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Berkeley voter count increases

October 12, 2000

Berkeley voter count increases



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The number of registered voters in Berkeley County has increased at least 21.5 percent since the last presidential election in 1996, according to figures from the County Clerk's Office.

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With several hundred voter registrations still expected, the approximate number of voters totals 38,796 this year, compared with 31,915 four years ago. Two years ago, 34,318 voters were registered.

The numbers are not quite as high in Jefferson County, with a 14.5 percent increase for four years, from 17,868 to approximately 20,400. Registrations are now closed.

"Presidential elections are always busy times," said Bonnie Woofall, Berkeley County deputy county clerk.

Another reason is all the people moving to the county, she suggested. The number of registered voters could reflect that.

"We've had a big influx," she said. "I see it from month to month."

The office has been so busy handling the number of voter registrations that workers have not yet broken them out by party.

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"We've had a real good increase in population in Berkeley County. That would be my theory for the increase," said former Berkeley County Republican Party Executive Committee Chairman Leon Close. "And I see a lot of interest here both in the presidential campaign and in second congressional district campaign."

Erica Epperson, chairperson of the local Democratic executive committee, said a high turnout usually helps Democrats, who enjoy a big edge in party registration throughout the state.

But the real work now begins for party officials.

"I think it's great so many people are registered," she said. "But now we've got to get them to vote." The party will engage in several efforts to get their voters to the polls in what is expected to be a close presidential election, both nationally and in West Virginia. The state usually votes Democrat, but Berkeley County often elects Republicans, Close said.

Knowing where to vote in Berkeley County is part of the problem to get people to vote, Epperson said. "You can drive past one or two polling places before you get to the one you need," she said.

She said growth and interest in the election are the primary factors for the big increase.

"I think it's about half and half," she said. "You have motor voter (signing up when renewing a driver's license) and people are more actively getting other people to register."

Berkeley County registered about 150-200 people Wednesday during the day and another 72 people between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

This year, several groups, including students at Shepherd College and the NAACP have worked hard to sign people up to vote.

"It's a lot easier to register voters now," Close said. "With postcard registration, you can meet somebody on the street, sign them up and drop the registration in the mail box."

The election is Nov. 7.

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