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Turnout strong statewide

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA -- Georgia elections officials said voter turnout appeared to be high across the state Tuesday for a Democratic presidential primary with especially intense interest among blacks and a Republican race that could attract a wealth of independents to the polls.

Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and long lines were commonplace in many areas. The election was the first statewide contest in Georgia that required voters to bring photo identification to the polls, and delays were reported in some places as officials checked records.

In metro Atlanta's Fulton County — which has 354 polling places, the most in the state — county officials said they had anecdotal reports of voters waiting outside polling places and others asking for information on where to cast ballots.

"I am hearing the lines are long all day long," said Brenda McCloud, administrative coordinator for the county's elections board. "People, everybody — young, old — are still calling just to go find out where to go to vote. They are wanting to go to vote today."

McCloud said there hadn't been such a buzz around voting in Fulton County since the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush.

Meanwhile, national election monitoring group Election Protection said some precincts had problems when some computers being used to check IDs crashed, causing some voters to wait in lines of up to 90 minutes. The group said it did not seem to deter people from voting.

Secretary of State spokesman Matt Carrothers said crews were fixing problems, which he termed "isolated."

"We're hearing anecdotes of heavy turnout all across the state," Carrothers said. "We're also hearing everything is running smoothly as expected, so that's good news."

Tuesday's vote had the potential to rival the 1988 presidential primary, when about 40 percent of the voters turned out. More than 600,000 Democrats cast their ballots, fueling a Jesse Jackson victory. On the Republican side, about 400,000 voters turned out, giving George H.W. Bush a win over Bob Dole and Pat Robertson.

Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political science professor who studies voting behavior, predicted as many as 700,000 people could vote in the GOP primary and 800,000 in the Democratic contest.

"I think it's going to be a huge turnout for a primary, because of the high level of interest in the race," he said. "It's competitive and I think African-American voters are very motivated to turn out."

Democrats are choosing between New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who would be the first woman nominee, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who would be the first black nominee. Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Congressman Ron Paul are looking for wins in a close Republican race.

Secretary of State Karen Handel said counties are expecting between 30 percent and 35 percent of eligible voters to cast ballots. Georgia has 4.48 million registered voters who have been active in recent elections. Overall, the state has more than 5.2 million registered voters.

State elections officials said 247,897 people voted early, either by casting absentee ballots or advance voting. In 2004, a year when only the Democratic nomination was up for grabs, the combined total was 48,411.

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On the Net:

Georgia Secretary of State: http://www.sos.ga.gov

 

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