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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2008

Heavy voting causes Ind. ballot shortages, delays tallies

ASSOCIATED PRESS

INDIANAPOLIS Voters energized by the Democratic presidential race turned out in record numbers for Indiana's primary Tuesday, causing scattered ballot shortages across the state.

More than 1.2 million votes were cast in the Democratic and GOP presidential races with 75 percent of 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 between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. 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.

Polling locations also reported voter totals that far exceeded previous primaries. Kevin Schafer, the 22nd Ward Democratic chairman on Indianapolis' north side, said he was expecting about 40 percent of his home precinct's nearly 800 voters to turn out. Between 8 percent and 10 percent is the norm for a primary.

Diana Hampton, an inspector at a precinct near South Bend, said that by late morning, more people had already voted than the total number four years ago. She said more than 400 people cast ballots in the two precincts.

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.

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."

To Zoraida Monroy, the right to vote was more important than any particular candidate. The Colombian native became a citizen in 1994 and voted in Indianapolis for Clinton.

"I've lived in a country that's very different from here," she said. "To me, the voting process has been very important.

"Whether you trust the government or not, you should still go out and voice your opinion."



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