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Early voting ends in W.Va.

October 31, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Convenience, necessity and a personal touch were some of the reasons given by a few of the hundreds of people who voted at the Berkeley County Courthouse on Saturday during the last day of West Virginia's Early Voting program.

By the time the doors closed at 5 p.m., 7,019 people had voted in Berkeley County since the program began Oct. 13.

In Jefferson County, a total of 4,868 people had voted there with a few more still in line past the 5 p.m. deadline, a courthouse employee said. Morgan County officials said they would not have a total until Monday.

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Neither Maryland nor Pennsylvania offer an early voting option like this.

Arlene Householder, of Martinsburg, voted a week ago but returned to the courthouse Saturday to accompany her 20-year-old daughter Sara, who was voting in her first presidential election.

As Householder stood outside on a warm afternoon, she peered toward the courthouse.

"She's inside, somewhere," Householder said of her daughter.

Householder opted to vote early to avoid long lines.

"You don't have to worry about the weather. You don't have to worry about the lines, the crowds," she said. "Last week was much better than today, line-wise."

Berkeley County Clerk John Small said that at one point Saturday morning, the line stretched around the corner of the courthouse. He said he asked a few people how long the wait was from the time they joined the back of the line to the time they finished punching their ballots. Fifty-five minutes to an hour was the average response, Small said.

Part of the problem was that there were only 38 machines set up to handle voters from all of the county's 59 precincts.

Small said he wanted to order another 20 machines, but decided against the $4,000 expenditure because of the cost and because they were reconditioned machines that would have been shipped from California. He said he's not sure they would have arrived in time.

Crowds during Early Voting are likely a harbinger of what's to come, Small said.

"I think this is only the tip of the iceberg," said Small, who expects voter turnout to be high on Tuesday.

For Rodney Armel, 47, of Martinsburg, lines were not an issue.

"I am a commuter and it's better for me to do it now than maybe miss my train," Armel said. Because he sometimes works late in Washington, he said he also worried he might not be home by the time the polls close Tuesday.

Armel said he voted for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

"I think Bush has maybe made a few mistakes. I just think we need a change," Armel said.

Roger Fazio, 62, of Martinsburg, said he voted early because he was able to have someone help him read the ballot.

"Good service and people" convinced him to head to the courthouse and vote early.

Fazio said he voted for President Bush.

"He's done a lot and he's a Christian fellow. Better than that other fellow," Fazio said.

Householder said she voted for Kerry.

"I don't think we can afford four more years of George," Householder said. "Things have got to improve."

She said her son enlisted in the U.S. Army, and she wants to make sure he and other soldiers receive what they need and are not sent where they shouldn't be.

There could be a downside to voting early, Householder said.

"I guess you'll miss the excitement of the day," she said.

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