NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Election Connection

January 8, 2008

End of the trail: Record turnout forecast at polls today

Londonderry Town Clerk Marguerite Seymour and her staff processed more than 300 absentee ballots before lunchtime yesterday - about three times as many as the town usually receives for an election. The absentee ballots reflect how packed the polls will be today, she said.



"It's always busy at the very beginning and after work, but tomorrow is just going to be busy all around," Seymour said.



Many other town clerks saw similar increases in absentee ballots. Derry Town Clerk Denise Neale processed almost five times as many as usual. Danville had three times as many.



"The secretary of state said at least 80 percent," Danville Town Clerk Doreen Moore said. "The way the absentee ballots have been going suggests the same here."



Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting half a million voters will head to the polls today, up drastically from the previous record of 396,000 set in the 2000 primary. He's predicting more people will cast ballots in the Democratic primary - 260,000. He also expects 50,000 residents to register to vote today.



Town clerks all said their phones were ringing off the hooks with people clarifying what party they are registered with and people wanting to register.



"We have had a ton of phone calls today," Sandown Town Clerk Michelle Short said. "I'm assuming the supervisors of the checklist will be busy tomorrow, registering new voters."



Undecided voters flocked to last-minute campaign stops yesterday to gather more information and make up their minds.



Robert Reese of Salem said that by the time he left Mitt Romney's Town Hall-style meeting at the Salem-Derry Elks yesterday, the former Massachusetts governor would likely be his first choice. But Reese, an independent, has a strategy in place.



"I want my vote to count," he said. "I'll vote for Romney unless he's a shoo-in late in the day. Then I'll go for someone else my vote can help, maybe (John) Edwards."



Zo Tobi, 22, of Lyndeborough came down to the southern part of the state yesterday to see as many candidates as he could, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, Romney and Mike Huckabee. He's seen other candidates in the past few weeks, buthe hadn't narrowed down his choices as of yesterday.



Tobi plans to vote first on the issue of global warming, but also is paying attention to candidates' stances on national security and poverty, he said.



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