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County Courthouse a hive of activity on day before election

November 05, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The oxymoron "organized chaos" could have been applied to what was going on in the Berkeley County courthouse Monday.

Election messengers scurried in empty-handed and left a bit later, carrying black, blue or gray ballot boxes, some metal, others cardboard with the phrase "Mountaineers are always free" printed on them.

Bailiffs had to move a metal detector, and eventually gave up trying to keep track of all the people coming and going.

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Absentee ballots - more than 1,250 - were collected and sent with the messengers. Poll workers kept the supplies at their home Monday night, and took them to polling places today.

Several state House of Delegates seats are up for grabs, as is a seat on the Berkeley County Commission. Voters also will have a say in whether they want an excess school and police levy imposed.

Berkeley County Clerk John Small Jr. said he hopes the high voter turnout during the two-week No Excuses Absentee Voting period is indicative of how many will head to the polls today.

"I'd like to have about a 40 percent turnout, at least," Small said, but just shook his head when asked if he thinks that will happen. Turnout is not usually high, especially in a nonpresidential election.

Less than 20 percent of Berkeley County's registered voters turned out for the primary election five months ago, according to the Secretary of State's office.

But Small said he thinks some races will propel people to the polls.

"The interest is there with the Congress race," he said, referring to the heat between incumbent Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, and her Democratic challenger, Jim Humphreys.

Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine stood outside the courthouse Monday evening as dusk fell, papers in her hand, and the impending election on her mind.

"I'll just be glad when it's over," she said, referring not to the hassle of what goes on behind the scenes before an election, but those phone calls at home from candidates.

Sine said she, too, was pleased with the high absentee turnout. A woman called her office Monday, to share her experience of voting Saturday, three days before the election.

"They felt comfortable coming in. It wasn't rushed," Sine said of absentee voting at the courthouse, which started Oct. 21 and ended at 1 p.m. Monday.

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