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Some in Franklin County expect highest voter turnout since 92

November 02, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is one of the biggest prizes among battleground states in the presidential sweepstakes, leading county and party officials to believe today's turnout could be the highest in years.

"I think Franklin County will see 84 percent turnout," said County Commissioner Cheryl Plummer, a Democrat and member of the Board of Elections.

"I believe we're going to hit 80 percent," said Don Richards, chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Committee and a state senate candidate.

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"I expect high, very high turnout. Higher than we've seen in this county in several years," said Roger Beckner, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee.

If those predictions are accurate, it would be the highest turnout since 1992 when 85 percent of registered county voters cast ballots for President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, according to county election figures.

Turnout also topped 80 percent in the 1984 and 1988 presidential elections, according to county figures. After Pennsylvania adopted federal Motor Voter regulations, which led to more people registering, the percentage voting fell to 74 percent in 1996 and to 69 percent in 2000.

Between 1984 and 1994, the number of registered voters in the county increased by about 3,000 to 51,144, according to county figures.

In the 10 years since 1994, the number of registered voters increased by almost 31,000 to 82,057, according to Voter Registration Office figures.

The number of people actually voting, however, has failed to keep pace with the numbers registering, according to county figures. While the number of people voting went from 40,162 in 1984 to 49,291 in 2000, the number of people registered increased by 23,000.

Approximately 11,000 people have registered to vote since the 2000 election, but voter registration figures showed about half that number registered since April.

Passions are running high in this election, Richards said. He described this political year as "one of the most enthusiastic and cantankerous ever seen ... about the worst thing you can ask anyone is who they're going to vote for."

Along with the presidential contest, races for the U.S. Senate, Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate are contested.

The race for the 89th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives between Republican Rob Kauffman and Democrat Doug Harbach is expected to draw voters. The district includes portions of both Franklin and Cumberland counties.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and county Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said the county should be well-prepared. Most of the 75 precinct polling places will be staffed by five or more election officials, including judges of elections, majority and minority party inspectors and clerks.

Because of the expected crush of voters, the county has hired extra help at the biggest precincts, Byers said.

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