Historic Election


Polls are open across the United States as voters line up to choose a new president and members of Congress. High turnout is reported at many polling stations. The last major preference polls showed Democrat Barack Obama with a significant advantage over Republican John McCain. VOA's Brian Wagner reports from Florida, one of several key states the candidates are hoping to win.

Voters streamed into libraries, government buildings and schools to cast ballots in an election many voters are saying is the most significant in the nation's history.

Some polling stations in eastern states like New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania reported long lines of voters who gathered before dawn to cast ballots.

Election officials say they expect massive turnout on Election Day, and they are asking voters to be patient and brace for possible delays.

Virginia resident Renu Ahluwalia got in line early Tuesday, and said she would arrive late to her job at the Department of Homeland Security "I just started my wait, but I was told it was up to an hour. I think no matter what time you came the lines were going to be long, but it is exciting. I am making up the hours later in order to come out here this morning," she said.

Officials in New Jersey said they were giving paper ballots to some voters because of problems with electronic voting machines. Other areas encountered minor problems, but officials voiced no major concerns.

Near Washington, American University law student, Angela Edmond, was part of a volunteer team working to make sure all people qualified to vote are able to do so. "There was only one problem with a man whose wife had applied for an absentee ballot, and she didn't receive it and she was given a hard time inside. She should be able to vote provisionally, but we're not sure, so we are waiting to see when she comes out," she said.

In Miami, college student Paul Torres, said he voted for Obama because of his economic policy, even though he considers himself a Republican. "It was not really a hard decision in this election, because I see people on television saying McCain is going to fix this. But he has the same strategies as George Bush," he said.

Fellow student Andres Suarez said he raced to the polls to vote for John McCain before his morning classes. "I voted today, very early in the morning. It was about an hour and a half [wait], but compared to other friends who waited five hours, it was not that bad," he said.

Long delays were common in Florida and some of the 29 other states that held early voting in recent weeks. Officials say early turnout was unprecedented with more than 40 million Americans casting their ballots before Election Day.

On the final day of campaigning, Barack Obama spoke to thousands of supporters in Virginia - a state no Democrat has won since 1964. "I've just got one question for you, Virginia. Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? Fired up? Ready to go? Fired up? Ready to go? Fired up? Ready to go? Virginia, let's go change the world. Thank you and God Bless the United States of America," he said.

Senator Obama is spending Election Day with his family in Illinois, before a major rally in Chicago later in the day.

Senator McCain is in his home state of Arizona after making a whirlwind tour of several crucial states on Monday.

At a rally in Indiana, he pointed to some polls showing that he held a narrow lead over his opponent. "We've got the momentum. We've the momentum my friends. We've got it!"

Final national polls showed the presidential contest was narrowing, but Obama held a comfortable lead of between five and 11 points.

Democrats also are expected to make gains in Congressional voting, which includes all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 in the 100 member Senate.

Most projections have Democrats expanding their current 36 seat House advantage by at least 20. Potential losses could give Democrats their strongest majority in 18 years, putting Republicans far below their current 199 seat minority.

Democrats would like to widen their current narrow 51-49 margin of control in the Senate to or near a 60-seat majority that could make it easier to win votes on legislation.

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