By the time Kenneth Cullen, 52, cast the last ballot at 10:52 p.m., the networks already had declared Sen. Barack Obama the winner in Pennsylvania.

It had been a long, long day - and night - at the east precinct polling place in Chester County's Lower Oxford Township.

Hundreds of people, most of them Lincoln University students, waited in line for as long as seven hours to vote.

"The lines were out the door starting at 6:30 in the morning," Democratic comitteewoman Dorothea Murray said.

The polling place, about a mile from Lincoln, is in a cramped community center with seven booths and one optical scanning machine, through which all ballots had to be processed.

Carter Dixon, 44, a drug and alcohol counselor who voted right before Cullen, said he stuck it out in part because he wanted to make a point to his 7-year-old daughter. "I told my daughter this was an important event," he said. "I wanted to let her to know it was important."

A petition filed with the Chester County Board of Elections to transfer the polling site to Lincoln University was denied on Sept. 16. The polls have been located at the Lincoln Community Association Building since 1992.

The petition argued that the location of the polling place "disenfranchises, among others, students at Lincoln University, a majority of whom are African American. This constitutes a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act."

At the time, of about 2,100 registered voters in the district, only 173 were from Lincoln, said Jim Forsythe, director of voter services. But a registration surge brought the total to 2,451 voters, including many Lincoln students. Democrats outnumbered Republicans among registered voters, 1,734 to 441.

About 20 percent of the precinct's eligible voters had registered since the April primary.

Terence Farrell, a Chester County commissioner and a committeeman for the precinct, said a dramatic increase in new voters was responsible for the delays.

About 350 people were still in line at 8 p.m., when the polls were scheduled to close.

Until portable toilets were brought to the scene at 7:30 p.m., those in line had access to only one bathroom. Campaign volunteers handed out water and pizza to those who waited, and later coffee and doughnuts.

"The bottleneck is not the number of booths and it's not the space," said Farrell, a Republican. "It's the record number of new voters who had to show identification and the record number of voters not registered who had to fill out provisional ballots. The line would have been just as long on campus."

Farrell, the first African American elected to the Chester County Board of Commissioners, called the turnout "historic."

"I've been a committee person since 1990 and it's the largest turnout I've seen at this poll," he said. "The draw is Obama, particularly for the Lincoln University students."

After earlier complaints were filed with the Chester County commissioners, Farrell said that Lower Oxford Township had taken steps to improve the situation at the polling place by adding more lighting, making it accessible for the disabled, setting up a rope line to keep voters off the roads, and posting people to direct traffic to make sure voters were safe.

A total of 1,440 ended up voting by 10:52.

Justine Herbst, 19, a Lincoln sophomore voting for the first time, waited for six hours to cast her ballot. "It's frustrating. This is unorganized; it's ridiculous," she said. "They need to have a larger space, with more booths and more scanners."

"Our gym would have been great," she added. "Now look what everyone had to go through. I saw people who had to leave before they voted. They had classes."

Bryan Taylor, 19, a Lincoln sophomore, was one of four students - all first-time voters and all Obama supporters - who came to the community center to vote at noon. They finally voted at 7:15 p.m.

"You've got to make sacrifices if you want results," Taylor said.

Jessica Perpignan, 19, also a Lincoln sophomore, said, "I'm not happy with the situation we've been in for the past eight years. If I can make a change, it's worth it to me."

She saw the delays as part of an effort to suppress the largely Democratic voters. "They're trying to keep us from voting by holding this in this little building," she said. "They don't want our votes."

Beth MacMillan, the judge of elections at the polling place, said, "It's just too small and we don't have enough people." She said she hired somebody in midafternoon to help sign in voters and move the line faster.

Before hiring that person, there had been six people processing voters, including one at the optical scanner and one dealing with people who had registration problems.

Steve Zurl, a Republican volunteer from London Grove who had come to hand out literature, said: "They were very poorly prepared here."

He said that at his polling place, about 200 voters were processed per hour. The large number of new voters at the Lower Oxford East polling place "put a load on them they didn't expect, but they should have seen it coming."

"It's a shame. It's wrong, with the technologies we have," said Kathy Bojanowski, a health-care worker at DuPont Hospital in Wilmington who gave up trying to vote at 9 p.m. because she had to go to work. "They have to do something different."

Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-627-2649 or dhardy@phillynew.com.