NPR Story
10:55 am
Tue November 6, 2012

If You Voted Election Day, Tell Us What You Saw

Originally published on Tue November 6, 2012 12:25 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The candidates repeatedly tell us that now it's finally up to the voters, which is true as far as that goes. But it's also up to the campaign volunteers who ferry supporters to the polls, to squadrons of poll-watchers who keep an eye out for shenanigans and to the legions of lawyers who will draft appeals and protests and orders to show cause.

We're down to the hand-to-hand combat phase of the campaign this election day. We want to enlist you as our eyes and ears. What's happening where you vote? 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, the art of the final speech of every campaign and how to ready the rhetoric for victory or for defeat. But first to the polls, and, well, let's begin with a caller, and Marty's on the line with us, and we'll talk to Marty, Marty with us from Cincinnati.

MARTY: Hello?

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air, Marty.

MARTY: Hi, I'm calling because I have been voting from the same address for 11 years, and when I went down this morning, my name was not on the books. And they just sent me some information about a month ago, so I had all that paperwork with me, but they couldn't find me.

I had to fill out a provisional ballot, and I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio, and we know here in Ohio we've had some controversy surrounding the provisional ballots. And so it's of concern to me that I had to do that.

CONAN: The controversy is whether the voter or the poll person fills out the entire form.

MARTY: Right.

CONAN: And, well, what did you do?

MARTY: I filled out the form, but I asked the poll worker twice to check it for me to be sure.

CONAN: And so you think you've done it properly?

MARTY: I hope so.

CONAN: It may be some days before your vote is actually counted, though.

MARTY: Yes, they told me even up to 17 days.

CONAN: My goodness. Well, I guess Ohio, given your vote and those of many others filing provisional ballots, it could take a while. It could take some court cases, as well. Marty, thanks very much.

MARTY: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's go now to the place where precincts were devastated last week by Superstorm Sandy. Anna Sale is a reporter for WNYC, our member station in New York City. She joins us now from across the river in Newark. Anna Sale, thanks very much for being with us.

ANNA SALE, BYLINE: Of course, thank you.

CONAN: And because of the flooding and other damage from the storm last week, New Jersey said it would allow voters to cast ballots the same way that absentee military personnel can vote, via email or fax, but I gather there's been some problems.

SALE: Yeah, I'm actually just outside the Essex County courthouse here in Newark, and what the state said over the weekend was any displaced voter or first responder could vote by email or fax. But it's actually a multi-step process. The voters have to first submit an application to get a ballot electronically.

And so what has happened is there's this backlog of requests at the county clerk's office to go through these applications because the staff has to then verify signatures, verify the voters, the registered voters, and then send out the ballots. And then the voter has to then figure out how to get the ballot back electronically, and this is all to happen by 8 P.M. today, when polls close in New Jersey.

And the scene in that county clerk's office, this is a staff of about eight to 10 people who have been just been inundated. The phone is ringing off the hook, the fax machine they're getting busy signals. Emails are bouncing back. So they are just trying to get through and manage these requests.

So these are voters who had to leave the area, perhaps because of structural damage to their home, or more likely they lost power, and they left the home and to go somewhere where they could have power and heat, and they're trying to still cast a ballot, perhaps even from outside New Jersey.

But this is perhaps happening in counties, you know, across the state that were hit by Sandy, and it's just, you know, one part of the difficulty that election officials are encountering today in New Jersey.

CONAN: Well, we know obviously that's a problem, but also many polling places had to be moved because, well, the school doesn't have power, or the place got flooded.

SALE: Exactly. Newark was not hit so hard in that way. Just seven polling places had to be relocated. But that information didn't trickle down all the way to voters. So there have been hundreds of people coming into the courthouse today, people looking for their polling place and being directed to the fourth floor and then the third floor and all these places to find the address that they then need to go to to cast a ballot, because people are in neighborhoods where there's some electricity on some blocks, some electricity - you know, no electricity on others.

And so there's a real concern about where do I go to vote. So they're coming to the courthouse to ask those questions. I should say that in New Jersey, any displaced voter can go to any polling place anywhere in the state and cast a provisional ballot. So that's another way, but it's the email system and the fax system seems to be a little bit of a backlog.

But if you're in the state of New Jersey and have been displaced somehow, just go to any polling place, and you can cast a provisional ballot for statewide races.

CONAN: And we heard in a piece you filed for MORNING EDITION today that Governor Christie announcing a text number so you can find the polling place nearest you. He said it'll tell you immediately, at least that's the theory. Is it working?

SALE: That's the theory. I actually did it, and it's something that doesn't just work in New Jersey, it works elsewhere. You text the word where to 877-877. Then you get a prompt back to enter your residential address, and then it tells you your polling place location.

Of course that information is only as good as the updated files that the state has and that the counties have provided. So I haven't heard any complaints of it not working. It is a little confusing because just, you know, what do you text, and what's the number, and how do you do it exactly? So I think some people have gotten confused by the process.

But when you do it correctly, enter the word where to 877-877, then you're prompted to enter your address, you should get your polling place location.

CONAN: And you mentioned you're there in Essex County. Of course, that is Newark, New Jersey. Corey Booker, the mayor, just had a briefing, and I understand you were there.

SALE: I was there, yes, and it was interesting because it was partially about how voting was going. He said turnout is up. There's been minimal problems at the polls themselves, and that's people who of course knew where to go and people who haven't left the county because of the storm.

The other thing he talked about was the preparations that are underway for the storm that's supposed to arrive tomorrow in Newark. He said we are expecting the worst, and the city is still in emergency response mode from Sandy and now preparing for the Nor'easter that's to hit land sometime tomorrow here in Newark.

So, you know, he was warning residents that if you're in low-lying areas, where there was flooding after Sandy, you might want to consider going to a shelter or staying with family and friends. He warned about limbs that maybe perhaps have not been dealt with since Sandy, they could be - get swept up in some of these gusts of wind that are expected to perhaps reach 60 miles per hour.

And of course the other thing he talked about was how he hoped President Obama wins re-election. He said tonight he's going to be in Newark voting. Then he's going to hop over to New York City and do some media appearances and then be back here later tonight.

CONAN: Anna Sale, have a good day. It's going to be a busy one.

SALE: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Anna Sale, a reporter for our member station WNYC, joining us from Newark, New Jersey. NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving is with us here in Studio 3A. And Ron, this is of course the day when it is the ground game that we've all heard about these years really comes to fore.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: That's right, the ground game has already been, of course, underway for weeks and weeks as people for both campaigns; these are professional workers for the campaigns and volunteers, hordes of volunteers, have been out canvassing, trying to find where their hard votes are, where their persuadables are, get lists of all those people and make sure they get those people to the polls either for early voting, which has been going on for weeks in a number of states, or to send in an absentee ballot or to be there today. And of course in the end, most people will vote today, but we are moving rapidly in this country towards a time when that may not be true.

CONAN: Well, what do we know, what can we say, and what's likely to get litigated?

(LAUGHTER)

ELVING: Well, we don't know much at this point other than the evidence given us by polls, and of course this has been plowed and plowed for weeks and months. And we do wind up with an extraordinary consistency in most polls. Most all polls done nationally are showing this race within a couple of points. Most of them show the president just slightly ahead, a point or two. Several of them have him tied with Mitt Romney. And a couple of them have Mitt Romney ahead by a point.

Obviously, that's not going to solve anything. We're going to have to do the actual vote-counting. But we don't have, for example, the results of exit polls done among people who were leaving the polls this morning or who have already voted. And we don't have any real returns actually counted yet, except of course from a couple of little towns in northern, northern, extreme northern New Hampshire, almost Canada, and those folks like to vote at midnight and count their votes early.

CONAN: Baja Canada.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Email from Gary in Pittsburgh: The turnout is large in my Republican-dominated suburb of Pittsburgh. More voting machines are available to prevent waiting, though I do wonder whether additional voting machines have been put in place in Democratic areas. The PA press is not allowed to closely monitor the voting, but someone was sitting next to the voter registration table to check off each person who voted.

I do not know if it was a Democratic or Republican get-out-the-vote effort or something else. I was not asked to produce a photo ID and would have refused if asked, though I did have my actual voter registration card with me. Based on the vote count and the time of day in comparison to past election days, this looks like a big turnout. And Ron, I'm always reminded that the beginning of every Election Day, it always looks like a big turnout.

ELVING: I've been doing this for a number of years now, getting on towards 40, and I don't remember ever going into an election that did not advertise itself as being a big turnout.

CONAN: Maybe the biggest ever, by the way.

ELVING: Maybe the biggest ever.

CONAN: Well, we'll find out later. Let's go to Matthew, and Matthew is, if I can push the right button, Matthew's on the line with us from Miami.

MATTHEW: Hi Neal.

CONAN: Hi.

MATTHEW: So I actually just finished voting about 20 minutes ago, and I'm from a - I have a - I'm in a small neighborhood precinct. I think only about 1,200 or 1,500 people in my precinct total. But despite that, there was over an hour-and-a-half wait just to get in, and then on top of that, after I finished voting, there was about a half-an-hour wait to submit the ballot into the scanner.

There's only - because it's a smaller precinct, there was only one scanner for everybody, and it's a five-page front-and-back ballot, and each page has to be submitted individually to the scanner. So you can imagine how that backs up.

So that's a new thing in Miami, or I'm not sure if it's statewide, but I know it's new in Miami this year, but certainly unexpected in a small precinct for that. The other surprising thing for me was the lack of individuals looking and I guess self-educating themselves on any issues besides the presidential race prior to the, you know, prior to the time they spent waiting in line.

CONAN: And you said it's five pages front and back, the size of a small phonebook.

MATTHEW: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEW: There were I believe 11 or 12 constitutional amendments up for a vote, several local charter amendments, quite a lot of things on the Miami-Dade ballot. Certainly time-consuming just marking the bubbles.

CONAN: Ron?

ELVING: Just wanted to ask: Did they print the entire text of those amendments on the ballot? Did you have to actually go through all of that to complete your ballot?

MATTHEW: Well, while I find myself in the minority, I actually printed out a sample ballot about a week ago and went through all of it and, you know, read different opinions on all the issues and figured out my voting ahead of time. So my time spent marking was relatively short. But, yes, they had the full text printed out, and for those who didn't look into it ahead of time, it was quite deal of information to read through and...

CONAN: Matthew, thanks very much. More from Florida in a bit. This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama top the ballot today, of course, but voters also will cast ballots for every member of the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, nearly a dozen governors, hundreds of local ballot initiatives.

If recent polling numbers give any indication, it could be a long night for anyone waiting for the final results. There will be clues, though, as we learn more about who came out to vote and what's happening in a handful of swing states. NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving will help us break down the clues to watch for in the next few hours in just a moment.

We want to enlist you as your eyes and ears on this Election Day. What's happening where you vote? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

This email from Moira(ph) in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania: I was just refused the right to vote without photo ID in Pennsylvania. I went to my local polling place this morning, and when I asked for ID, I informed them I was choosing to provide a non-photo form of ID. Given the amount of publicity this issue has faced this election cycle, I hardly expected an issue.

The local judge who was present refused to let me cast a ballot without photo ID. I eventually relented and showed my photo ID and cast my ballot. And Ron, this was of course litigated in Pennsylvania some weeks ago, and the court said, well, we may have this photo ID for the next election but not this time.

ELVING: That's right, for this time it cannot be enforced. We can only tell people this is what we're going to do in the future. And so in this particular case, it would seem that given the facts as reported by this particular voter, that she was held to a standard that would not stand up in court, even though there may have been a legal official there who was giving her a different opinion.

It's quite clear from the state supreme court of Pennsylvania that you do not have to have a photo ID to vote in Pennsylvania in this election.

CONAN: And that warning about a long night, I think you're going to be here for a little while yet, but is there anything you're going to be looking for this afternoon?

ELVING: Well, in the afternoon we do pay some attention to turnout, we do pay attention to situations where long lines are causing people to turn away from voting. That would, of course, be unfortunate I think from everyone's perspective. I hope from everyone's perspective.

But there does seem to be some consistency in certain parts of the country not providing enough voting machines, not providing enough assistance and doing things that they know are going to slow down the process, such as printing long, involved legal language on amendments to the state laws or constitution in the ballot. That's going to slow people down.

So you have to think that in some cases, some effort is being made to raise the bar and make it a little bit more difficult for some people to vote.

CONAN: And in some places, would you expect people to say, hey, wait a minute, given all this, given the lines, can't we extend some voting hours later.

ELVING: Yes, and that always happens, and I expect it will happen again, whether because of weather conditions, whether because ballots ran out at certain locations, and you can't very well tell people yes, you came out, you stood in line for three hours, but now you can't vote because I don't have a copy of the ballot for you. There are going to have to be accommodations made, and we've seen that often in the past.

CONAN: Tamara Keith, a congressional reporter for NPR, joins us from Ohio today at a precinct in Bexley, a suburb outside of Columbus. Thanks very much for being with us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

CONAN: And what's the scene like there?

KEITH: You know, this morning I'm told there were long lines. I wasn't here for them. But now it's pretty mellow, you know, a steady stream of people coming in, voting, leaving, bringing their kids because they're off from school today and letting the kids push the button, you know, sort of what you like to see on Election Day, a smooth process as far as we can tell.

CONAN: And how does that compare to the early voting that you've been covering there in Ohio?

KEITH: Well, so yesterday I went out to the one early voting site in Franklin County, here in the Columbus area, and there were - 800 people were voting per hour. There were lines inside of this old, deserted Kohl's department store, wrapping in and around like an amusement park, and lines out the door sometimes, at points in the day.

It was quite the scene, people wanting to avoid the lines today to vote yesterday. And although there were so many people, it was also very calm and just sort of this - you know, there's something kind of remarkable about seeing democracy in action and seeing all of those people lined up wanting to vote and making it through the lines pretty quickly, given how many people there were.

CONAN: And what would you say the odds are that the nation will know either today or this week or maybe later this month the name John Husted?

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: Oh, oh I think we're going to learn the name John Husted pretty quickly. I think a lot of people already know his name. He's the secretary of state here. And already there have been some issues where he changed some of the rules about how provisional ballots have to be marked, and there have been some issues with that.

You know, if Ohio becomes this pivotal place that everyone says it could be, if it comes down to, you know, how many votes there are in Ohio and how many outstanding provisional ballots there are, we're going to get to know John Husted very well.

CONAN: Well, you keep an eye on him for us. Thanks very much, Tamara.

KEITH: Absolutely, thank you.

CONAN: Tamara Keith from a precinct just outside of Columbus in Ohio. Let's see if we can get another caller in. This is Marty, Marty with us from Providence.

MARTY: Hi, Neal, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MARTY: I volunteered to take several elderly and disabled people to polls around the state today. And in a couple of them, we found that more people were being turned away and being sent to different precincts because of all the redistricting that had occurred in this area. And a lot of the responses were very emotional, and it made me somewhat concerned that people were just going to give up, and they weren't going to be voting.

CONAN: Ron Elving, this is going to be a feature in many places around the country. People might think they voted in the same place for a decade or so, but the fact of the matter is that place may have changed because in years after a decade ends in zero, those district lines are redrawn, so they may be somewhere else.

ELVING: That's right, and that's going to happen in a number of instances. There probably has been some kind of communication in those communities telling people that that particular polling place has changed. There are other reasons that polling places change. Some kind of a building is torn down, some kind of an institution no longer wants to take a polling place.

And so there are a number of reasons why this can change, and notices should have been mailed in all of these cases to let people know. But oftentimes, people will get something in the mail, it comes from the government, it doesn't look like a bill, or maybe it does look like a bill, and they decide it isn't something they really want to open or really pay attention to. They know where they vote.

And if that changes, they may not have been informed.

CONAN: Marty, besides that, how does turnout look?

MARTY: It's been consistent. I've - I was in five different cities today, and it's been very consistent. I was really quite taken, more than anything, with the number of elderly and disabled people who reached out to get help in getting to the polls and how important it was to them.

And myself, you know, having only voted for the first time four years ago, that was really rather humbling, the extent to which people take it very seriously, and it's a very precious right to them.

CONAN: Of course you haven't forgotten to vote yourself, have you?

MARTY: I managed to squeeze it in.

CONAN: All right, Marty, thanks very much for the phone call, appreciate it.

MARTY: Thanks.

CONAN: Here's a couple more emails, this from Steve in Independence, Louisiana: I'm headed to the polls right now, but already today I've had two separate people call to tell me that poll workers here in Louisiana are telling voters that they are limited to three minutes max in the voter's booth. With nine constitutional amendments and all the other issues on the ballot, this seems ridiculous. Is this even legal? Ron, I wouldn't think so.

ELVING: I don't believe it is, and I believe those workers should be admonished immediately. I know exactly why they're doing it. They've got long lines. They're wondering how long they're going to have to be here tonight because once people are in line they usually get to vote.

So I'm guessing that they're figuring, you know, doing a little math and deciding they're not going to get rid of all these people unless they limit them to three minutes in the booth. That's not right. They must not hush - they must not hustle or rush those people.

Obviously, if somebody goes to sleep or takes a nap in the booth, that might be a different story, but in most instances, people should not be hurried or forced to read faster than they usually would read.

CONAN: Michael emails from Brookline, Massachusetts: The lines for polling in Brookline, the district that I believe includes JFK's childhood house, wrapped up about 150 deep at 7:30 this morning. The wait was over an hour to get in. The line was significantly longer when I left than when I entered. There seemed to be plenty of space to vote when I went through. They could have doubled the number of people checking names to expedite the process and still have had the polls to spare.

There were less than 50 percent utilized when I was there. Despite the wait in the frigid cold, everyone was orderly and quiet. Not much suspense in the presidential race there in Massachusetts, but very interesting Senate race now.

ELVING: Absolutely, one of the closest, one of the most closely watched, where incumbent Senator Scott Brown, who of course won the seat that had been vacated at the death of Teddy Kennedy, is now being challenged by Elizabeth Warren, who has been doing very well in recent polling there.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go next to - this is Susan, and Susan's on the line with us from Kansas City, another big Senate race on the line there.

SUSAN: Yes, sir. My - I live - there's three counties in Kansas City, Missouri, and I live in a small northern county. And we've been hit hard economically. And for the first time in 20 years, it - I had to wait in line to vote. I usually go around midmorning because then there's no line, but, like I said, today is the first day that they - that I had to wait in line which thrilled me because that shows me that people care enough to come out and vote rather than just complain.

CONAN: That's interesting, so democracy in action.

SUSAN: Yes. And our secretary of state has estimated we'll have about 72 percent turnout. And from the number of folks I saw, it wouldn't surprise me.

CONAN: That would be a big turnout. That might be a surprise. But, Susan, thanks very much for report.

SUSAN: Mm-hmm. Bye.

CONAN: Now, we turn to NPR's Greg Allen in Florida. He's on the line with us from a polling station in Orlando. Greg, nice to have you on the program.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal.

CONAN: And what's the situation where you are?

ALLEN: Well, it's really pleasant here. You know, it's kind of like Tamara was saying in Ohio we've been just deluged with (unintelligible) voters - voters standing in long lines, waiting for hours. This polling station I'm at is at the College Park Baptist Church in Orlando, and they tell me that there was a couple of hour wait. Their line was down around the corner this morning. Right now, there's hardly - there's not a line at all inside, just about a half dozen people or so waiting in line inside. So you can get in right in to vote. So it's really interesting here. The contrast with what we've seen over the last week with early voting here. Now, it looks like you can just walk right up and vote.

CONAN: And we've already heard about the length of Florida's ballot and the amount of time it's taking people to cast their individual ballots. But what you're saying that seems to be more of an issue in the early voting than it is here on Election Day.

ALLEN: Well, I'm sure it's still taking them some time. You know, the ballot here is at least 10 pages. And the one I filled out was 12 pages, and, you know, I walked in knowing what I wanted to fill out and it still took me 10 minutes. I talked to people who said that they saw people who were taking, you know, a half hour to fill out the ballot, who were - and, of course, these ballot measures are not just summaries. These are full ballot measures. So if you try to read those you're going to be in there for quite some time so - but I think most people know about that and show up with their plan or their strategy and maybe some cheat sheets to vote with. So it's been a real interesting exercise here. I think it opened people's eyes to how voting is used here by the various political parties here to try to maximize their output.

CONAN: And, of course, Florida no stranger to post-election drama. One of the fights this year was over the amount of time available for early voting, and one of the results we're seeing is that Democrats only got about half the number of early votes as they did four years ago. Of course, Barack Obama won that state four years ago, but, well, it's just about half the number of early voting days. So is all that on track?

ALLEN: Well, that's exactly right, Neal, and, you know, it was not even a very - Barack Obama didn't win by a whole lot four years ago. So the question is: Even though Democrats have this lead going into Election Day, is it going to be enough to carry the state again? And I think many Republicans are thinking it won't be. Republicans do very well in Election Day in terms of turnout, at least they did in 2008. If they can get those same numbers today, they think that they can carry the state for Mitt Romney today. So it's all about voter enthusiasm we've been saying for quite some time, so this is what it all comes down to today. We'll have to see how the lines pick up and who's in those lines later today.

CONAN: NPR correspondent Greg Allen joined us on the phone from a precinct in Orlando. Greg, nice to have you on the program.

ALLEN: My pleasure, Neal. Thanks.

CONAN: We're looking at what's happening in polling places here on this Election Day 2012. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's get Amy(ph) on the line. Amy with us from Westport in Connecticut.

AMY: Hi. How you doing?

CONAN: I'm well. Westport, of course, right there on the coast in Connecticut.

AMY: Fairfield County, yes. A disaster area. But we've got all the schools open, and all the polling places are open. And I went in and voted at 11:30 right before lunchtime and no problems, sailed right in. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot. Two different precincts vote at the same school where I vote. And there were a lot of cars and a lot of people coming and going, but I didn't have to wait at all. I walked right in. I did have to show a photo ID, which I think I always have.

And walked right in and voted and scanned it and walked right out. So I hope that doesn't mean that people aren't voting. People have pretty much gotten out of their houses, I think, in Westport. I think we're down to about 10 - 1 percent with no power.

CONAN: And, Ron, again, I don't think the presidential election is going to be much of a cliffhanger there in Connecticut, but if Republicans hope to take control of the United States Senate, they should hope for a victory in Connecticut.

ELVING: That's right. Chris Murphy is the Democratic nominee there, but you might not know that if you just came home and saw a doorknocker on your door. You would see somebody telling you to vote for Barack Obama for president, the Democratic nominee, of course, and also for Linda McMahon. So you might think for a moment that Linda McMahon was a Democrat as well, but in fact, she's the Republican nominee. She's a self-financing candidate, and she has been doing well in the polls, although not as well in the last couple of weeks.

CONAN: Amy, thanks very much for the call.

AMY: Yeah. Thank you.

CONAN: And here's an email from Sally(ph) in The Dalls in Oregon: I feel sorry for others having to wait hours in line to vote. In Oregon, we've been able to vote in the comfort of our homes for the last two weeks, having dropped off my ballot yesterday. I'm home baking a Thanksgiving pie while listening to NPR. And that's one of the states that has its voting entirely by mail.

ELVING: And that is a brilliant solution to a lot of these problems. I'm not sure it would work in every state. It's working very well for Oregon.

CONAN: Let's go to Awilda(ph). Awilda with us from Denver, Colorado, another swing state.

AWILDA: Hi.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air. Go ahead.

AWILDA: Well, I am ferrying people to the polls right now. I'm - I get - I'm working at a Democratic office, and they call in and ask for rides. And also, Latino voters who don't speak English ask me to go and help them translate the ballot so that they can vote. So I'm right now in my car going to pick up a Latino voter who cannot speak English. I'm going to take him to the polls and talk him through the ballot, ask him what is his choices, and then help him mark his ballot and help him make his vote.

CONAN: One of those legions of volunteers, Ron, this is, again, the ground game in action.

ELVING: That's right. And to some degree, this is driven, of course, by the campaigns and it's driven by the parties, and it's driven by people who want folks to vote a particular way. But there are also many, many volunteers, and the system has depended on these people back over generations to come out and run the polling places and do a tremendous amount of work to facilitate this whole process as volunteers, not as government employees.

CONAN: Awilda, thanks very much for the call.

AWILDA: Well, you're welcome.

CONAN: And here's an email from - this is Gus, and Gus in Virginia Beach, another important state that's going to be decided earlier this evening maybe. It took 2 1/2 hours to vote. Getting in line at 9:00 a.m. today, I estimate 350 people in front of me on line. When I finished, I estimated there were 500 people in line. Everything went smooth. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, but pretty worried, but pretty warm by the end of it. Anyway, worn, I think, is the word. That was written by hand. Ron Elving, much more from you later today on election coverage. We'll look forward to that.

ELVING: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Stay tuned to NPR for results of the election as they come in. Up next on Election Day, every candidate hopes he or she wins, but might better prepare for the alternative. One of the challenges is the small, little joke you need to begin with.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: I promised you four years ago that I would never lie to you, so I can't stand here tonight and say it doesn't hurt.

CONAN: Two former presidential speechwriters talk us through the art of the final election night speech. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.