Marengo Co. sees 10-percent voter increase

Published 11:37 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Probate Judge Cindy Neilson was thrilled by the voter turnout Tuesday in Marengo County.

Voter turnout reached a record high in Marengo County. Nearly 12,000 votes were cast in the county, 1161 more than in 2004.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Wednesday a record number of ballots were cast in Alabama’s general election, leading to a phenomenon not often seen in the state’s elections: lines snaking around blocks before polls open.

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Chapman said totals from Tuesday’s elections showed at least 2,091,143 votes were cast, surpassing the state’s previous record, set in 1992, by about 200,000 ballots.

“We had a great turnout throughout the county,” said Neilson, whose office oversaw the county’s elections. “Everything has run smoothly. We saw substantial increases at nearly all of the polling places.”

Twenty-two precincts out of twenty-six saw increases this year in voters. Only four saw a decrease. The largest increase came from the voting poll at Demopolis High School. It experienced an additional 233 voters this year compared to 2004.

Neilson said poll workers ran into very few problems.

A few polling places along Highway 43 between Demopolis and Linden experienced a brief power loss due to utility work along the highway.

“It did not hinder voters from casting their ballots,” said Neilson. “Those polls remained opened and was able to accept votes.”

Throughout the state hundreds of people were in line at some polling places when they opened at 7 a.m. and Chapman said at least two counties reported having lines 1,000 strong early on. Traffic at the polls slowed by midmorning but poll workers saw another rush at lunchtime and after 5 p.m.

One voter, 18-year-old Brittany Fortson, had feared there would be long lines when she hurried to the polls at Crump Elementary School on her lunch break, but she easily breezed through to cast her vote for Barack Obama.

Even if there had been a long line, Fortson said, she was prepared to wait and be late returning to her job at a Montgomery collection agency.

“A lot of 18-year-olds want to say they don’t have time to vote or have other important things to do,” said Fortson, who had “Vote” ‘’Obama” ‘’08” painted on three fingernails on each hand. “What can be more important than this? I have to go back to work but still made the time.”

Chapman said she hopes such voter dedication and interest in the political process will continue to future elections and fears about lines won’t keep people away.

Some people waited up to two hours to vote, but that was still relatively short compared to the 5-8 hour lines seen in some states, she said.

Local election officials are charged with making sure there are enough ballot scanners and poll workers at each location and they were prepared for the high turnout.

“We did not have the problem with lines like other counties had,” said Neilson. “We did have several places that reported lines waiting on them to open, but, while it was steady, there were no long waits during the day.”

Prior to the election, a record 15,303 people registered in Marengo County to vote for this election than in the last Presidential election four years ago.

Out of those, 11,496 cast their ballots and helped pull Barack Obama over John McCain, 5,925 to 5,511, for the Presidency.

Listed below is the total number of voters for each precinct in 2004 and 2008.

Election years 2004/2008

Demopolis Civic Center 842/1000

Demopolis Natl Guard Armory 750/886

Demopolis Westside Elementary 1576/1414

Demopolis High School 429/662

Springhill Volunteer Fire 144/143

VFW/Hwy 43 NA/727

Faunsdale Town Office 317/319

Dayton Town Office 69/94

Cornerstone Church 942/926

Rangeline Voting Booth 169/173

Thomaston Lunch Booth 486/529

McKinley Taylorville Com. Ctr. 90/113

Flatwood Community Ctr 86/106

Magnolia Community Ctr 190/248

Surginer Comm. Ctr. 235/388

Dixon’s Mills 600/760

Octagon Voting Booth 166/178

Jefferson Volunteer Fire 287/335

Linden Old Courthouse Building 387/413

Sweet Water Town Office 456/478

Hoboken Voting Booth 152/174

Putman Voting Booth 132/148