By Mannix Porterfield
Maybe it’s the summer-like weather.
Maybe it’s simply a desire to beat the crunch on election day.
Or perhaps, as Raleigh County Clerk Betty Riffe speculated Thursday, the unusually big turnout in early voting can be attributed directly to the neck-and-neck race of President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.
Possibly, a combination of two or more, or all three.
One thing is clear: The numbers are in for two days, and they’re huge.
Day One of the early voting at the courthouse in Beckley brought 531 voters out, and Thursday another 511 lined up before an Ivotronic voting machine to mark ballots.
“It’s been going good,” Riffe said. “We’ve never had this many out in early voting.
“It might be because of the presidential race. There’s so much controversy between the presidential candidates.”
Not only will White House occupancy be at stake in the Nov. 6 general election nationwide, but West Virginia voters are also electing a governor, a U.S. senator and three members of the House of Representatives.
In fact, the two 3rd District candidates for the House claim Beckley as their hometowns — incumbent Democrat Nick Rahall and Republican nominee Rick Snuffer.
No one is allowed to engage in any politicking inside a polling place. In the case of early voting, that is confined to the large old courtroom on the second floor, once used by Circuit Judge Robert Burnside.
Nor can a voter sprout a campaign button of any kind inside the designated early voting precinct, Riffe pointed out.
“You can’t wear anything like that within 300 feet,” she said.
From all indications, just about everybody on the political spectrum was represented in Thursday’s turnout. The breakdown went like this: Constitution Party, 1; Democrats, 282; Independent, 9; Libertarian, 1; No Party Affiliation, 67; and Republicans, 147.
Riffe said no snafus occurred either day.
“We’re voting in the big courtroom and we’ve got seven stations set up,” she said.
“It’s going pretty fast.”
Early voting continues at the courthouse during normal work hours between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and on two Saturdays — this one, and the final day to early vote, Nov. 3.
A few voters asked for assistance in using the touchscreen machines.
“You always get that,” Riffe said.
“So far, all the machines are working great.”
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