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Clerks calling for nearly 70% in Panhandle

November 02, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

EASTERN PANHANDLE, W.Va. - Election officials in West Virginia believe voter turnout in today's general election could reach nearly 70 percent in some areas as Eastern Panhandle residents cast ballots in a variety of political races from county magistrate to U.S. president.

Berkeley County Clerk John Small said he believes voter turnout could be as high as 68 percent today.

Small said he based his prediction on the large number of county residents who voted early. About 7,000 residents voted during an early voting period that began Oct. 13 and lasted a little more than two weeks.

Jefferson County Clerk John Ott said he believes voter turnout today in the county could be between 50 percent and 60 percent.

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The last time turnout reached that level was in the 2000 general election when turnout was 67.8 percent, according to county records.

About 5,000 residents voted early in Jefferson County, Ott said.

Ott said the weather probably will be a factor in the turnout. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy conditions today with a 20 percent chance of showers and temperatures in the mid-60s. There is a 30 percent chance of showers tonight.

"If we have rain, I hope it comes late rather than early," Ott said.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Berkeley County has 53,783 registered voters, while Jefferson County has about 28,800 registered voters, clerks said.

The race for the Shepherdstown, W.Va., seat on the Jefferson County Commission took an 11th hour twist Monday when police said they were investigating a death threat against Democratic candidate Jim Surkamp.

Someone called from a pay phone Sunday in Shepherdstown and left a message on Surkamp's cell phone, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department Deputy Victor Lupis.

Surkamp said the call was made at 5:07 p.m. from a pay phone outside the Sheetz store along W.Va. 45. Police were interested in looking at a store videotape system to see if the person who made the call could be seen on tape, Surkamp said.

It was later determined that the store camera's viewing area does not reach to the pay phone, Surkamp said.

Surkamp is running against Republican Gary Phalen in the county commission race.

In addition to the closely watched race between presidential candidates George Bush and Sen. John Kerry, voters will be able to cast ballots in a large number of races that include candidates for governor, secretary of state, state attorney general and the state Supreme Court of Appeals. Locally, voters will be able to cast ballots in races for county assessor, state House of Delegates, state Senate, Berkeley County sheriff, Berkeley County magistrate, Berkeley County prosecuting attorney and Jefferson County clerk.

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