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Turnout higher than expected  (GA)

ALAN RIQUELMY -   The Ledger-Enquirer   07 February 2008

Small problems popped up during Tuesday's presidential preference primary in Georgia, though voting was mostly smooth in an election that drew a greater-than-expected turnout.

Some 41 percent of registered Muscogee County voters braved the threat of rain to cast ballots for Republican and Democratic candidates. Problems for those voters were scattered across the 48 precincts, starting at Arnold Middle School when the first 16 voters had to cast provisional ballots because an express poll machine wasn't functioning properly.

"It's not that they didn't work," said Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Office of Elections and Registrations. "It was that they were slow in coming up."

Once the machines were functioning correctly, voting returned to normal. The 16 provisional ballots will be counted as regular votes, Boren said.

Problems also occurred at St. Stephen's Church and Mack Recreation Center two former precincts that have since been changed. People lined up at both sites expecting doors to open that never did.

"We had people who went to Blanchard to vote, and Blanchard had posted a sign that said, 'If you used to vote here, go to Morningside' which was wrong," Boren said.

The sign was removed and replaced.

Boren's office is required to post signs at old precincts for the first election after such a change. That election was the November referendum on Tax Allocation Districts, which failed. There are no plans to place signs at old precincts for the July 15 primary.

The polls closed at 7 p.m., and Boren had all precinct returns by 10 p.m. an early time considering the 41 percent turnout, she said.

That number is high compared to the past two presidential preference primaries. In 2004, close to 19 percent of the electorate turned out to vote in an election that included a question on the Georgia state flag. In 2000, about 27.5 percent voted in the primary.

"It was a complete surprise to me," said Boren, who initially predicted around 20 percent.

The results of Tuesday's vote remain unofficial until the elections board meets Friday at 11 a.m. It will examine the provisional ballots, decide which ones are valid and vote to certify the election.

Around 150 provisional ballots were cast. Even if all of them were for a specific candidate, it wouldn't change the results of the race in Columbus.

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