05/06/08 — Voters flock to polls to mark ballots

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Voters flock to polls to mark ballots

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 6, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County voters turned out in droves today to cast their ballots in what may be the decisive primary for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

But with a sales tax referendum and a host of county commission, state and judicial races on the ticket, local interest has been high as well.

Even before polls opened this morning, county elections director Vickie Reed was expecting turnout to reach record levels -- especially with one-stop voting already accounting for about 10 percent of the county's approximately 63,500 voters.

And so far, judging by early morning reports from the precincts, she's likely to be correct.

"We've had a lot more than usual," said Allen Aycock, chief judge at Fremont United Methodist Church.

There turnout was already at 115 by 9 a.m.

Other precincts also showed numbers well into the hundreds before 9 a.m. with 160 at the Pikeville Fire Station, 156 at the Mount Olive Civic Center, 166 at New Hope Friends Church in Goldsboro, 140 at Dudley Fire Station, 110 at Brogden Middle School, 103 at Oakland Fire Station and 127 at First African Baptist Church.

"We had people standing in line at 6:15 (a.m.) knocking on the doors, saying that they've got to get to work," chief judge Jerry Mullis said from Southern Academy in Mount Olive where turnout reached 100 voters before 9 a.m.

And while not all the precincts were seeing such high numbers -- 39 at WAGES and 77 at Kingdom Life Ministries, both in Goldsboro -- most officials are expecting a steady stream of voters throughout the rest of day with crowds likely around the lunch hour and after 5 p.m.

Wayne County Public Library had a steady turnout since the polls opened at 6:30 this morning. By 8:50, the chief judge said, 86 people had voted, with a handful still waiting their turn.

At Carver Heights Elemen-tary School, the emergency bin had to be used when the day started, with 108 ballots received by 9 a.m. The crowd was sparse but steady, the poll judge said.

Voting will continue today until 7:30 p.m. Unofficial results will then be available at the Wayne County Board of Elections office at 209 S. William St. and online at www.waynegov.com/boe or at the state Web site, www.sboe.state.nc.us.

Across the state, voters were turning out in huge numbers, according to early reports, and were expected to break turnout records. Nearly half a million people voted early or cast an absentee ballots before Tuesday arrived -- more than half the total number of voters who cast a ballot overall during the 2004 primary.

"It helps the turnout. We're real excited about the number of new voters," Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue said as she greeted a steady stream of voters early Tuesday at a Durham elementary school. "It's good for democracy. In this country you have hard-fought political battles, and then you have people vote on a day like this and it's over."

The boon at the ballot box appears to hold the biggest sway over the Democratic races, including the top-ballot match between presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, said 85 percent of unaffiliated voters were choosing the Democratic ballot.

"I can't remember a primary that had this much excitement," Bartlett said. "It's truly fun to be part of making history, and I hope that this encourages voters to participate in all primary elections."

Lower down on the ballot, Democratic were picking a winner in the heated governor's race between Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore, who have been locked in a multimillion-dollar campaign for months.

"It's been a hard-fought race. Tomorrow we join hands as a team," Perdue said. "If Richard Moore wins, I will support him. If I win, I am sure he will do the same."

On the Republican side, an equally narrow race for governor has placed Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and state Sen. Fred Smith in a competition that's too close to call.

Indiana also was holding its presidential primary today.

Dual victories by Obama would all but knock Clinton out of the race. Polls, however, have found a small edge for the New York senator in Indiana. Obama remains the favorite in North Carolina, though his lead has shrunk.

Altogether, 187 delegates are at stake in the two states, nearly half the pledged delegates left with eight primaries to go before voting ends in a month.

North Carolina and Indiana cannot mathematically settle the nomination. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win, and Obama had 1,745.5 to Clinton's 1,608 Monday.