2008-03-06 / Front Page

Obama tops vote count in Jamestown

By Adrienne Downing

Jamestown voters broke with the statewide Democratic voting trend in Tuesday's election, casting their ballots by a 56 to 44 percent margin in favor of Senator Barack Obama.

There were 1828 ballots cast at the polls on Tuesday, with 1468 of those ballots going to the Democrats. Obama ended the evening, before absentee and emergency ballots were counted, with 815 votes. Clinton finished second with 644 votes and John Edwards, despite having dropped out of the race, received four votes. Five people voted uncommitted. The 97 emergency and absentee ballot results were not available at press time because of a computer malfunction at the state level.

Statewide, Clinton hauled in 58 percent of the vote, to Obama's 40 percent.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain received 261 votes, Ron Paul, 25, Mitt Romney, 12, and uncommitted, 9.

The tight democratic race spurred a record voter turnout for Jamestown and the state. "I have never seen anything like this in Jamestown," Can- vassing clerk Karen Montoya said. "I don't have the exact numbers yet, but I can tell you this is a record." Jamestown has 4457 registered voters, of which 1925 cast a regular, emergency or absentee ballot, for a 43 percent turnout rate.

Over 175,000 voters turned out in Rhode Island, breaking the previous record of 167,000 in Bruce Sundlun's election for governor in 1990.

Traffic was steady throughout the day at the Community Center, the island's only polling place. "State officials set the number of polling places well before they knew this was going to be such close race," Montoya said. "We only had one polling place four years ago in our last presidential preference primary, and they based this year, in part, on that."

Islanders were lined up when the polls opened at 8 a.m. and by 2 p.m. a total of 854 voters had registered their choice. Even at the end of the day poll traffic slowed only slightly, with nearly 200 more ballots being cast between 7 and 9 p.m.

Montoya was so busy during the day, that at 7 p.m., she stopped in her tracks and laughed. "I have been doing so many things that I almost forgot to vote," she said.

Despite the high turnout, election officials reported no major problems. "The biggest problem we had was with people who had trouble with choosing the correct number of delegates," Clerk Bonnie Jamison said. "People were either voting for more delegates than they were allowed or they voted for delegates who were not for the candidate they had chosen. The voting machine automatically rejects ballots that are cast incorrectly, and voters must get a new ballot."

The majority of the voters went into the election as unaffiliated with any party, and after affiliating to vote in the primary, they disaffiliated as they exited the polls.

Regardless of their previous voting habits, residents came to the polls with a clear goal in mind.

"I usually vote in the primary election. I feel like, as a citizen, it is my duty to vote in any election. I can't complain later if I don't come out and vote," Diane Archibald said.

"I do not usually vote in the primary, but I felt really compelled this year to have my voice heard. I wanted one candidate much more than the other, so I knew I needed to vote," Nancy VanGelder said.

Alcina Blair, from the Board of Canvassers, summed up the day after the polls were taken down and the Community Center was returned to its former look. "Considering the extra number of voters that registered to vote in this election, and how busy it was in here today, we did very well," she said.

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