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A Passionate, Patient Electorate

The Bush campaign in recent days has distributed literature warning students of "wide-ranging implications legally and financially" if they register in the Granite State.

Information on the secretary of state's Web site indicates that financial aid packages, health insurance and automobile registrations could be affected if students from other state register there. The Democrats have called such information "scare tactics."

Jonathan Rondon sits outside a polling station to answer voting questions in a predominantly Hispanic precinct of Orlando, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack - AP)

In Beaver Township, Ohio, a Kerry volunteer reported problems when she pushed the button to vote for the Democratic challenger. "When I hit Kerry, nothing happened," Pat Tomich told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. "I pushed Kerry again and nothing happened. I pushed a third time and Bush lit up." She said she believes she was able to successfully vote for Kerry on her fourth attempt.

Overnight, a few pre-election court fights sorted themselves out, notably in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, where a federal appeals court cleared the way in the middle of the night for political parties to challenge voters' eligibility at polling places throughout the state over the objections of Democrats.

Democrats had claimed Republicans were seeking to discourage minority voters by keeping party representatives out of polling stations.

The Ohio decisions were quickly appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice John Paul Stevens declined to overturn the appeals court action in an order issued little more than an hour before the polls there were scheduled to open.

In South Dakota, a federal judge partially granted Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle's request to limit the activities of Republican poll watchers, after he accused his opponent and the GOP of intimidating Native American voters.

As part of the ruling, Republican poll watchers are prohibited from following Native Americans out of the polling places or from taking down their license numbers as they drive away.

Despite the legal wrangling and the weeks of build-up, the Democratic National Committee said that challenges were not widespread nationally, at least not during the morning rush.

In Florida, GOP challengers were monitoring the polls, armed with packets that included color mug shots of felons the party said are improperly on the voting roles.

At the urging of the Bush campaign, some of the poll watchers were wearing buttons, hats or T-shirts that said "voting rights counselor."

The party has a challenge list of 14,489 people statewide, the vast majority of whom are African-Americans -- a list Democrats have charged is riddled with errors.

Florida is one of seven states that prohibits felons from voting for life if they do not have their rights restored by the state.

"The people of Florida should not have their election decided by felons who do not have the legal right to vote," said Republican Party spokeswoman Mindy Tucker Fletcher.

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