Voters in Arizona state of the United States went to the polls in large numbers on Tuesday amid signs that Republican presidential candidate John McCain was losing ground in the traditional stronghold for Republicans.
Arizona has not been a fiercely-contested state in the election as McCain, taking the advantage of his residency here, had won numerous victory in Senate campaigns.
With that, neither McCain nor his rival Democrat Barack Obama campaigned actively in the state, though each had a small number of offices.
But that changed late in the campaign when a statewide poll found McCain holding only a small lead -- within the poll's margin of error. Obama responded by airing a television ad in the state and McCain followed by scheduling a rally in his hometown of Prescott for early Tuesday morning.
Arizona voters' enthusiasm has been running high. Secretary of State Jan Brewer projected statewide turnout of at least 80 percent of Arizona's nearly 3 million voters. As many as half of those voting may have done so already, either by mail or at advance voting sites.
An 80 percent turnout would be substantial higher than the 71.7 percent and 71.7 percent rates seen in Arizona in 2004 and 2000, respectively.
Election official Darlane Howard told Xinhua that active voters began arriving at the Maravilla polling station long before voting began at 6 a.m. local time.
She said the turnout was the heaviest she had ever seen, an indication that voters wanted to make their voices heard at a time of difficulties.
Fearing that the large voter turnout could cause friction if long lines or other problems develop, the major political parties each deployed hundreds of observers to Arizona polling places to observe and report any problems during the general election.
Dozens of lawyers were also standing by, ready to intervene with government officials.
While Arizona "has always been a very clean state" in how it conducts elections, that could change as it picks up electoral clout, said James Huntwork, a lawyer who volunteers for the Republican Party.
"I'm not sure that everybody that comes in from out of state adheres to that," Huntwork said.
In the past, problems have included confusion among poll workers about procedures and difficulties in getting election machines to properly start, officials said.
Down the ballot, all eight U.S. House seats from Arizona are up for grabs. Arizona's U.S. House delegation is now split 4-4 between Democrats and Republicans. Two years ago, Republicans held a 6-2 advantage.
Although Arizona had been a stronghold for McCain, the election saw a growing division among voters. Over the past few months, neither McCain nor Obama appears to have marshaled the majority of financial support from those voters, according to records of itemized donations reported by the Federal Election Commission.
Bobb Baxter, a 72-year-old former government official, said " people might think McCain is too old, but I see him with great experiences."
McCain has good experiences in serving Arizona and knows how to handle world affairs "during a time when we have serious problems going on," said Baxter.
John Greene, a 60-year-old Phoenix resident, said he is also a strong supporter of McCain who "has proven his honesty while representing Arizona and the country."
"He's proven that he has put America first and is willing to work on both sides of the aisle," Greene said. "He's not into playing politics."
Greene said that although he respects Obama, it is "no time for amateur hour. He's done nothing to indicate he's of the background to be the chief executive officer."
But 60-year-old Roberta Campbell said she was worried that electing McCain would just be status quo, a continuation of the work of President George W. Bush.
More people lost jobs, housing and medical care under Bush administration, Campbell said.
"I know one thing," she said. "Something is broken in this country, and it's broken badly."
She said Obama has captured her heart and is getting her vote.
A middle-aged voter, who only gave his name as Mark, said he voted for Obama because he is the right man who can make changes. "Not only me, all my family members voted for Obama."
With Obama as the U.S. president, the world would become "more peaceful," said Mark who once served in the military.
"The U.S. should not resort to military means or sanctions to solve problems," said Mark. "It is not right to impose religions or ideas on other people through military means."
(Xinhua News Agency November 5, 2008)