Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 9, 2006

Paper slows Mercer polls

PRINCETON — ”It’s been a long day,” Marie Hill, new voting registration officer for Mercer County said Tuesday night about five minutes before the polls closed.

And, it wasn’t over yet. Hill and election workers appeared to have a long night remaining before the unofficial totals would be posted.

It was a disappointing turnout in most areas of the county despite a last minute surge to the precincts after 5 p.m. when people were leaving work. Even with small numbers, counting paper ballots by hand takes time and officials expected the tabulation could continue into the early morning hours.

Mercer County, one of six West Virginia counties that was not in compliance with federal election laws and using new electronic voting machines, used paper ballots which had to be counted by hand after 7:30 p.m. when polls closed their doors.

Although county officials hoped to have polls set up counting boards to begin tabulations during the afternoon, Hill said they had to wait until polls closed. Even with a light turnout, election officials feared it would be a lengthy process of counting at the polls, driving to the courthouse and having the ballots tabulated there.

While there were numerous important races on Tuesday’s ballot, many eyes were turned toward the County Commission race where incumbent John P. Anderson was being challenged by a retired postal worker, Jay Mills.

By 11 p.m., with only 10 precincts tabulated, Anderson was leading with 280 votes compared to Mills’ 140.

By 11 p.m., some legislative House districts were beginning to show trends because they had smaller numbers to count to reach totals. House District 25, which has two delegates, has 33 precincts while district 22 has only 8 precincts in Mercer County. House District 24 includes 20 precincts.

Despite hard-fought campaigns in a few races in the Democratic party and a contest for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress, most poll workers in Mercer County had ample time to begin tabulations on the counting boards during the afternoon and early evening had that work been allowed.

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