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Clerks say election went smoothly despite big turnout

November 03, 2004|from staff reports

Election officials throughout the Tri-State region reported high voter turnout and few problems, except long lines at some precincts.

Voters in Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania and in the Eastern Panhandle counties of West Virginia faced a ballotful of choices on the national, state, county and local levels.

In Berkeley County, W.Va., no problems had been reported by 10:15 p.m.

The first locked boxes from a precinct - precinct No. 10, Tuscarora Elementary School - arrived at 7:53 p.m., 23 minutes after polls closed. After that, results from several more precincts were brought in quickly, one almost immediately after another.

Ballots from the last precinct - No. 41, Tomahawk Ruritan Club - were hauled into the courthouse at 9:37 p.m.

Berkeley County Clerk John Small said he expected voter turnout to top 75 percent.

"It's about the highest I've ever seen it, ever since I was born and raised here," said Small, 71.

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Berkeley County officials mailed out more than 1,000 absentee ballots. They were sorted and sent to the county's precincts to be counted at the same time as ballots cast on Tuesday, election officials said.

In Jefferson County, W.Va., with 10 of 29 precincts reporting, voter turnout in the county was running at about 65 percent.

Although there was a steady stream of people heading to the polls in the county, no voting problems were reported, Jefferson County Clerk John Ott said.

About 600 absentee ballots were cast in Jefferson County and those were to be counted Tuesday night, Ott said.

In Morgan County, W.Va., election officials estimated a turnout of 62 percent of the registered voters in the county with eight of the 13 precincts reporting. Nearly 1,800 people participated in early voting in the county, while 202 absentee ballots were returned. Absentee ballots were counted Tuesday night, officials said.

No problems were reported at the polls.

In Franklin County, Pa., at the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Franklin Farm Lane, where voters in the Guilford 1 District vote, more than 60 people were standing outside the door of the polling place at 10:30 a.m. Carl Helman, a poll watcher for the Franklin County Republican Committee, said 800 of the 2,878 people registered there had voted by 11:40 a.m.

According to registration office figures, 3,524 people voted by absentee ballot, up from 2,462 in 2000. State election laws, which once required a voter to be out of the county on Election Day to qualify for an absentee ballot, have since been amended to require they only be out of their municipality.

Roger Beckner, the county's Republican chairman, said the party had 64 volunteer poll watchers collecting names of people who had voted in the precincts where they worked. Beckner said that list would be compared with a precinct list so volunteers could call registered members who had not voted.

At the headquarters of the Franklin County Democratic Committee, Director of Volunteers Beth Shupp George said volunteers also were watching the polls to get the names of those who had yet to vote.

In Fulton County, Pa., Chief Clerk Richard Wible reported no problems with voting in the county's 13 precincts. Wible said the turnout was good and absentee ballots were to be counted Tuesday night with the live ballots.

Staff writers Don Aines, Candice Bosely, Bonnie Brechbill, Dave McMillion and Trish Rudder contributed to this story.

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