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Early voting ends in W.Va.

November 02, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Convenience, anxiousness, necessity.

Voters in Berkeley County had their own motives for waiting in hour-long lines Saturday during the last day to cast an early ballot for local, state and national elections.

More than 1,000 residents poured into the Berkeley County Courthouse to make their choices. Anyone who wasn't standing in line at the 5 p.m. deadline must vote Tuesday on Election Day - or not at all.

"I just wanted to make sure my vote got in," said Holly Johnson, 53, of Hedgesville, W.Va. "This is a really passionate election, but it's one that I'm anxious for it to be over."

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Johnson was one of several dozen who stood in line on Saturday about noon. At that point, the line went outside the courthouse doors onto the sidewalks of King Street. She said it took her about 45 minutes to make it from the back of the line to the voting booth.

The wait was just a small inconvenience for many of the voters. First-time voter Dana Messer, 29, of Falling Waters, W.Va., voted Saturday because she works in Reston, Va., and would have been unable to vote Tuesday.

Messer was one of 1,148 residents who voted early Saturday, bringing the total tally to 11,528, well more than pre-voting estimates by county officials.

"This was higher than expectations," Deputy County Clerk Bonnie Woodfall said. "This is a very important election and the people in this country are looking for a change. They're tired."

The majority of voters said that casting ballots was much easier than in years past. The touch-screen machines have caused some uncertainty, but county officials have taken a step toward correcting any accuracy problems by giving voters pointing devices - simply the eraser end of an unsharpened pencil - to make their selections.

Woodfall said that using the pencils has substantially reduced complaints received by the voting offices.

"Overall, the comments that we heard were very, very positive. A lot of them today went through the line thanked the early workers for allowing them to do this," Woodfall said. "Fifteen days of voting before the election and we had very few complaints, and considering the number of people that turned out, that's very good."

Kristin Bateman, 22, voted early this year after voting on Election Day during her first election in 2004, just out of high school.

"I don't remember it being any different, but I do like using the computers. It makes voting quicker and it's easier to read," Bateman said. "(Election staff) tell you exactly what to do. I went in and voted for president and turned it right in."

Philip Ryan, 57, of Martinsburg, had stakes in the presidential race, as well as the local elections. A member of the Berkeley County Democratic Executive Committee, Ryan is like millions of other Americans who simply want to have their votes mean something.

"It's government in action, for the people by the people," Ryan said. "A lot of people are taking advantage of this and a lot of people are excited. Nobody can complain in this election because everybody was given an opportunity to vote."

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