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November 06. 2012 3:51PM

New voters show up at polls all across N.H.

MANCHESTER — Some of the longest lines at polling places today are for new voters, who are taking advantage of New Hampshire's same-day voter registration system to register before casting votes.

At Ward 3 in Manchester, the voter registration line was two abreast and about 40 deep around lunchtime. Ward Moderator Gail Athas said the turnout for new registration was huge, but had no totals available. She said it takes people about 15 to 20 minutes for people to register, but Robert Freeman, who was about half-way through the line, said he had been waiting 10 to 15 minutes.

Freeman said he's voted in the past, but is at a new address and did not have the opportunity to register before today.

He's not happy at all with the economy. “I can't talk against it if I don't put my vote it,” said Freeman, who said he lost his towing business because of the bad economy.

Voter registrations are especially strong in college towns such as Hanover and Durham, said Ann Rice, deputy attorney general for New Hampshire. She said there appears to be no issue with the voter registrations. Because of a recent court ruling, new voters are not being told they must obtain a New Hampshire driver's license or automobile registration within 60 days, she said.

Overall, the turnout is the biggest issue.

“People know this is a very close election. They want to get out and vote,” she said. She said people voting on their way home from work should try to arrive early.

In Raymond, town moderator Kathleen Hoelzel said she did not anticipate the number of new voters.

“Some are aggravated but they understand. They had all this time to register, so there is nothing I can do to change that,” Hoelzel said.

In 2008, about 356 people registered to vote on election day, and Hoelzel said she expected an even higher number this year based on the morning lines.
At Ward 3 in Manchester, would-be voters were standing in line with forms already filled out. An election official had to approve their application before they were allowed to vote.

“Democrats have worked very hard to encourage as large a voter participation as possible, and we have made every effort to encourage people to vote, while the Republicans have taken great efforts to keep out new voters and keep people from voting,” said Raymond Buckley, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

State Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald said the new voter registrations are good news for Republicans.

“Usually, a high turnout signifies a desire for change,” he said at mid-afternoon. “We're still very upbeat, very hopeful.”

He said voter registration always shoots up in college towns, but President Obama has not excited the youth vote the way he did four years ago.

MacDonald said he's also heard that elderly residents, who often vote Republican, are also registering to vote. He said some may have been bounced from election roles during a recent purge.

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Union Leader correspondent Gretyl Macalaster contributed to this article.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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