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Ga. voters see long lines, potential for record turnout
By Associated Press writer

05 February 2008
ATLANTA (AP) 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. At a church in Fulton County, more than 50 people had lined up to vote before the doors opened and a poll worker there said she had never seen so many lined up so early. In Marietta, a line of voters stretched to back of a middle school auditorium.

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.

Clare Schexnyder, spokeswoman for the national election monitoring group Election Protection, said some computers being used to check the IDs crashed and people had to wait in lines of up to 90 minutes. She said other problems included about 50 voters being turned away from a precinct that split in June to form two precincts, and that a precinct at an Atlanta residential building saw delays when only one of five voting booths were working and election workers had to hand out 75 paper ballots.

Elsewhere, a precinct in the suburban city of Covington, Ga., opened only to discover the wrong keys needed to turn them on had been delivered with its new electronic voting machines. A Newton County Board of Elections official said the correct keys immediately were sent to the church and she had not heard reports of delays.

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 has 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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