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Seacoast officials impressed by record-setting crowds at polls Tuesday

By John Quinn
Union Leader Correspondent

November 06. 2012 4:57PM
A steady flow of unregistered voters, including many who moved from another precinct, waited in line to sign up to vote at St. Mary's Church Hall on Chestnut Street in Dover. Throngs of Ward 1 residents, like many fellow voters throughout the Seacoast, stopped by the polls Tuesday. (John Quinn, Union Leader)

From left, Ward 6 Selectman Norm Sanborn Sr. explains the voting process to Oliver, 4, Lily, 3, Claire, 3, and 18-month-old Darcy, far right, as Jessica Sargent turns in her completed ballot at the Elk's Club on Columbus Avenue in Rochester. Sanborn said a record amount of people turned out for the presidential election Tuesday. (John Quinn, Union Leader)
Across the Seacoast, crowds of new and veteran voters flocked to the polls Tuesday, but officials saw only a few issues with a new law that requires residents to provide identification.

Like many other communities, a line of people were waiting to cast their ballots in Farmington even before polls opened Tuesday morning, according to Town Clerk/Tax Collector Kathy Seaver.

'It was pretty busy,' Seaver said. 'It took about 45 minutes for things to settle down.'

Nonetheless, Seaver said there were no issues with new voters or residents who didn't have some form of identification with them. She added they were all able to vote.

As the stream of residents arrived at the polls to cast their ballots throughout the day, Seaver expected just as many people would stop by to vote on their way home from work in the evening.

'We'll be as busy at the end as we were in the beginning,' Seaver predicted.

Lincoln Soldati, who previously served as Strafford County Attorney and Somersworth's mayor, said things were steady and sensible at the Ward 1 polls in City Hall.

'Everything has gone very smoothly,' Soldati said, adding he spent the day watching activities as a legal advisor for President Barak Obama's campaign.

Once again, Somersworth residents also had to decide whether to enact a tax cap in the city, which would establish a limit on annual spending.

In Dover, lines of unregistered voters experienced a slight delay before casting ballots, but officials kept things moving, according to City Clerk Karen Lavertu.

'All of my wards have been very busy,' Lavertu said, adding there have been no issues even with residents who did not have identification.

By the end of the morning, 877 residents - or more than 25 percent of registered voters - in Ward 1 cast ballots in St. Mary's Church Hall on Chestnut Street, according to Ward 1 Moderator Brenda Gaudet.

'It's been like this since we opened this morning,' Gaudet said, adding election officials had to wait for lulls in the crowds to cast their own votes.

Gaudet said she was not surprised to see the crowds at the polls Tuesday.

'More people come out to the presidential elections, but the local elections have a bigger impact,' Gaudet said.

While a few people could not produce identification at the polls in Rochester, there was far less fuss over the issue Tuesday than during the September primary, according to Ward 6 Moderator J.P. Gray.

'Very few people came without an ID,' Grey said, recalling how one woman protested the new measure in September, but she was more than willing to show her identification to vote Tuesday.

Grey said there were residents waiting when the polls opened in the morning and a steady flow of voters kept officials busy all day. He added 952 votes were cast by 1 p.m. and they were expecting the numbers to continue rising.

'Usually when it's busy, it's busy the whole day,' Gray said.

Middleton Town Clerk Debbie O'Toole said more than 50 residents registered at the polls Tuesday, which added to the 993 voters on the list at the beginning of the day.

By 4 p.m., more than 500 residents cast ballots and officials suspected the turnout could set a record high.

'It's a big turnout - I suspect the whole country will have a big turnout,' Selectman John Hotchkiss said, adding he would not guess which candidate would win as there were too many close races on the ballot.

Town Moderator Jack Savage expected the last three hours to be the busiest.

'It was very busy this morning and has been steady all day,' Savage said, adding despite the crowds, there were very few issues with the new identification law.

While he expected more people to need to fill out affidavits, Savage said most people brought their identification. He added it was interesting to hear the comments about the matter, which were equally split between those who felt the law was necessary and others who did not.

Presidential Farmington Middleton Rochester Dover Somersworth

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