Copyright ©2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Using computers and paper ballots in rain, fog and sun, voters across the country are picking their candidates today. Control of both houses of Congress is at stake, with polls taken before the election showing the House likely to change hands and the Senate up for grabs. Thirty-six states are choosing governors.

BLOCK: Voting appears to be going well in most parts of the country. There have been reports of a few problems, but nothing on the scale of recent national elections. We're going to check in with several spots around the country including Washington State, where weather has become an issue, and Indiana, where computer glitches kept some polling places from opening on time.

First to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which has seen its share of trouble in past elections.

NORRIS: Today things have been going smoothly. There were a few problems. More than 40 polling places there opened late or had problems with electronic voting machines.

Reporter Dave Pignanelli is with member station KWSU and he's in Cuyahoga County at the office of the county's Board of Elections. Dave, what's the story there?

DAVE PIGNANELLI: Well, right now everything is proceeding along smoothly. The electronic voting machines that died earlier this morning when the polls first opened are back online. Some people did have to cast their ballots by paper, but right now turnout is light and everything is going smoothly according to the Board of Elections.

NORRIS: And of the more than 500 polling places, how many had problems earlier in the day?

PIGNANELLI: They had about 45 polling locations that experienced some sort of problem. Most of those were due to poll workers not showing up for work so there was a delay in opening some of the polling places. There were eight precincts where either the scanning machines or the Diebold touch screen electronic voting machines actually weren't working at all. And some of the people that were waiting in line had to wait quite awhile before casting their vote and they had to do so by paper, which was the primary backup system that had been planned for such an occasion.

NORRIS: And when they have to move to paper balloting, are there specific challenges or risks when they do that?

PIGNANELLI: Well, I don't know if you'd characterize it as a risk or not, but they are put in a stack with absentee ballots that come in today by mail and the provisional ballots that people are filling out at the polls if they don't show the proper I.D. And by law, those cannot be counted or will not be counted for another 11 days, which means if there are races that are very, very close, it could turn on absentee, provisional and now these ballots, which means that their vote may not be counted for almost two weeks.

NORRIS: Is there a sense that the voters are comfortable with these machines and that the poll workers have been well trained and have a sort of good grasp of how these work?

PIGNANELLI: As far as the voters are concerned, I talked to many who have left the polling places and they said yes, it was very, very easy. I've talked to some elderly residents who cast their votes. They had poll workers helping them every step of the way. They just could not figure out how to do it.

As far as the poll workers, I've heard rumblings that some of them just say they weren't trained well enough leading up to this. But Cuyahoga County set up a hotline for those workers and if they had any problems whatsoever, they could call in and the people that trained them were on the other end of the phone lines and they were able to talk them through any problems.

NORRIS: And were they able to get someone on the other line when they called in?

PIGNANELLI: Absolutely. There's a bank of 30 to 60 different phones and there are also representatives from Diebold, the manufacturer, answering their questions.

NORRIS: Well Dave, thanks so much.

PIGNANELLI: Well, you're very welcome.

NORRIS: Dave Pignanelli is with member station WKSU. He was speaking to us from the county's Board of Elections in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

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