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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Voters file in to the polls inside the Lions Hall in Hudson Tuesday, January 10, 2012, during the New Hampshire Primary Election.

  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Assistant Moderator Steve Keach looks on, right, as Jim Kennedy casts his vote at the Merrimack polls Tuesday, January 10, 2012, during the New Hampshire Primary Election.

  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Sam Pierce slides the first ballot he's after cast into the voting machine Tuesday afternoon at Souhegan High School. "I'm not sure how much my vote really counts," he said, I think we don't really have that much say in government. Pierce said that his dad watches a lot of politics on television and through that he was able to make up his own mind on who to vote for. He even said that he and his dad probably didn't even wind up voting the same way.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Polls quiet, turnout normal

NASHUA – With all the clamor from the media coverage of New Hampshire’s presidential primary, you’d think the end of the world was near.

On Tuesday morning, it seemed like the world had ended: Most of the city’s ward polling stations were lonely, quiet places.

There was no excitement. There were hardly any supporters, and more telling, there were hardly any voters.

“Where is everybody?” Mike Sokolowski, holding a Mitt Romney sign, said outside Charlotte Avenue Elementary School.

Mike McCarthy joined Sokolwoski for that polling station’s Romney contingent. The only other political volunteer was Dan Hogan, who stumped for Rick Santorum.

“You would think a lot of people would be interested,” McCarthy said. “There are a ton of candidates.”

City Clerk Paul Bergeron predicted a turnout of 33 percent to 38 percent, basinghis numbers on the 2004 primary, a similar race in which only one of the major parties had a contest.

The actual figure: 35.4 percent.

Contrast that to the 2008 primary, when contested races in both parties drew more than 60 percent of Nashua voters to the polls.

Bergeron spent most of the day Tuesday going from poll to poll, where he found most everything running smoothly aside from requests by residents to investigate someone collecting signatures at the Ward 9 polls at New Searles School.

“It turned out they weren’t doing anything wrong, but some people were offended by it, so I went and checked,” he said. “Someone was doing the same thing up in Ward 2. They have a right to do it, as long as what they’re doing has no connection to anything on the ballot.”

Statewide, Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted that 42 percent of New Hampshire voters would go to the polls Tuesday; a fair estimate, Bergeron said, because registered Republicans are more common in other areas than in Nashua.

“We probably have close to 3,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Nashua,” he said. “Right there, we have a pretty large bloc of voters who won’t turn out in numbers.”

In the city, 2,954 Democrats cast ballots, about one-quarter as many as Republicans. Of those, 89 percent voted for President Barack Obama. Vermin Supreme, if you’re wondering, came in third.

Hudson’s only polling station, at the town Community Center, looked busier than one of Nashua’s nine ward locations. But turnout early was low, said town moderator Paul Inderbitzen.

“It’s slower than I thought it would be,” he said.

Outside the Hudson Community Center, the atmosphere – or the lack thereof – also mirrored many of Nashua’s polling stations: dull. Only a handful of supporters held placards for candidates but made little noise.

In Hollis, the high school was fairly quiet Tuesday afternoon.

“We have big rushes and then it goes down and then a big rush,” town clerk Nancy Jambard said.

At Amherst Street School, 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.

Four years ago, Ward 7 ballot clerk D. Quincy Whitney sat quietly at her table most of the day, helping but a small handful of Independent voters re-declare themselves after voting Republican or Democrat. Things were busier Tuesday.

“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 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.

At Brookline, voting was as straightforward as it gets. Voters parked outside the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy, walked to the front door without so much as one sign holder or campaign worker in view, and cast a ballot.

Telegraph staff writers Al McKeon, Dean Shalhoup, Hattie Bernstein and Cameron Kittle contributed to this report.