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Vote machines crash in Ohio

EAST CLEVELAND, United States (AFP) - Early trouble with crashing electronic voting machines sparked immediate problems in some areas as US elections again went ahead amid fears of delays and polling irregularities.

In one elementary school in the predominently black district of East Cleveland, Ohio, all 12 machines went down when voting opened at 6:30 am (1130 GMT), according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

The machines were not started up until two hours later and poll officials refused to hand out paper ballots until a lawyer for the watchdog group Election Protection showed up.

"The machines weren't working and they were just turning people away," said the attorney, Fred Livingstone. "They are not allowed to do that."

More than 250 problems were reported at polling places in Ohio soon after polls opened according to an Election Protection watchdog operation run by a minority rights group and other non-governmental organisations.

Ohio was the epicenter of controversy during the 2004 elections, as Democrats charged voter fraud incidents disproportionately helped Republicans.

Democrats Tuesday hoped a strong countrywide showing would help them break the Republican hold on Congress and punish
President George W. Bush over the war in

In one polling station in Friendship Heights, Maryland just outside Washington, one of the 16 voting machines on offer failed as soon as the polls opened.

Others worked well, but did not assuage voter concerns about whether their vote cast by electronic machines was safe.

"They are very user friendly and there is good support, but I still wish they had a printout," said voter Chris Strom told AFP after casting her ballot.

Up to 250 incidents were also reported through a voter hotline and by poll watchers in states including New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to the Election Protection database partly maintained by the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Though the site did not give specifics, problems included glitches at polling places and worries over registration of voters.

Both Republicans and Democrats sent battalions of lawyers and poll watchers out observe booths, especially in areas expected to see voting problems, to immediately challenge any perceived problems.

Department of Justice also dispatched 800 lawyers to certain jurisdictions "to ensure that everything with regard to federal laws is being complied with."

Tens of thousands of lawyers were recruited for the 2004 presidential election in which George W. Bush was re-elected, four years after the Republican defeated Democratic candidate
Al Gore in a hotly contested vote.

The 2000 election turned to catastrophe when the results in the decisive state of Florida were contested and held in limbo for 36 days of recounts and litigation.
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