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November 07. 2012 3:07AM

Voters register in droves


Voters line up to check in before casting their ballots at the Exeter polls. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

MANCHESTER - Some of the longest lines at polling places Tuesday were for new voters, who are taking advantage of New Hampshire's same-day voter registration system to wait until the last minute to sign up to vote.

At Ward 4 in Manchester, the registration line numbered about 60 at 5 p.m. Four clerks were busy handling the paperwork needed to complete the registration and said they had no time to say how many had registered.

In Ward 3, 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 she had no totals available.

"It's my chance to do this, my first time," said Philip Norton, shortly after casting a vote in Ward 4 for President Obama.

"It's more of the things I didn't like about the other guy," he said, noting that Republican Mitt Romney urged people to ask their parents for money for college or to start a business. His parents don't have that kind of money, said Norton, who works for a firearms manufacturer.

Voter registrations were especially strong in college towns such as Hanover and Durham, said Ann Rice, deputy attorney general for New Hampshire. As of mid-afternoon, the attorney general had received no complaints about 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.

"We could have well over 6,000" registrations, said Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron. At Ward 4, an inner-city ward with a lot of apartments, 800 people had registered by mid-afternoon, he said.

The ward was certain to top its record 807 registrations that took place in 2004, he said.

Voters who register are asked to show a photo identification and some sort of proof of address and citizenship. If they don't have it, they must swear out an affidavit.

Democrats said they were pleased with the registrations, a sign that their strategy to get people to the polls was working.

"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.

In Manchester's Ward 3, Robert Freeman was registering because he's disgusted with the economy. He said he lost his towing business because of the bad economy.

"I can't talk against it if I don't put my vote in," said Freeman.

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. We're still very upbeat, very hopeful," he said at mid-afternoon.

He said voter registration is always significant in college towns, but New Hampshire has few such towns, and 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.

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.

Union Leader correspondent Gretyl Macalaster contributed to this report.


mhayward@unionleader.com


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