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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters in Nashua's Ward 1 line up to cast their ballots Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voting has started in the state. Ward 1 in Nashua, at the Broad Street School, has seen steady traffic.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    A sparse group of campaigners stand on the street outside the Lions Hall polls in Hudson Tuesday, January 10, 2012, in the New Hampshire Primary Election.

  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Yellow tape clearly marks where people campaigning for candidates are not allowed to cross, Tuesday afternoon, outside of Souhegan High School in Amherst.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Leon Dufresne holds a Ron Paul flyer and sign as a place where he had worn the grass down is seen under his feet, Tuesday afternoon outside of Milford Middle School.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Sarah Ekbatani welcomes voters to Souhegan High School in Amherst, Tuesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, Ekbatani, 20, cast her first vote.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Kurtis Garnick starts Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode over again while waving a sign in support of Jon Huntsman, Tuesday afternoon, outside of Souhegan High School in Amherst.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters head to cast their ballots at the Amherst Street School in Nashua Tuesday, January 10, 2012.
  • Keith Thompson, a member of the Brookline Democrats, and his 16-year-old nephew, Joshua came to the polls armed with Obama signs

    Hattie Bernstein photo.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Voters, redeclarers keep poll workers busy

Voter turnout at several Nashua wards was generally described as “steady” by poll officials, and most agree they’ve been a bit surprised by the number of Democrats who are casting ballots.

At Charlotte Avenue School, the Ward 2 polling place, a bit of Nashua election history was made – Bill Marshall, a poll worker for 60 years – 50 as ward clerk – was working his final election.

Independents were out

Four years ago, Ward 7 ballot clerk D. Quincy Whitney sat quietly at her table most of the day, helping just a small handful of independent voters redeclare themselves after declaring themselves Republican or Democrat to vote in the primary.

“This is a very busy station today,” Whitney said in between “customers.” “It wasn’t anything like this four years ago.”

She and June Caron managed to keep up with the stream of voters, many of whom admitted that if they didn’t redeclare as independents right away, they could very well forget to do it at all.

“That group (independents) has been the majority of our voters so far,” Whitney said shortly after lunch time, when Ward 7’s total votes cast stood at about 700.

Hudson for Huntsman?

There’s probably no exact science by which one can determine which candidate will win the primary based on the number of signs and posters at the polls. That said, a quick look around showed blue Romney signs were probably the most consistent, meaning roughly the same number appeared at each polling place.

But not so for Huntsman, who had just one or two little signs at several Nashua polls while over in Hudson, their bright-red color hit the eye the moment you turn onto Lions Avenue.

And if you missed those dozen or so, you wouldn’t be able to miss the tall supporter with a poster in one hand and waving his free arm, greeting one and all.

Turnout falls short

Though a steady stream of voters came and went from the Hudson Community Center early Tuesday afternoon, town moderator Paul Inderbitzen said the overall turnout to that point fell somewhat short of expectations.

Roughly 2,150 voters – 1,800 Republicans or independents-turned-Republicans and 320 Democrats – had slid a ballot into the counting machine.

“Right now, it’s pretty brisk, but I can’t say it’s been a great turnout so far,” Interbitzen said, his voice raspy from a head cold and overuse.

One unfortunate situation that Interbitzen said ballot clerks had to deal with on several occasions involved independent voters who declared themselves Republican or Democrat two or four years ago and forgot to switch back to independent in time for today’s election.

Because the law states those who don’t change back ahead of the election can’t do so on election day, a number of would-be voters left disappointed, he said.

A reason to refrain

Danielle Godfrey might illustrate one of the reasons why many people chose not to vote Tuesday.

An Allenstown resident who works in Nashua, Godfrey said she doesn’t like watching TV news and, thus, was uninformed on candidates. Godfrey didn’t want to waste her vote with a blind choice, she said, while eating a sandwich at Nashua Garden restaurant

Her mother, Cheryl Jennings, did intend to vote later. Jennings lives in Nashua and had chosen to support Santorum. Jennings believed, like many others, that Romney would win the primary, but she liked Santorum better.

Young voters in Amherst

The Amherst polls at Souhegan High School appeared to attract a lot of young, first-time voters, especially from mid-afternoon on, as voters still in high school got out for the day.

A side note – Souhegan students who voted in the school’s mock primary the other day “nominated” Mitt Romney, giving him 39 percent of the vote. As for second place, it was a respectable finish for Ron Paul, who garnered 32 percent.

Back to the “real” election, town clerk Nancy Demers predicted final results would be announced between 9:30-10 p.m., possibly a bit earlier if things go smoothly.

About 4 p.m., the counter showed Republican ballots outnumbered Democratic ones by six or seven to one, 2,300 to 370, Demers said. As was the case at most every polling place Tuesday, the ballot clerks at the desk where independent voters could change back to independent after declaring themselves either Republicans or Democrats had their hands full, an obvious indication many indie voters had a significant say in how the first-in-the-nation primary turned out.

100 per hour at Ward 3

At Amherst Street School in Nashua, Ward 3 moderator Arthur Barrett said that an average of about 100 voters came through that poll every hour during the morning. It was a cold morning, with air temperatures hovering just barely above freezing.

That didn’t stop Edison Research pollster Gina Quinton from doing her work at a small folding table just outside the school. Quinton, bundled up and glancing at a Nook e-reader, looked up at the occasional departing voter and asked if he or she would participate in an exit poll. Quinton expected to work from 6 a.m. to well after 8 p.m., when the polls closed.

Dems in Brookline

Normally, campaign workers stake out their spots outside the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy in Brookline early on primary day and stay late.

But on Tuesday, the area outside the school’s front door was a ghost town.

Voters came and went all day, but it wasn’t until the late afternoon that two sign-holders showed up: Keith Thompson, a member of the Brookline Democrats, and his 16-year-old nephew, Joshua.

The two stood holding signs is support of President Obama for about two hours.

Many voters walked briskly past the two, staring straight ahead.

A few snickered. One made a disparaging remark. Another shook hands warmly with the two, apparently pleased at having found kindred spirits.

“All the talk has been about Republicans. We wanted some visibility,” said Keith, who was also providing contact information for the Brookline Demoncrats.

Joshua, a student at Nashua High School North, said he’s been a fan of the president’s since before his election almost four years ago.

“I like his ideals,” Joshua said. “That anyone can do anything.”

Staff Writers Albert McKeon, Dean Shalhoup and Hattie Bernstein contributed to this report.