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By polling place and mail, SLO voters cast their ballots

Sarah Arnquist and Stephen Curran  San Luis Obispo.Com   06 February 2008

A steady stream of voters cast ballots Tuesday in San Luis Obispo County, but volunteers suspected turnout at polling places was lower than in past years because of the popularity of mail-in absentee ballots.

Elections officials reported a handful of glitches at polling places in Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Creston, Atascadero and Paso Robles. County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said possible faulty memory cards forced staffers to remove six of the county’s 78 voting machines early Tuesday.

More than 42,000 of the county’s 146,000 registered voters had cast absentee ballots by Tuesday afternoon, Rodewald said, a slight increase from previous years.

Bruce Knuckles of Atascadero said he was among the nearly half of county voters who requested an absentee ballot this year, and now he regrets voting too early.

After he mailed in his ballot voting for Fred Thompson, the Tennessee Republican ped out of the race.

“If I would’ve known he was going to out, I would’ve saved my vote for someone else,” Knuckles said.

Next election, he plans to wait longer to vote. Speculating about the Super Tuesday results, Knuckles said, “I think there’s going to be a lot of surprises across the nation.”

Supporters wait

Outside the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo, Hillary Clinton supporter David Brodie and friend Victoria Grostick were among the two dozen or so who gathered to root for the New York Democratic senator.

Brodie, a retired Cal Poly professor, first heard Clinton speak in 1992, when her husband was running for president. Speaking before a crowd at the Vista Grande restaurant on campus, Clinton impressed Brodie with what appeared to be unscripted remarks.

“Ever since then,” Brodie said, “I’ve been a follower.”

Alice Appel, a Pismo Beach Republican, said she wasn’t happy with any of her choices this year and picked the candidate she disliked the least — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“In the end, Romney has the most experience,” Appel said.

Larry Will, a retired physical education teacher, voted in Pismo Beach for John McCain.

“I like that he’s a neutral, middle-of-the road candidate,” Will said. “We’re a polarized country, and that’s not me.”

Rob Bryn is McCain’s regional campaign chairman for Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Bryn said the Arizona senator’s campaign has seen a boost as former Rudy Giuliani fans have thrown their support behind McCain.

“It’s really been grassroots support that’s driving this thing,” Bryn said. “John’s message is pretty clear. What you see is what you get.”

Voting for change

At the Cal Poly student union, many young people voted in their first presidential primary.

Kevin Finn, 19, voted for Democrat Barack Obama.

“He stands for change, and I feel that he can actually do that,” Finn said.

The computer science and math student said Clinton was a qualified candidate, but he thinks Obama could take the nation down a new road with fewer corporate lobbyists and less cronyism.

Kelly Fitzjarrell, 22, also voted for Obama because she said he could bring “refreshing change” to the White House. She said Obama energized more young people to vote this year.

Obama volunteer Walter Heath said the Illinois senator’s campaign has generated interest from students and other young people drawn by a chance to get involved at the local level.

Obama’s popularity, he said, also has increased involvement in Democratic politics.

“The turnout has been tremendous,” Heath said, “… and we feel that bodes well for Obama because he’s turned out a lot of new people.”

Evan Burbridge, 19, said he voted for McCain. The aerospace engineering student cares about the environment and U.S. involvement in the world.

“I was raised on Republican ideals, so that’s what I want to follow,” Burbridge said.

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