By the CNN Wire Staff
Long lines and sporadic problems with voting machines caused snags in some key states during Tuesday’s closely watched U.S. election.
Voters waited for up to four hours in Virginia and three hours in some parts of south Florida, leading some to walk away before casting a ballot.
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In Pinellas County, Florida, which includes St. Petersburg, officials had to send a corrective message to 12,000 absentee voters after an automated call told them they needed to get their ballot in “tomorrow.” The message was supposed to have gone out Monday, but was sent out Tuesday due to a computer glitch, said Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for the county supervisor of elections.
Several complaints came out of Pennsylvania, including two cases in which a voting machine had to be recalibrated after voters complained that it incorrectly displayed their vote for president. Election officials in the two counties where the incidents occurred said the voters were able to cast ballots for their intended candidate, and there were no further complaints once the machines were fixed.
In Philadelphia, nonpartisan election monitors from Philadelphia’s Committee of Seventy said two voting machines had broken down at one precinct on the city’s north side, forcing poll workers to issue provisional ballots. That slowed down an already long line, and at least 30 voters had dropped out, the group said.
A judge in the heavily Democratic city ordered election officials to cover a mural of President Barack Obama at one city school that was being used as a polling location Tuesday morning after Republicans complained the painting violated electioneering laws.
GOP poll monitors were being escorted into precincts by sheriff’s deputies after some observers had been denied access earlier in the day, said Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. As many as 64 of the monitors had been turned away before a judge ordered election officials to admit them, the local Republican Party chapter said.
One of the complaints about misbehaving electronic voting machines occurred in Millertown, in central Pennsylvania’s Perry County, where election officials said they recalibrated the unit after one voter recorded a video of it registering a vote for Obama as one for his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
The video drew thousands of comments on YouTube and was first confirmed by NBC News. But Ron Ruman, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office, told CNN the machine was taken offline after the man complained about it, election workers recalibrated it and there have been no more complaints.
A second complaint emerged later Tuesday in Lewisburg, in nearby Union County. Andy Hirsch told CNN that he pressed the box to select Obama several times, only to see the machine indicate a vote for Romney. Hirsch also captured the scene on video, showing him pressing the Obama box several times before the vote registered correctly.
Hirsch said he reported the problem to a volunteer poll worker who was calm and receptive to the issue and told him the machine had been having problems all day.
“I thought, gee, that’s probably not the reaction to have when casting a ballot for president of the United States,” he said. The worker suggested he use a pencil eraser to finish his ballot, but the video he shot shows the same issue. Hirsch said he saw workers shutting down the machine as he left.
Greg Katherman, Union County’s director of elections, confirmed there was an issue with one voting machine, but said there were no further issues after the machine was recalibrated.
In Covington, Virginia, a small town north of Roanoke, city officials reported problems with the programming of their voting machines and switched to paper ballots, the state Board of Elections reported.
In New Jersey, state officials allowed voters displaced by Superstorm Sandy last week to cast ballots electronically or by fax. But they extended their deadline to submit those votes until Friday amid numerous complaints about the system.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union went to court Tuesday afternoon on behalf of voters who said their requests for an electronic ballot weren’t being acknowledged.
“What’s happening is they’re not receiving any sort of response from their respective county election officials,” said Katie Wang, a spokeswoman for the group.
Voters still had to submit an application to vote electronically by 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to an executive order signed by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. But they had until 8 p.m. Friday to submit the ballots, the order states.
And in New York, which was also smacked by Sandy, polling stations around New York City saw long, slow-moving lines.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s last-minute decree that any voter could vote at any precinct, a move intended to help those displaced by Sandy, made it “a little insane right now” at the polling station at Public School 41 in Greenwich Village, a poll coordinator there told CNN Tuesday afternoon.
“So we have everybody coming in from everywhere,” said the coordinator, a Republican who asked not to be named. “It was for displaced people, but others are taking advantage of it.”
CNN’s Brad Rhoads, Ann Colwell, Sarah Hoye and Courtney Yager contributed to this report.
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