Vermont communities report heavy turnout

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(Host) Communities across the state are reporting heavy turnout for today’s election.

Local officials say strong interest in the presidential race and perfect weather conditions could help the state set a new record for voter participation.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) One of the key story lines of the 2008 election in Vermont may be the number of people who are voting.

Bennington opened its polls at 5 this morning and a number of communities reported big lines when their polls opened at 7.

State officials believe that as many as 75 % of all registered voters will cast a ballot this year – if that happens it will set a new record for voter turnout in Vermont.

Montpelier City Clerk Charlotte Hoyt describes the turnout in the Capital City:

(Hoyt) "We had a big rush right after 7 until about 8 o’clock in the morning and then it’s just been pretty steady…I think it’s certainly higher than previous years I think there’s a lot of things people want to get out and vote on."

To accommodate more voters, Hoyt says her office installed additional voting machines and she added an extra voter check in table:

(Hoyt) "We’ve added an extra table here so we have four instead of the three that we normally have and I divided it into the alphabet and I think that’s going to help…we got from the Secretary of State… we got additional booths."

Another key element of the 2008 election is the dramatic increase in early voting in a number of Vermont’s larger communities.

Hoyt thinks it’s possible that as many as 45% of all ballots tabulated tonight in Montpelier will be early ballots.

Yesterday, more 250 people came into her office to request an early ballot – it was a number that surprised her:

(Hoyt) "Yes, we certainly didn’t do anything but absentee early voting."

Polls are open throughout the state until 7 this evening – state election officials say anyone in line at that time will be allowed to vote.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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