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Registrars busy keeping up with demand for ballots  (CT)

 DAVE COLLINS | Associated Press   05 February 2008

HARTFORD, Conn. - What was expected to be a record voter turnout in Connecticut on Tuesday had local poll workers scrambling to keep up with demand.

Several towns had to photocopy ballots, while officials in Stratford put a call out to the town's printer to order new ballots long before the polls closed at 8 p.m.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz predicted that turnout would far exceed the record 43.3 percent turnout for the closely watched 2006 Senate Democratic match-up between Sen. Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont.

"Turnout was very strong," she said. "We think we are well over 50 percent statewide and that is very exciting."

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama edged New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the state's Democratic primary, while Republicans handed McCain a wide-margin win over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Democrats in Manchester flooded the polls, prompting town officials to copy 3,000 additional ballots.

Frank Maffe Jr., Manchester's Democratic registrar of voters, said he ordered 5,000 ballots for Tuesday, based on a 45 percent turnout in the last presidential primary four years ago. But he said he was more than surprised when turnout surged to near 70 percent by Tuesday evening.

"Astounds me is more like it," he said. "It's amazing."

The shortage meant delays in counting votes where towns made copies because copies aren't as dark and cannot be read by the optical scan machines. Bysiewicz said her office had advised towns to order enough ballots for a 100 percent turnout just in case, but some municipalities did not heed the warning.

Manchester and Bozrah also reported unaffiliated voters showing up at the polls, unaware that state law prohibited them from voting. Only registered Democrats and Republicans were allowed to take part.

Maffe said some unaffiliated voters became so upset and rude that they nearly had to be removed from the polling places.

Orange, Milford and Windham also photocopied some of their ballots to prevent running out, which was in line with training to towns provided by state elections officials, election officials said. Bysiewicz said ballots also ran low in Enfield and Stratford.

Windham Democratic Registrar Paulann Lescoe said turnout was about three times as high as what the town normally draws for primaries.

"I think it's wonderful that people are getting interested again and maybe voter apathy is going away again," Lescoe said.

Bysiewicz said there were relatively few problems with the new, optical scan voting machines. Six out of the 825 devices used across the state had to be replaced with back-ups. Two jammed and three were not properly programmed, she said.

A polling place at a Waterbury school was shut down for about 30 minutes Tuesday morning due to a bomb scare hoax.

The turnout numbers won't become official until certified by Bysiewicz's office in the coming days.

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