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Eastern Panhandle prepares for W.Va. primary

More than 5 percent of early voters came from Berkeley and Jefferson counties

More than 5 percent of early voters came from Berkeley and Jefferson counties

May 13, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

EASTERN PANHANDLE -- More than 5 percent of West Virginia's 71,209 "early voters" came from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, according to county officials who projected a high turnout for a primary election fueled by a marathon Democratic Party presidential nominating contest and zoning.

"Early voting just keeps growing and growing," Bonnie Woodfall said of this year's turnout in Berkeley County, where about 6 percent of the 61,381 registered voters (3,761) decided to cast their ballots early. Jefferson County officials reported just less than 3,000 residents voted early.

On Saturday, the last of 15 days to vote at the county's voters registration office in downtown Martinsburg, 1,078 ballots were cast, Woodfall said.

This year's early voting tally eclipsed the pre-election day turnout in the 2006 general election by more than 700 ballots, according to Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office.

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Voters in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties will head to the polls beginning at 6:30 a.m. today to cast votes in a variety of races such as county commission, sheriff, circuit judge, board of education, magistrate and congressional contests.

Because of zoning and the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr. projected the total voter turnout would be 40 percent, a figure that would be nearly double the 2004 primary election tally.

"We were the lowest in the state," Woodfall said of the county's 21 percent turnout four years ago. Berkeley County's turnout in the 2006 primary - 15 percent - also ranked lowest among the state's 55 counties.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today.

In Jefferson County, voters were calling election officials on Monday asking questions about sample ballots, leaving Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan to think that many people were still doing research.

"I think they're still undecided," Maghan said.

Maghan said it is hard to determine what kind of voter turnout the county will see today, although she said contests like the presidential race usually bring out larger numbers of voters.

A little less than 3,000 Jefferson County residents voted early, which Maghan said was "right on target" for the county, which has 32,377 registered voters.

In Morgan County, a high turnout is expected for today's primary.

Morgan County Clerk Debra Kesecker said Monday that both the Morgan County Commission race and the Morgan County sheriff's race will get people out to vote.

"These are the two races I hear the most comments from the public," Kesecker said.

Only 677 people participated in early voting, Kesecker said. Morgan County has 10,899 registered voters.

Precinct 25 has been moved to the Nature Center at Cacapon State Park, Kesecker said. It used to be at Cabin 31 in Cacapon State Park, she said.

All voters in Precinct 25 with an up-to-date address received notification of the change but Kesecker said many of the notification letters came back because they were mailed to old addresses.

She said anyone may call the clerk's office today.

Morgan County has Ivotronic voting machines that have a paper trail, she said. All the machines have been tested and are working fine, she said.

Herald-Mail staff writers Dave McMillion and Trish Rudder contributed to this story.

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