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Turnout could hit record highs today

November 04, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD and DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Buoyed by an emotion-charged sprint for the White House and scores of contested local races, record numbers of voters are expected at the pools today in West Virginia.

Given that about 18 percent of Berkeley County's 64,949 registered voters already have voted, County Clerk John W. Small Jr. said Monday that he expects a 70 percent turnout by the time polls close tonight.

As of Monday, there were 24,611 Berkeley County residents registered with the Democratic Party, 24,233 Republicans and 15,727 registered with no party affiliation, according to a report generated Monday by the county voter registration office.

By the end of early voting on Saturday, 11,097 people had cast ballots at the voter registration office and another 673 absentee ballots had been received there by Monday morning, Deputy County Clerk Bonnie Woodfall said.

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More than 900 voters have requested absentee ballots, Woodfall said.

If turnout reaches 70 percent, Small said it would be an all-time high in his 37 years as county clerk. In the 1960 general election, 71.7 percent of Berkeley County's 21,534 voters voted for president, according to the 1961 edition of the West Virginia Blue Book.

"We could use 20 more (voting machines) very easy ... if the county commission could come up with the funds in the next budget," Small said of the expected turnout in the county's 66 precincts.

The county has 232 voting machines available for voting today, but Woodfall said they cannot use another 16 that were used for early voting and absentee ballots because of state guidelines. The county also borrowed four machines from the state, Woodfall said.

o Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said Monday she is predicting voter turnout as high as 90 percent.

Maghan made the prediction after abnormally high numbers of voters turned out for early voting. At the close of the approximately two-week early voting period Saturday, 7,565 voters had cast ballots, about 22 percent of the county's 34,543 registered voters, according to Maghan's office.

During early voting, long lines formed at the Jefferson County Courthouse, and Maghan said she believed many people voted early because they would not be able to get the day off today to vote.

"People are ready for Election Day," Maghan said.

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