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Voters make strong showing at polls

Voters packed polling places, exceeding turnout projections for midterm elections.
Voters packed polling places, exceeding turnout projections for midterm elections.

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(CNN) -- Neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night kept voters from their appointed polling places.

A tornado watch couldn't deter Big Easy voters, and turnout exceeded the projected 35 percent for New Orleans, Louisiana. Minnesotans confronted snow showers for ballot box access. And the onset of standard time's early nightfall seemed inconsequential as voters arrived at polling stations until closing time.

Voter turnout proved unprecedented and unexpected in many states. Several cities made election preparations based on historical patterns and ran short of ballots. By the hundreds and thousands, voters helped the midterm election shed its forgotten, stepchild image and produced pivotal results.

"That certainly seemed to be true in Georgia and Minnesota," said political analyst Bill Schneider, talking of states where Democrats experienced eyebrow-raising upsets.

Georgia elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction with the win of Sonny Perdue, and renowned and popular U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, the Democratic incumbent, lost his post to Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss. The handle "former vice president" carried no clout for Democrat Walter Mondale, who lost his Minnesota bid for the Senate to a former mayor, Republican Norm Coleman.

"Throughout the country, Republicans seemed to be much more motivated," Schneider said. "It is my guess that is was a high turnout that was mostly men -- white men."

Georgian officials were "surprised at the number of people they had waiting in line," said Kara Sinkule, a spokeswoman for the Georgia secretary of state's office. "Before the polls opened, one precinct had 100 people already. That's very positive -- especially with the bad weather."

In the Minneapolis, Minnesota, suburb of Bloomington, a high turnout of voters depleted all the available paper ballots for the hotly contested U.S. Senate seat. In St. Louis, Missouri, polling stations ran out of punch cards. Quick deliveries prevented the snafu from affecting voting.

Some analysts opined that curiosity about new voting technology also contributed to high voter turnout. A number of states use new, electronic voting devices, in hopes of preventing the protracted vote counting that marred the 2000 presidential election.

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