New Hampshire Voting Starts Slow But Record Turnout Predicted

Jan 10, 2012 1:58pm

ABC News’ Chris Good, Elizabeth Hartfield and Sarah Parnass report:

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Election officials predicted record turnout in today’s New Hampshire primary, but early indications from across the Granite State showed that voter turnout was low.  That, of course, could change by the time the last ballots are cast by the 8 p.m. ET closing.

Things have picked up since light morning turnout, according to anecdotal reports from Twitter and local New Hampshire media outlets. The New Hampshire Union Leader reported slow and steady voting in Nashua early Tuesday evening, while the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office told ABC News it does not yet have turnout numbers to report.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner Tuesday morning predicted 250,000 residents would vote in the Republican primary, which allows undeclared voters to participate by registering as Republicans at the polls. That would break New Hampshire’s GOP-primary turnout record of just under 240,000, set in 2008.

In 2004, the last year in which only one party held a contested presidential primary in the Granite State, just under 220,000 voted in the Democratic contest–and 95,000 of them were registered as undeclared on primary day.

Anecdotes from Twitter Tuesday morning reflected low turnout across the state. Several New Hampshire residents tweeted about sparse attendance at polling places, and WMUR political analyst James Pindell noted that a source driving around the state rated turnout as “SLOW, SLOW, SLOW.”

Gardner cautioned against reading too much into early anecdotal reports, given that they don’t necessarily reflect historical comparisons. Gardner told ABC News Tuesday morning he expects strong turnout of GOP votes in the town of Bedford, in Hillsborough County in southern New Hampshire. Hillsborough is New Hampshire’s largest county; Mitt Romney carried it in 2008 with 35 percent of the vote.

“I just hope the turnout’s going to happen,” Manchester City Clerk Matt Nomand told the New Hampshire Union Leader, noting light morning turnout.

“After visiting four of Portsmouth five wards, interest seems pretty minimal in the NH Primary,” the Portsmouth Patch tweeted around noon.

ABC News’s Jonathan Karl captured the scene in Manchester’s Ward 1 polling place, noting record turnout–of news media–as Jon Huntsman paid a visit.

“Merrimack NH, Precinct 3. What’s wrong here? NO signs/supporters,” conservative New Hampshire blogger William Smith tweeted late Tuesday morning, along with a photo of the lonely polling place.

“Just 600 votes in Hampton by 9am; 10K+ on list. More Obama signs, volunteers than GOP. Zero for Newt or Santorum,” tweeted freelance journalist and former New Hampshire Union Leader Executive Editor Charlie Perkins.

Things have picked up a bit heading into the afternoon of voting, as WMUR reported a steady stream of voters filing unto polling places. At Webster Street School in Manchester, N.H., poll workers told WMUR that about 1,230 had voted there by noon.

The candidates themselves seem to be getting plenty of attention, as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were both mobbed at polling places in Manchester, N.H. Tuesday morning:

Huma Khan contributed to this report.

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