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Washington County residents brave weather to cast votes

February 13, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

With about 25 years of experience working the polls in Washington County elections, Emily Knode is used to surprises, both in the voting process and her personal life.

As the primary election polls opened Tuesday at 7 a.m. at Clear Spring High School, Knode was contending with the effects of an overnight snowstorm as well as one malfunctioning voting machine.

"The custodians have kept the parking lot very clean," Knode said. And as for the voting machine, a traveling technician showed up quickly and fixed that problem.

Knode said she will never forget working the polls on Nov. 2, 2004. Her grandson was born that day and she and her husband remained at the school until the polls closed as was their duty, missing the birth.

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As for their grandson, "He'll be 4 this November," she said.

Elsewhere Tuesday morning, most polling places reported that voters were waiting when the doors opened.

About 32 percent of Washington County's registered voters turned out for the primary, according to the Washington County Board of Elections Web site.

A total of 25,918 voters turned out at the polls in the county.

"With the weather like it was, we were pretty good," said Dorothy Kaetzel, Washington County Board of Elections director.

During the last presidential primary, in 2004, about 24 percent of Washington County voters cast ballots.

Kaetzel said she thought this year's early primary date would draw more voters to the polls. Maryland's presidential primary election previously was held in March.

"We really thought it would be good just because of the national trend," Kaetzel said.

Still, more than 1,200 absentee ballots were returned, and provisional and overseas ballots must be counted.

Provisional ballots are given at the polls to voters whose registration is questioned. And on Tuesday, Maryland's polls remained open for an extra 90 minutes, until 9:30 p.m., because of icy conditions in part of the state. Ballots cast during that extended period will be treated as provisional ballots and will be counted next Tuesday.

Absentee and overseas ballots had to be postmarked by Feb. 12 and must be received by the board of elections by Feb. 22.

Eric Whitenton, chief judge at Sharpsburg Elementary School, said turnout was steady Tuesday morning. The weather was a factor, voters told Whitenton.

Still there was a short line when the polls opened at 7 a.m., he said.

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