Democratic Turnout

By: Kelly Creswell Email
By: Kelly Creswell Email

Months ago, Virginia's primary was not expected to carry much weight, but Tuesday night, the Commonwealth played a huge role in the battle for the nominations of both parties.

Some local registrar offices supplied polling places with extra ballots to accommodate a heavier voter turnout. While neither party's nominee is official, it seemed the Democrats garnered extra attention Tuesday, with Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton running neck and neck nationally.

While presidential primaries don't usually bring voters out to the polls, this primary was unusual.

"The last one that we had in 2004, which was a Democratic was only like a five percent turnout. There's a lot of times, you know, when you only get a three percent turnout. So we weren't expecting a big turnout and still are not expecting a big turnout, but more than usual for a primary," says Kay Shifflett, the Rockingham County Registrar.

The Democratic race had citizens waiting in line to cast their votes.

"This time I think it's a primary that actually might matter," says Jason Henay, who voted Democratic. "Most of the time, it's decided long before I get to vote in a primary, so I thought it was a good time to make my voice heard."

"I think that this one is a big deal, because of the milestones that could be accomplished with this particular election. I think it's really neat that there's a female candidate running and an African-American candidate running," says Regina Hissong, who also voted Democratic.

Since the Republican front-runner John McCain has a sizable delegate lead, the Democrats may have got voters from outside their party.

"It's always tempting for the other party to jump in, vote for who they feel is the weakest candidate," says Alan Finks, the Harrisonburg Democratic Committee Chair. "Sometimes you can make a mistake because you don't like a candidate and vote for that person. That person may turn out to be the strongest candidate, so this dog can come back to bite you."

While the polling places didn't have to use any of the extra supply of ballots, turnout was higher than usual. Shifflett says that back in 2000, the county had a 17 percent turnout for the Republican presidential primary.


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