Originally created 02/20/00

Aiken polls see large turnout



At 6:59 p.m. Saturday, John Spears walked into Aiken County Municipal Auditorium to vote. With less than one minute to spare before the polls were scheduled to close, he had just made it.

Mr. Spears, a seventh-grade middle school teacher in Aiken, said it was very important for him to come and vote in the Republican primary.

"I was at home painting all day but looked and realized it was time to quit and come and vote," Mr. Spears said.

Mr. Spears was among 512 voters from Aiken Precinct 1 who voted Saturday. The widely publicized primary drew record numbers of voters to the city.

Poll Manager Kathryn Wade said that in a typical primary election, close to 250 people would show up to vote. However, this year, that number more than doubled.

"I have never seen it at 50 percent turnout," Mrs. Wade said. "I don't think we've ever had that much."

Although the precinct had an increase of voters, it did not experience the long lines that other precincts around the state did.

"It's been a constant turnover of voters," said Abby Poulton, a poll worker, adding: "I did not even get to read the next chapter in my murder mystery novel. They kept coming at a steady pace."

Four volunteers staffed the precinct for the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. voting. Many people such as Mr. Spears altered their schedules to make an appearance at the polls.

Jeffery Lee, a 21-year-old student at University of South Carolina Aiken, said he skipped a meeting just so he could vote.

Mr. Lee said he wanted to banish the notion that young people's voices and votes did not count.

"It's an attitude that when you are younger your voice won't be heard, but even at this age the primaries are important," he said, adding that even though he tends to vote Democratic, he felt it necessary to vote in the Republican primary because the South Carolina primary is open to all qualified voters.

Reach Barnini Chakraborty at (706) 823-3332.