USA

Despite scattered challenges to the overhauled voting system, the midterm elections went relatively smoothly, with more than 80 percent of voters casting some type of electronic ballot. The transition was mandated by Congress, which had set Tuesday as the deadline for major reforms aimed at preventing a rerun of the 2000 election debacle. Some of the longest waits to vote occurred in Denver, where high turnout and one of the longest statewide ballots in decades caused substantial delays.

In other election news:

•By early Wednesday, the Justice Department had received fewer than 200 civil rights- related voting complaints, down from 1,200 in 2004, according to cnn.com.

•Television news organizations avoided embarrassing premature vote projections, which occurred in 2004, by exercising caution in sharing exit poll information, which takes the pulse of voters. Such data were kept under wraps until early evening in the East. No exit polls were taken on House races.

Consumer borrowing hit the brakes in September, dropping by a 0.6 percent annual rate to $1.2 billion, the steepest falloff since 1992, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday. Analysts pinpointed a huge decline in auto loans as a major factor, as well as an overall economic slowdown tied to a souring housing market and layoffs in the auto, home-building, furniture, and real-estate industries.

A federal appeals court in Houston Tuesday upheld a judge's ruling to vacate the conviction of Enron Corp.'s late founder, Kenneth Lay, who died July 5 before beginning a long prison sentence. The plaintiff, an Enron shareholder, had asked for an order of restitution, hoping to force Lay's estate to pay $43.5 million in what prosecutors said were ill-gotten gains during the company's scandal-ridden collapse.

Milder storms are expected the remainder of this week in the Northwest, but nothing as powerful as the record rainfall that caused flooding in western Washington and Oregon, the Weather Service said Tuesday. The deluge led to at least one death, closed roads, threatened to flood hundreds of homes, and forced cancellation of school for tens of thousands of students. The Pineapple Express storm, named for its origin in warm Pacific waters, dumped up to 15 inches of rain in some locations.

Dean Baquet, editor of the Los Angeles Times, resigned Tuesday, just weeks after publisher Jeff Johnson left in a similar dispute over cost-cutting measures with the paper's parent, Tribune Co. of Chicago. The two executives opposed cutting newsroom jobs, but ownership wants to follow the industry trend of transferring resources from struggling print editions to websites.

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