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.
In Virginia, the FBI was looking at complaints of an apparently orchestrated series of phone calls in the hard-fought U.S. 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 offered a $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.
Other states reported similar problems.
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 Gov. Robert L. 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 2-to-1.
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 GOP. Some of the fliers include pictures of Ehrlich with Democrat Kweisi Mfume, a former NAACP president.
Across the country, Democrats accused Republicans of sponsoring automated “robo-calls” that have infuriated voters. The recorded calls, which reached a fever pitch in the days leading up to the election, automatically dial and re-redial, promoting or trashing a candidate.
In some states, the effort to improve the integrity of the election system got off to a shaky start. In Denver, up to 300 people stood outside some polling sites. One was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter, who waited an hour and 40 minutes.
A long ballot and new machines caused the disruptions, according to Colorado secretary of state spokeswoman Lisa Doran.
“Despite the training, some of the election judges are intimidated by the machines,” she said.
Computer glitches and poll workers’ unfamiliarity with the new equipment were also blamed for long lines in Tennessee, South Carolina and Illinois.
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