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Columbia Missourian

Missouri polling sites report long lines, heavy turnout

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER/The Associated Press
November 4, 2008 | 4:16 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Turnout appeared on track to set records Tuesday despite a mix-up with voter registration books in Kansas City and fraudulent text messages and "robo-calls" telling Democrats to stay home until Wednesday.

Lines began snaking around polling sites before dawn with some early voters reporting waits of two hours or more. Volunteers at some sites offered snacks, bottled water and even children's books to the crowds.

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Some of the longest waits were reported at several Kansas City polling sites where poll workers were given the wrong registration books.

At All Souls Church, voters — some waiting since before the polls opened at 6 a.m. — began cheering when the right books were delivered around 7:45 a.m., said Craig Cotton, an Obama campaign volunteer whose job is to spot problems.

"Everyone was fired up," he said. "It was great."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was urging voters to ignore the misleading text messages and automated phone calls from around Missouri that were telling Democratic voters to wait to cast their ballots because of heavy turnout.

The messages were forwarded to the Secretary of State's Office by several voters and have been sent to the U.S. Attorney's Office for further investigation.

Laura Egerdal, a spokeswoman for Carnahan, said the messages had the potential to "do some real damage" among first-time voters.

"Confusion helps no one on election day," she said. "Every eligible voter should be able to cast their ballot without this kind of intimidation."

In St. Louis, poll waits were longer than an hour in some places. Denise Lieberman, a lawyer with the Advancement Project, described some problems that seemed to be getting ironed out, like a few instances of machines that weren't working. The project works to increase democratic participation in low-income and minority communities.

Also in St. Louis, some voters lined up outside of polling places as early as 4:30 a.m., said Scott Leiendecker, Republican director of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. Although the morning was busy, no significant problems were reported through mid-afternoon.

Turnout numbers weren't available by midday, but they appeared heavier than normal.

"We have been hearing anecdotally around the state that polling sites are seeing record numbers of people for this early in the day," Egerdal said.