The coast votes

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I><BR>A Peninsula citizen votes in the historic Oysterville Schoolhouse Tuesday in what some analysts called the most important American election since 1932.

High interest in election yields lines at polling placesA steady stream of voters filed into polling places Tuesday, eager to fulfill their civic duty and make their voices heard.

According to polling officials, the 2004 presidential election generated one of the highest voter turnouts in memory.

In Ilwaco, there was a line of five standing outside the doors of the courthouse at 7 a.m., braving rain and wind, waiting to cast their ballots. Five minutes later, after the doors had opened, the line had already increased by nine.

In Long Beach, there was a similar situation in front of city hall on Bolstad Ave.

"We had a line up before the polls were opened," said Betty Pierce, polling official.

By 8:20 a.m., 35 people had already voted, and eight more were standing in line. People were making a special effort to get to the polls.

Vicki Putnam was leaving that morning for vacation, but first she had to vote.

"I said, (to her husband) we can't leave until after 7," she said.

Although the issues were contentious, and the campaigning bitter, the mood was congenial. Pollsters and voters alike were pleased by the large turnout.

"I love the interest," said Dianne Presson, who had just finished voting. "How bad do things have to get before everyone votes?"

Presson said she had been encouraging people at her church to register, reminding parents to set a good example for their children.

Which party manages to generate the largest turnout could be the deciding factor in this election, but the larger issues have caused some to cross party lines.

"I wouldn't miss my vote," said Patrick Killgore. He voted for Vice-President Al Gore in the last election, and before that, Bill Clinton. But this time, he is backing President Bush. If it were not for the situation in Iraq and terrorism, he would probably back Sen. John Kerry he said. But not now.

"We've got a war going on," Killgore said. "Now is not the time to rock the apple cart."

Ongoing events in Iraq also influenced another voter, who wished to remain anonymous.

"I'm on pins and needles and hoping for good things," said the voter. "It's time for a change."

The election has generated a fevered pitch of interest and scrutiny.

John McCreedie was hired by the Los Angeles Times newspaper as an exit pollster. As people left the polling center he would ask them to fill out a questionnaire. Later, he would compile the results and phone them to the paper. The information would be used to predict an outcome in what some are calling the closest presidential election ever.

Republican Party Precinct Captain Weldon Pior was also keeping a close eye on the proceedings. He was there as an observer, to make sure everything went smoothly and that everyone was treated fairly. He doubted, however, that there would be any interference with the ballots here on the Peninsula. But, he said, he would also probably stay around for the ballot count that night.

"This is a new experience for me," he said. But he felt it was important to ensure the integrity of such a contested election.

Presson agreed. "I am liking having people stand around watching."

There was no representative present from the Democratic Party.

The turnout or the scrutiny did not surprise polling official Cheri Brunner.

"This is a big one," she said.

For complete election results, visit www.chinookobserver.info.

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