County sees turnout of 43 percent

Cold and rainy weather Tuesday did not deter Durham voters from coming out to the polls and earning "I voted" stickers.

Out of 152,785 Durham County voters registered as of last December, about 65,390 voted Tuesday.

"Turnout has been awesome, much higher than expected, and we're very pleased with it," said Mike Ashe, director of the Durham County Board of Elections.

For the two voting precincts that serve the Duke community, Durham City Precinct 2 and Precinct 5, voter participation was similarly favorable, some officials said.

"For [City 2 precinct], which is one of the smaller [precincts], there has been an exceptionally good turnout with a lot of students," said Stan Walters, a Republican judge at the Watts Street School polling station. "People are really excited about the election," he said.

However, despite a steady flow of voters all day, Audrey Mitchell, chief judge for Precinct 2, noted only 460 out of 2,965 registered voters had turned in their ballots as of 5 p.m.-a number she thought was disappointingly low.

"We've been busy," Mitchell said, "but I was hoping for a better turnout."

For City 5 precinct at the Patterson Recreational Center, Josephine Cobb, chief judge, was happy with the traffic at her polling station. Compared to September's primary-in which only 198 voters out of 2,200 registered came to the polls-about 15 percent of registered voters came out Tuesday, she said.

Relatively few problems occurred throughout the day at either precinct.

"We have had some vandalism of Republican signs," said Doug Register, a Republican judge for City 5 precinct. "Other than that, it's been a fairly good day."

Despite some mix-ups and inclement weather, Duke students still went to the polls to make their voices heard.

Some students were confused about where to vote. East Campus students vote in Precinct 2; West and Central Campus students, however, vote in Precinct 5. Difficulties often arise when students move from East to West Campus and do not realize that they need to change the address accordingly on their voting registration.

"Moving from one side of the street to another, if it happens to be on a precinct line, can make a difference," Walters said.

Junior Buggs Carll said he encountered that problem when he went to Patterson to cast his vote. He was confused when he not only had to go to a different precinct to vote but then had to change his registration address as well.

However, junior Michael Gentry, from North Carolina, said he had returned to Watts, where he had voted previously in the 2000 presidential election, even though he lives on West Campus. He said he did not run into any objections to his voting there.

"I didn't receive any information so I just decided to vote in the same place I had before," he said.

Students had various objectives in voting. A concerned environmentalist, Carll saw the North Carolina election as an opportunity to make a difference for the Democratic party. His home state of South Carolina, he said, is a "shoo-in for Republicans."

Freshman Brenda Bautsch switched her registration from Denver, Colo., to North Carolina to support Senator-elect Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.

"It really bothers me that there is youth apathy. It will continue to deteriorate democracy," Bautsch said. "Students don't understand that by voting, they can affect politics."

Braving the rain, freshman Leksa Chmielewski said she "would feel bad" if she did not vote. However, she added that she was one of only a few classmates who had made it to the polls.

"A lot of them just didn't vote at all," she said. "It's hard to do on a rainy day."


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