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Hailey Cowden, 18, gets excited as she turns in her ballot as she votes for the first time in her life at the Elks Lodge in Walnut Creek on Tuesday.
Shortages of ballots and confusion led to more than a dozen polling places in Alameda County remaining open later than expected after some locations ran out of provisional and Democratic ballots.

Fourteen polling places in Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Fremont ran short of the two types of ballots.

While earlier reports said the polling places were to remain open by court order, Guy Ashley, a spokesman with the registrar office, said there was no such order.

Instead, he said Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith checked with the state Administrative Office of the Courts in interpreting the Elections Code, and then advised County Counsel Richard Winnie to advise the registrar's office to take the unusual action to keep polling places open. Ashley said, however, that locations remained open only if people were waiting to vote. He said all polling locations closed by 9 p.m.

Voter turnout was huge in the Bay Area for California's Super Tuesday primary, and so was cross-over voting, which led to periodic shortages of the ballots — and confusion at some polling places as to who could vote for a candidate in another party.

With about 20 percent of the state's voters not affiliated with any political party, thousands of nonpartisan/decline-to-state voters in the East Bay requested Democratic ballots. The demand overwhelmed some counties, with precincts fast running short.

Dave Macdonald, Alameda County Registrar, said an unprecedented amount of provisional ballots were handed out at some polling sites, causing those sites to run low on ballots.

Ashley said the county made sure there were enough ballots for all registered voters in the county, but a large amount of voters seeking to cross-over party lines and vote in the Democratic primary caused a run on the provisional ballots.

Undeclared voters are permitted to vote in the Democratic primary.

Ashley, however, said he speculates some of the provisional votes were cast by voters not eligible to vote in the Democratic primary and those votes will not be counted.

"I'm sure there are some people who voted with ballots that will not count," Ashley said.

One man said his Berkeley precinct had run out of Democratic ballots at about 3 p.m., and he'd been waiting for nearly an hour to get one. ''The poll workers have been great, but they couldn't do anything about it until more ballots arrived," he said.Registrars in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties also reported requests from several precincts for extra ballots.

And statewide there was some general confusion as to who could vote in which party. Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office, said the most common call on a state hotline Tuesday was from decline-to-state voters who were upset after being mistakenly told they could not vote for a Democrat in the presidential election.

In Los Angeles County, where there are more than 784,000 decline-to-state voters, elected officials and voter-outreach groups even threatened legal action against the county registrar over concerns that a so-called ''double-bubble" problem with the county's ballots could disenfranchise nonpartisan voters. Those voters were required to fill in an extra ''bubble" specifying which primary they were voting in. If that spot was not marked, the county's scanning machines would not record the selection for president.

Fortunately, things went more smoothly in the East Bay, where no such bubble was required. And a smooth election was crucial with voter turnout so high and tight races for both Republican and Democratic candidates. As voters left polls during the day, those interviewed in Oakland appeared to be leaning heavily toward Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

Benjamin Mulholland, 29, who lives in East Oakland, said he voted for Obama because of his stance on healthcare, and because ''he's a more charismatic leader. He's less entrenched with classic politics," Mulholland said.

At Oakland's City Center shopping plaza, Echa Schneider, 28,, said she would be happy with either Obama or Clinton, ''as long as we don't have yet another president that half the country hates," she said.

Outside the First Unitarian Church in Oakland, J.B. Brown, 39, a warehouse manager, said he also voted for Obama. ''He had more valid points that really opened my ears," he said. 

''I'm proud to say Obama," said medical worker Michelle Benoit outside the West Oakland Library polling station. ''We're witnessing history here _ the first black man, and the first woman."

On the Republican side in Castro Valley, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney earned the votes of some longtime Republicans who said they were wary of Arizona Sen. John McCain. Oscar Johnson, 85, a professional piano player and retired schoolteacher, said he was looking for someone who is ''a Republican all the way."

''McCain's an in-betweener," Johnson said after voting at Proctor Elementary School. ''Romney's a consistent Republican."McCain did earn the support of Hayward voter Joe Gottardi, 72, but the registered Republican and retired longshoreman said that doesn't necessarily mean he will vote Republican in November. Fed up with the current Bush administration, Gottardi said he will vote for whoever ''demonstrates a commitment to thinking more about the American people" instead of spending so much money and effort trying to solve foreign problems, he said.

In San Leandro, Republican Thomas Maitre and Democrat Geri Sumner came out to cast their ballots together at Mission Bay mobile-home park, a popular polling place for seniors.

As they were leaving, Maitre said they both decided to vote for Clinton after discussing at length all the candidates. Maitre couldn't ''cross over" to vote for Clinton in the primary, but said he would pick her in the general election.

''She's been there long enough to know where all the bodies have been buried," he said. They both liked Obama, but said the Illinois senator ''needs a little more seasoning."