Record Voting, Ballot Shortages In Indiana

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., center, shares a laugh with voters in front of a polling place in Indianapolis, Tuesday, May 6, 2008, as voters in Indiana and North Carolina crowd polling places Tuesday for the states' primary elections. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP
The presidential race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama drew so many voters that some precincts ran out of Democratic ballots.

More than 1.6 million votes were cast Tuesday in the Democratic and GOP presidential races with nearly all precincts reporting, according to unofficial tallies by The Associated Press. That smashed the 1992 primary turnout of just over 1 million voters.

A high number of Republican crossover votes sent several counties scrambling to print extra ballots. A judge ordered some polls in northwestern Indiana's Porter County to stay open an additional hour after several precincts ran out of Democratic ballots.

Other ballot shortages were reported in Howard, Jackson and Hancock counties as voters turned out in droves for the presidential race. Local voting officials printed substitute ballots that were to be counted by hand.

Nancy Zondor of Chesterton said she went to vote at her polling site about 4 p.m. only to be told she would have to wait or come back later for a Democratic ballot. She said she had to leave without voting to drive to her son's track meet.

"I was aggravated, for sure, it's a big election," said Zondor, who planned to vote for Obama. "I just always vote in every election and want to."

The ballot shortages occurred as voters embraced Indiana's first meaningful presidential primary in 40 years. In counties across the state where most precincts were counted early, thousands more votes were cast than during the state's record primary turnout in 1992.

Carolyn Hurt of the voter registration office in southern Indiana's Jackson County said seven precincts requested additional Democratic ballots and that substitute ballots were available for all voters.

"They called us when they were close to running out," Hurt said. "We took out the copies that they have to count by hand."

Marion County, the state's most populous, had to print several thousand extra Democratic ballots because of increased demand in traditionally Republican voting areas, said Angie Nussmeyer, spokeswoman for the clerk's office.

Jeanne Tennyson, 44, a high school teacher in Evansville, voted for Clinton and had a different feeling for this election than in the past.

"People in Indiana have not had any reason to be excited about a presidential campaign in a long time," she said. "We always vote Republican."

Polling locations reported voter totals that far exceeded previous primaries. More than 80,000 people voted in Fort Wayne's Allen County and nearly 22,000 people voted in southern Indiana's Floyd County - both double the 1992 turnout.

Some 70 percent of the presidential votes cast statewide were Democratic ballots, with even heavily Republican counties such as Johnson County in suburban Indianapolis having more than 60 percent of its votes in the Clinton-Obama race.

The heavy turnout followed a month of record absentee voting with 173,000 ballots cast in person or by mail through Monday, according to the Indiana secretary of state's office. That is more than three times the number of early ballots cast in the 2004 presidential primary.

About 76 percent of those seeking to vote absentee asked for Democratic ballots.

First-time and veteran voters said Indiana's significance in the Democratic choice for the presidential nominee compelled them to come out.

"It's history making," said Eileen Turner after she cast her vote for Obama. "I vote all the time anyway, but I couldn't miss this one, no way."

Andrew Baun, 18, a senior at Reitz High School in Evansville, said the unexpected importance of Indiana's primary and the polarized political landscape makes every vote important. His went for Obama.

"I've never before in my life been real political, but I just firmly feel that Obama is what's best for us right now," Baun said.

Shirley Grigsby, 36, had asked to come in late to work so she could take her mother to vote. She made that request in January.

"Just to have some of the political pundits talk about my state, even mention it, that's neat," Grigsby said.
In North Carolina, meanwhile, voters cast millions of ballots in what was also expected to be a record turnout.

Election officials believe a modern-day record 2 million of the state's 5.8 million registered voters cast a vote in the primary, between early voting and the steady stream of voters who went to the polls on Tuesday. State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett said Democratic turnout could exceed 50 percent due to the interest in the presidential primary.

Nearly half a million people voted early or cast absentee ballots before Tuesday - more than half the total number of voters who cast ballots during the entire 2004 primary.

"It helps the turnout. We're real excited about the number of new voters," said Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, who greeted a steady stream of voters at Pearsontown Elementary School in Durham. "It's good for democracy."

The state's election chief said few problems were reported. He counted about a dozen instances of voting machine problems, a sharp drop compared to the 120 reports two years ago.