NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Voters queued in long lines across Louisiana Tuesday night - waits of up to four hours were reported earlier - to decide a historic presidential race further flavored by decisions on a slew of congressional seats and battery of local issues.
Polls were set to close at 8 p.m.
In the glow of the McCain-Obama marquee, Democrats sought to hold on to incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu's Senate seat against a challenge by Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy.
In another closely watched race, indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson hoped Democratic voters in his New Orleans area district would give him a closed-party runoff victory against former television journalist Helena Moreno and advance him to a Dec. 6 general election match with a little-known Republican opponent.
In the line outside the Algiers Courthouse in New Orleans, Janet Gisleson sat in a lawn chair she had brought to cope with the pre-dawn wait.
"This is a very exciting election," said Gisleson, 66. "I'm most excited about Obama. He's willing to listen to all sides of an issue and to talk to different countries. We need that right now."
Early on, lines were heavy around the state. At 5:30 a.m. - half an hour before the polls opened - lines outside of several New Orleans voting sites stretched more than a block with more people showing up steadily.
Desire Monier didn't even take the time to get dressed before heading out to vote.
"I couldn't get here fast enough," she said, a black coat covering her pink and gray pajamas, a white knitted cap pulled over her uncombed hair.
Lines subsided after morning rush but were expected to swell again in the evening as workers returned home. Long lines at closing could mean delays for reporting results.
In St. Tammany Parish, some voters waited as long as 90 minutes to cast ballots. Becky Galatas, elections coordinator for the parish clerk of courts office, said a potential record turnout means it could take longer than usual to count votes. In New Orleans, some voters waited hours.
"We'll just plug along the best we can," she said.
Secretary of State's office spokesman Jacques Berry said the office has fielded a couple of complaints of "no party" voters in New Orleans denied the option of voting in the Democratic primary. Those complaints were handled on a "case-by-case basis," he
"They're supposed to be offered a provisional ballot," Berry said.
As of early Tuesday evening, Berry said he wasn't aware of any widespread problems at the polls.
"I think it's going smoother than we expected, especially when you consider the volume, which we believe is pretty high," he said.
However, the Louisiana Democratic Party said it has received reports that voters have received misleading automated phone calls and text messages that say lines at polling stations are long and voters should return Wednesday to cast a ballot.
"This is a blatant attempt to mislead Louisianans and trick them into giving up their right to vote," state Democratic party chairman Chris Whittington said in a statement.
Party spokesman Scott Jordan said officials planned to report the allegations to the Secretary of State's office. Berry said the state hadn't received any such complaints from voters.
Elsewhere, incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Cazayoux, D-La., faced opposition from Republican Bill Cassidy in the 6th Congressional District in the Baton Rouge area. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was challenged by Democratic businessman Jim Harlan in the 1st Congressional District in suburban New Orleans. And in the 7th Congressional District in western Louisiana, incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., met Democratic challenger Don Cravins Jr.
Closed-party runoffs for Republicans and Democrats in the 4th Congressional District would set the stage for a Dec. 6 general election.
Louisianians also were voting on seven amendments to the state Constitution, filling seats in the state House and state Senate and deciding on a basket of local issues.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Waves of Voters Deluge Polling Places in Louisiana
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