Presidential Rivals in Tight Race for Virginia

Local voters wait patiently through long lines to cast their ballots on Election Day. Video by Whitney Shefte and Emily Freifeld/washingtonpost.comEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/
By Katherine Shaver and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 10:17 PM

With thousands of votes from heavily-Democratic Northern Virginia yet to be counted, less than one-half of a percentage point separate the two presidential candidates in a state where the outcome may help decide the presidential election.

Obama was ahead by a fraction of a percentage point statewide, with 80 percent of the vote counted, but in the state's northern counties McCain trailed by 16 percentage points with a third of the votes still to be reported.

Obama had been declared the winner in both Maryland and the District by the Associated Press.

With near record early-morning voter turnout at many polling places in Virginia, Maryland and the District, the historic presidential election came to a close with few reported problems.

The early turnout had been overwhelming -- almost half of all eligible Virginia voters had cast a ballot by 10 a.m. -- the traditional afternoon lull ended earlier than usual and the tempo picked up as darkness fell.

Election officials in northern Virginia said they had encountered a few minor glitches in handling an unprecedented number of voters. Officials in Maryland and the District also said the handful of reported problems were quickly resolved.

While Maryland and the District had been forecast to support Democrat Barack Obama, Virginia had been counted among the critical swing states that would determine the election. And its voters took the importance of their role to heart.

Before 6 p.m., 2,000 of the 2,700 registered voters had voted at Washington-Lee High School, more than half of the 3,979 registered voters had cast ballots at the Centeral Library and 70 percent of those registered have voted at the Arlington Arts Center.

Almost all of the polling stations in eastern Fairfax off of Route 1 reported record-setting turnout numbers by noon.

Saddam Hossain, 18, a first year student at Northern Virginia Community College, born in Bangladesh cast his ballot at Graham Road Elementary in the Falls Church area. He said he thinks Obama "will help Iraqis take more control of their own country."

Also at Graham Road, Ninh Khuong Nguyen, 51, an ironworker, said he voted for Republican John McCain because "he tried to make freedom for my country and because he is friendly with my country, Vietnam."

At Marshall High School, Lynn Johnson, 58, a strategic systems architect said she cast her ballot for McCain.

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