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Panhandle voters out early in big numbers

November 02, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - More than 4,000 residents in West Virginia's three easternmost counties already have cast votes in the general election, according to tallies released by county officials Wednesday.

"Something has stirred since the primary," Berkeley County Voters Registration deputy clerk Bonnie Woodfall said of the turnout, which as of Wednesday was 2,078. "Big time."

The vast majority of early voters in Berkeley County have used Ivotronic, touch-screen voting machines instead of paper ballots, which are expected to be phased out by 2008.

"Hardly any" of the paper ballots have been used, Woodfall said.

Nikki Painter, Woodfall's counterpart in Jefferson County, said 161 people voted Wednesday, with only three days left to cast ballots early. Jefferson County's tally was 1,577 as of Wednesday.

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At the end of early voting Tuesday, 468 Morgan County residents had cast ballots, according to Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office. A tally for Wednesday from Morgan County was not immediately available.

Ireland is expected to visit with election officials in Martinsburg today.

"The turnout for this (election) has just been great," Painter said.

Last Saturday, Painter said residents were waiting in line to vote and more than 100 had voted before noon.

Painter has heard residents say they have found voting at Jefferson County Courthouse to be in a "more relaxed atmosphere" than standing in line at their precinct location and the service has been a convenience for the community's vast commuting population.

"People with disabilities feel more comfortable," Painter said.

Woodfall hopes the increase in early voter participation will be an indicator of an increase in overall turnout, especially since Berkeley County had the lowest percentage of registered voters (15.06) casting ballots in the primary election among all 55 counties. Jefferson County's turnout of 20.57 percent in the May election was lower than Morgan County (23.1 percent), according to Ireland's office.




Vote early



Voters have three more days to make their decisions during early voting in West Virginia.

In Jefferson County, voting times at the county courthouse are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

In Berkeley County, voting times at the county courthouse are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.

In Morgan County, voting times at the county clerk's office in the modular housing unit behind the county courthouse are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.

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