A few polling places opened late or were understaffed. Some voters discovered they weren't registered or were asked for ID when it wasn't required. Electronic or optical-scan machines broke down in some states, causing paper ballots to pile up. Emergency backup ballots were underutilized in some places, overutilized in others.
And from Virginia to New Mexico, some voters were told to vote on Wednesday — or later.
In other words, it was a normal Election Day. Although all those problems cropped up across the country today, they weren't widespread. Election officials chalked it up to preparation — and perhaps a bit of prayer.
"We're the most prepared we've ever been for an election," said Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, which represents state and local election officials. Since 2000, he said, "we've been running elections getting prepared for this election."
Indeed, 2008 represents the first presidential election in which all the provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 are supposed to be in effect. That means improvements in voting equipment, registration databases and disability access.
For the most part Tuesday, it seems to have worked. While voting-rights groups fielded tens of thousands of calls from confused voters, no widespread problems were reported — not even in Florida or Ohio, the two states with the most problems in 2000 and 2004.
"By all accounts, issues that arise are being dealt with immediately, and voters are moving through the process pretty smoothly," said Rosemary Rodriguez, chairwoman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
The early voting phenomenon may have played a role. About 30% of the nation's voters cast ballots before Tuesday, reducing pressure on polling places. That was expected to keep attendance at the polls below 100 million — a more manageable figure than the 130 million officials were anticipating.
A coalition of voting-rights groups led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reported lines of up to seven hours in Chesapeake City, Va., and lengthy lines in Philadelphia and Detroit. Some of the longest lines and biggest voting-machine problems were in states with little or no early voting.
"We're going to see that the higher the early-voting numbers, the fewer the problems," predicted Paul Gronke, who runs the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Oregon.
Widespread early voting in battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina also may have given election officials a heads-up on the types of problems likely to occur on Election Day, said Doug Chapin, director of the Pew Charitable Trust's Electionline.org.
"We haven't seen any of the kinds of problems that people were worried about," Chapin said.
A look at key states
• In Colorado, voting has gone relatively smoothly — an improvement over 2006, when Denver had long lines.
"Colorado is doing a great job," said Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. "But there are some bumps along the road."
One such bump was in Weld County, which includes the city of Greeley and has a large Hispanic population. There weren't enough translators for Spanish-speaking voters. "When you're serving a community, when voters do their part, the government and our counties need to do their part too, and get as many people voting as we can," Flanagan said.