Record voter turnout overwhelms polls

DALLAS, TX More than 3 million Texans had cast ballots with about three-fourths of precincts reporting, said Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the Secretary of State.

Some Houston precincts remained open after 11 p.m. to accommodate voters lined up since the 7 p.m. cutoff. Similar scenes were reported elsewhere in the state, including in Travis and Tarrant counties.

"At this point in time, everybody's looking for something different," said Al Miller, a 20-year-old financial services staffer who voted in Hurst. "I expected a lot of turnout because everybody's trying to make a difference."

Based on the early results, Secretary of State Phil Wilson projected a turnout of 3.3 million voters.

State Democratic Party officials also were expecting a dramatic increase because of the intense race between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"This has the air of a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Democratic precinct chair Bob Ackerman in Dallas. "All of a sudden, we matter after having been forgotten so long as Democrats in George Bush's home state."

The crush of voters caused a run on ballots in some counties where parties are responsible for ordering ballots.

Washington County Elections Administrator Linda LaCross expected problems before the polls even opened Tuesday.

"We don't have enough ballots for the Republicans," she told the Bryan-College Station Eagle. "They ordered 4,000 ballots, but we need more like 6,000 or 7,000. This is my worst nightmare."

Some Williamson County precincts also reported depleted ballot supplies, but the elections office was able to provide them with more.

At least one precinct in Central Texas county also ran out of paper ballots late Tuesday afternoon. The polling place also was equipped with an electronic voting machine, but Williamson County elections administrator Rick Barron was uncertain whether it could accommodate all who were waiting in line.

The delays also pushed back the start of many caucuses. Once underway, some of the gatherings turned chaotic as large crowds showed up to choose delegates.

Austin police dispatched three patrol cars to quell a minor disturbance at a Travis County precinct shortly after 8 p.m. No one was arrested, the Austin American-Stateman reported.

More than 2,000 people trying to attend the Democratic caucus in the North Texas town of Little Elm waited in the parking lot for about two hours before being allowed into the building to convene.

"It was extremely unorganized. It definitely caused a lot of frustration," said Dan Perez, a 30-year-old homebuilder.

At a caucus inside a community center in Houston's Third Ward, one of the city's oldest black neighborhoods, voters were told to go across the room. A few minutes later, they were instructed to return to their original spots.

Many left before they could be counted for either Clinton or Obama to determine which candidate would be awarded delegates.

"It's not electronic. It's not state of the art. But if it yields the proper results, that's all we can ask," said Anthony Austin, 50, a sales representative. "It's gone as best as it could under the circumstances to the response that this election has generated."

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