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More than 700 in Eastern Panhandle vote early

October 16, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

EASTERN PANHANDLE -- More than 700 residents in the Eastern Panhandle didn't wait for Election Day to cast ballots. Instead, they took advantage of the first day of "no excuse" early voting Wednesday, county officials reported.

By 5 p.m., 448 ballots were cast at the Berkeley County Voters Registration office at 110 W. King St., according to deputy county clerk Bonnie Woodfall.

Voting was steady in the Jefferson County Courthouse, and by noon 110 voters had cast ballots, Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said. Although Maghan did not have final figures later in the afternoon, she said then that more than 200 people voted. Many people were bringing in other voters, some from nursing homes, Maghan said.

"Everyone wants to vote," Maghan said.

More than 100 people voted in Morgan County on Wednesday, the largest number of people to vote on opening day, according to Morgan County Clerk Debra Kesecker.

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Officials in Raleigh, Cabell, Kanawha and Monongalia counties also reported steady turnout Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. More than 10 percent of all registered voters in West Virginia took advantage of early voting in 2004 and Woodfall expects more people to vote before Election Day this year.

Early voting continues in West Virginia for the next 14 days, including Saturdays Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the respective county clerk offices.

Residents in Berkeley and Jefferson counties can vote from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. In Morgan County, early voting hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday.

Kesecker said 38 people had voted by 9:30 a.m. at the five Ivotronic voting machines set up in the county clerk's office on Mercer Street.

Morgan County resident Bibi Hahn celebrated her 53rd birthday on Wednesday and she was at the front of the line waiting for 9 a.m. to be the first to cast her vote in Morgan County for Barack Obama.

"Just voting for someone I truly believe in was exhilarating," Hahn said.

Residents Sally and Sam Marshall voted right before the offices closed at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

"I'm excited we have the early voting opportunity. I can even vote before the last debate," Sally Marshall said.

Kesecker said more than 90 newly registered voters are pending, and more mail-ins are expected. The county now has 11,200 registered voters, she said.

Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr. said voting went smoothly Wednesday and he estimated that 5,000 or more residents will opt to vote early, a substantial increase from a little more than 3,000 cast in the primary election.

Small said the City of Martinsburg agreed to give early voters 15 minutes of free parking on the north side of the 100 block of West King Street.

Staff writers Trish Rudder and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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