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Heavy turnout reported across region

Izaskun E. Larrañeta, Claire Bessette, Judy Benson, Anna Isaacs

Publication: theday.com

Published November 06. 2012 7:00AM   Updated November 07. 2012 1:46AM
Dana Jensen/The Day
While helping people in line, Anna Reiners, center, tells voters which number at the checker's table they will need step up to so they can check in to vote once they enter the polling station located in the gym at Ledyard Center School Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

Many towns are reporting a heavy turnout, although it's unclear if it will reach the 78 percent mark of 2008.

"I think we're going to hit 75 to 80 percent, and we could even be on the high side," Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill told the Connecticut Mirror just after 4:30 p.m. "There have been lines, pretty heavy voting, all day long."

Republican Paul Formica, who is challenging Joe Courtney for the 2nd District Congressional seat, said he's seen high turnout everywhere as he traveled to polling places from Enfield to his home town of East Lyme.

"I think the turnout everywhere is big, 60, 70 percent projected," Formica said. "Sometimes people are even thinking higher than that. Some of the official numbers we got were in the low to mid-thirties before noon."

Turnout "was on the heavy side," in Groton's first district, with more than 1,000 ballots cast at the polling place at the public library by 3 p.m., said Moderator Scott Smith. There are 3,800 registered voters in the district.

"If I've got to be here, I'd just as soon be busy," Smith said.

At Groton's 7th and 8th districts more than half the approximately 7,000 registered voters had turned out to polling places at the Town Hall Annex and S.B. Butler School by 4 p.m. At 6 a.m., the line snaked far down the school hallways, said Moderator Richard Kozek.

As of 5 p.m., 57 percent of Waterford's 13,076 registered voters have cast ballots.

At District 1 at Ledyard Center School, 2,712 had voted by around 3:30 -- 53 percent of the 5,100 registered voters.

More than 1,000 people had cast votes at Preston Town Hall by noon, said poll worker Rebecca Consolini. Lines had formed well before 6 a.m.

Norwich registrars reported a 48 percent turnout of the 23,517 registered voters citywide as of 5 p.m., with precincts at the Samuel Huntington and John M. Moriarty schools leading with 54 percent turnout.

Teens get a taste of politics

The Election Day staff at the John M. Moriarty School in Norwich is a glimpse at the next generation of poll workers and possible future candidates.

Moderator Daphne Slopak invited local teenagers interested in politics to work the polls this election, to the surprise and skepticism of some colleagues.

"I was one of the few moderators in favor of having younger helpers," Slopak said. "I think we have to get younger people involved."

Josh Minter, 16, a home school student, served as an election checker. He said his parents encouraged him to "do something in politics," so he decided to volunteer to work the polls. Sitting next to Minter, 16-year-old Doug Babbitt, a Norwich Technical High School student, is a family friend of Slopak's and agreed to help.

Angeliz Vargas, 17, of Norwich, a student at Norwich Free Academy, participated in a Pathways to Teaching internship during the summer, where it was recommended that students learn about the political process. Vargas worked her first poll at the August primary and said today was much busier.

Slopak said the Moriarty school voting precinct had all of 68 voters at the Republican primary in August.

"We did 10 times that by noon," Slopak said.

Up early in Norwich

Patrice Jaskiewicz, a moderator at the John B. Stanton School, where residents of city's fourth precinct cast their vote, looks at her cell phone. It's 5:58 a.m.

"Two minutes, people," said Jaskiewicz as she readies poll workers for the crowd waiting outside to cast their vote.

"It's going to be a busy day," said Jaskiewicz. "We're not the largest precinct, but we are definitely the busiest."

And it seems that Jaskiewicz is right. Before the polls opened at 6 a.m., there was already a line of 38 people. Five minutes after polls opened an additional 22 voters stood in line.

Philip Doyle was the first person at Stanton to cast his vote.

"I still believe that it makes a difference," said Doyle. "I believe in showing up."

Doyle declined to say who he voted for, but he said the presidential race was important to him.

"I think there is a lack of civil discourse," said Doyle. "I think you can disagree with people and still keep it civil. That's change I'd like to see."

John Ruley said he voted for Obama.

"I think he's the better of the two," said Ruley. "He's for the middle class. It's your American duty to vote."

Voters today in Norwich are also deciding whether they support a proposal to build a proposed $33.4 million downtown police station.

Both Doyle and Ruley said they voted against the measure.

"That's going down," said Doyle. "It hasn't been sold to the public at all."

Ruley said he didn't believe that the police department belonged in the downtown, and he also thought the project was too expensive.

Sharing polling space in New London

Storm damage forced registered voters in New London's third district to cast their ballot at the Harbor School instead of Ocean Beach Park today. The school is also the voting place for second district voters.

Election worker Barbara Kelly was at the front door directing people to the appropriate voting district. She said the turnout was busy and steady and so far there hasn't been too much confusion.

Janea Algarin normally votes at Ocean Beach. She said she wasn't certain where she had to vote until she looked online Monday afternoon.

"It's really not a big deal," said Algarin. "I think it's important to vote no matter where you have to go."

Algarin said she was supporting Obama and Democrat Sen. Andrea Stillman, who is an incumbent in the 20th Senate District.

"There are many reasons why I'm not voting for Romney," said Algarin. "I'm against his stance on abortion and his views on PBS."

As a woman, Algarin said it was especially important to vote. "There was a time when we weren't allowed to vote," said Algarin. "It's a right that you shouldn't take for granted."

Katherine Reyes said people like her who are in their 20s have to take voting seriously.

"For the young community, this is our future," said Reyes, who is voting for Obama. "He started something and I'll believe that he should be allowed to finish it."

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