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Unofficial turnout is 70 percent

November 03, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE and WANDA T. WILLIAMS

julieg@herald-mail.com
wandaw@herald-mail.com

Washington County's voter turnout increased this year, but just slightly - percentagewise - compared to four years ago, Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel said.

The unofficial voter turnout on Tuesday was 70 percent compared with 69 percent in 2000, according to election results.

Kaetzel had predicted turnout Tuesday would be 75 percent to 80 percent.

Kaetzel said she had hoped that a large number of people who registered to vote in September and October would result in a higher turnout.

The turnout rate will increase as absentee ballots are counted starting Thursday, she said.

On Tuesday, 54,454 of 77,309 registered voters cast their ballots, according to unofficial results. In the 2000 presidential election, 47,604 voters in the county cast ballots.

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Some Washington County election officials said electronic voting machines helped decrease the wait at precincts with long lines. Aside from one small glitch, officials said machine usage went smoothly.

Some voter access cards were rejected when voters inserted them in voting machines at North Hagerstown High School because the cards were not programmed correctly, Kaetzel said. The problem was quickly fixed.

That problem occurred at approximately six precincts, said Charles L. Mobley Jr., election board president.

John F. Barr, election board vice president, visited precincts throughout the county where he said many first-time users praised the machines.

TrueVoteMD poll watcher Dale Page said he had no complaints from voters. TrueVoteMD, a Maryland based election integrity group, opposes the state's electronic touch-screen voting machines.

"It was a smooth day. Everybody seemed to like the machines," he said.

Aubrey Keyes, 19, voted for the first time at the Bethel Gardens Community Center. Keyes said he hopes electronic voting machines will encourage younger people to vote.

"It was quick and really easy and you don't even have to write," Keyes said.

Tracey Brown, an election judge for the Bethel Gardens precinct, said she was "overwhelmed at the turnout by local youth. And if they don't vote, they're registering to vote."

By 5 p.m., 330 voters had cast ballots at Bethel Gardens, of 715 people registered in that precinct, Brown said. "In the primary, we had less than 100 voters," she said.

At Conococheague Elementary School, 894 of the precinct's 2,796 voters had voted by noon, said Election Judge Greg Long.

"We had 75 people in line this morning when we opened the polls. No problems with the machines, everyone adapted pretty well," Long said.

"Quite a mix, younger and older people and some we haven't seen in 10 years," Long said.

Kaetzel said Tuesday afternoon there were no reports of candidates campaigning too close to polling places.

Of 3,682 absentee ballots issued, 2,777 had been received by approximately 7 p.m., Mobley said.

The absentee ballots, which must be received no later than today, will be counted at 10 a.m. Thursday, Mobley said.

Overseas ballots will be counted on Nov. 12, Mobley said.

Staff writer Scott Butki contributed to this story.

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