Election day was tainted by complaints of dirty tricks that led to FBI investigations in at least two states, with some voters reporting intimidating phone calls, misleading sample ballots and even an armed man outside a polling place.
Nonetheless, poll watchers said voting across America went relatively well on Tuesday, despite machine malfunctions and long waits in some states.
"For 7,800 jurisdictions in this country, it looked like things came out pretty cotton-pickin' well," said Doug Lewis, executive director of Election Center, an nonpartisan organization of state election officials. "There were some problems, in some states, but overall it looks like all the predictions of disaster turned out wrong."
As polls closed nationwide, one of the worst waits appeared to be in Denver, where hundreds waited long past sunset at besieged polling centers. They continued to wait, 90 minutes after the 7pm close of voting. It was a miserable end to a day fraught with new voting machine problems and the longest statewide ballot in decades.
"This is positively ridiculous," said Jack McCroskey, who leaned on a cane while waiting to vote. "At 82, I don't deserve to have to stand out here."
Voter intimidation accusations prompted others to claim that some voters were bullied from getting a chance to vote.
In Virginia, the FBI was looking at complaints of an apparently orchestrated series of phone calls in the hard-fought US Senate race between Republican George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb. Some voters reported they got calls telling them to stay home on Election Day, or face criminal charges.
The liberal voter group MoveOn.org offered a US$250,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for voter interference, which is a federal crime.
In Indiana, the FBI was investigating allegations that a Democratic volunteer at a polling site in the college town of Bloomington was found with absentee ballots after counting had begun.
Even some politicians, and their offspring, got turned away from the polls.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters at a campaign stop near her suburban New York home that her daughter, Chelsea, had been turned away at a Manhattan polling site because her name did not appear in a book of registered voters. She was offered an affidavit vote, similar to provisional ballots used in other states.
In South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford was turned away because he did not have a voter registration card. He went back with the right identification.
States were reporting a variety of problems at the polls.
In Arizona, three men, one of them armed, stopped Hispanic voters and questioned them outside a Tucson polling place, according to voting monitors for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which photographed the incidents and reported them to the FBI.
In Maryland, sample ballots suggesting Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael Steele were Democrats were handed out by people bused in from out of state. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by nearly two-to-one.
An Ehrlich spokeswoman said the fliers were meant to show the candidates had the support of some state Democrats. They were paid for by the campaigns of Ehrlich, Steele and the Republican Party. Some of the fliers include pictures of Ehrlich with Democrat Kweisi Mfume, a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.