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Tri-State voter registration offices busy on deadline day

October 15, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

TRI-STATE -- Area residents streamed into voter registration offices in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia on Tuesday afternoon as the 5 p.m. deadline to register for the Nov. 4 general election approached.

"They've been coming in like crazy," said Berkeley County deputy county clerk Bonnie Woodfall, who said the voter registration staff processed 813 new registrations in the last seven days and 4,000 from January to September.

In Washington County, Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel said her office has been flooded with first-time voters. A backlog of registrations had made it impossible to tell how many new voters have registered in recent weeks, she said.

That trend continued Tuesday -- the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election -- and Kaetzel estimated that at least 125 people turned in forms by early evening. Many of those people were volunteers coming in with handfuls of new voter registration forms, she said.

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The Board of Elections remained open until 9 p.m. Tuesday.

"There's a lot of increased interest in the election ... in voting," Kaetzel said. "That's why there's a backlog."

The Herald-Mail has reported that more than 1,100 new registrations were received in September.

As of Tuesday, Kaetzel had counted 669 in October, but said hundreds more are still waiting to be counted.

Of those, 277 were enrolled as Democrats and 219 were enrolled as Republicans. Most of the remainder were unaffiliated, Kaetzel said.

The latest data states that there are 84,238 registered voters in Washington County. Included in that total are 32,389 Democrats and 37,472 Republicans.

Within minutes of the registration deadline Tuesday, there were 64,581 voter registrations on file in Berkeley County, with 24,472 Democrats, 24,143 Republicans and 15,589 that listed no party affiliation, Woodfall said. Those tallies, however, did not include the stacks of registration cards yet to be processed on each deputy clerk's desk Tuesday afternoon or registrations yet to arrive from Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office, Woodfall said.

Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan could not say Tuesday how many registered voters Jefferson County had.

Maghan looked into a busy elections office and said she would have to release a final number later in the week. A bailiff in the Jefferson County Courthouse said the courthouse was flooded Tuesday with people wanting to register to vote, and there was a line out the door of the elections office around 4:15 p.m.

"It's been like this all day," Maghan said.

The number of registered voters in Berkeley County appears to have increased by more than 12,000 since since the 52,308 tally recorded for the 2004 general election, according to data posted on the Web site for Ireland's office.

For the 2008 primary election, Jefferson County had 32,902 registered voters, up from 28,372 in the 2004 general election, according to Ireland's office.

At Berkeley County's voters registration offices Tuesday morning, a line formed outside before the office opened, County Clerk John W. Small Jr. said.

Another lined that formed just before the office closed included local Democrat and Republican Party workers, who were turning in registration applications completed at their offices.

Small said 15 voting machines were set up Tuesday for early voting, which begins at 9 a.m. today, and estimated as many as 5,000 people might cast ballots before election day.

Turnout for the election, because of the presidential race, could be 65 or 70 percent, Small said.

Local races for county commission and sheriff also figure to be "two biggies," Small said.

Morgan County clerk Debra Kesecker said her office was very busy Tuesday registering voters and she would not have final numbers until later in the week.

 

Staff writers Dave McMillion and Erin Cunningham contributed to this story.

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