Polling places see steady lines

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By John Barnhart and Tom Wilmoth




Election 2012 brought voters out in force in the Bedford area.

Hannah Phillips was among them.

Phillips was 17 years old on Monday, and headed to Lynchburg to attend the rally for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

On Tuesday, the Staunton River High School senior turned 18 and cast her ballot in the 2012 election. To add to her experience, she also volunteered at the Goodview Elementary polling location.

“I was so glad I wasn't going to miss this election,” Phillips said.

She realized her birthday would fall on election day in September when she started making plans for her birthday.

Phillips, who attends the Early College Program at the Bedford campus of Central Virginia Community College, said she attended Monday's rally to help her get informed about the election. She had also attended Romney's rally in Roanoke earlier in the week.

“I'm voting for the person that I believe in, who has the same beliefs that I feel the country should have,” she said, without revealing her choice for president.

Phillips, whose parents are Joey and Kelly Phillips, plans to attend Liberty University next year and study nursing. Her father is pastor of Goodview Baptist and her mom teaches at New Hope Academy in Bedford.

With her birthday falling on election day, Phillips said celebrating her 18th will have to wait until the weekend. She said voting is one of the most important privileges a citizen can exercise.

“If you're not (involved) in the process, you have no right to complain,” Phillips said. “It's definitely important to voice your opinion.”

And many area residents were participating Tuesday.


The turnout

"We've been really busy this morning," said Kathleen Wilkerson, precinct chief at the Welcome Center precinct, which had seen 500 voters by 10.30 a.m.

"We've been packed two or three times," she said. "It's been steady all morning."

Wilkerson said that said that turnout, Tuesday, was much larger than usual, but the process had gone smoothy. Only one person did not have any kind of ID.

Out in the county, 767 of the 2,069 registered voters in the Liberty High School precinct had already voted by mid morning, according to Mary Markham, who heads the precinct. She called the turnout "unbelievable."

D. J. Ashwell, heading up the precinct that votes at the Bedford County Public Service Authority (PSA) office, said that 30 percent of the registered voters in his precinct had voted by 11a.m. At that time a steady line went all the way to the door, and wasn't getting any shorter even though it was moving smoothly.

"It's been back to the door several times," Ashwell said. "When we opened the door, there was a line at the door."

This has been true all over the county. Charlie Walker, a member of Bedford County's electoral board who was making rounds of various polling places said that this has been true all over the county. Ashwell said he had been told that one county precinct had a line that was 45 minutes long.

Connie Messier, precinct chief at the Bedford Library precinct said that 840 people had voted before noon. Like the PSA office, the line for the library extended to the door and did not get shorter even though it was moving quickly. Messier said it has been like that all morning. She said they had people waiting to vote at 5:30 a.m.

"We have had some pages from Liberty High School," Messier said. "They have been very helpful."

Messier said that this allowed election officers to work on poll books and voting machines.

The pages were provided by Liberty High School's Key club.

What brought them all out? Cody Turner, who is 19, was one of the youngest voters.

"This is actually my first time voting," said Turner.

"If you don't vote, you are not doing your part," he said, explaining what brought him out.

Turner said that he is concerned about the bad economy. He wants to see more jobs created and less partisanship in Congress.

Jane Amnott, who just turned 92, was one of the oldest. For Amnott, turning out to vote is a matter of habit. She has not missed an election since 1940.

Amnott said that there are many issues that she believes is important, but the largest is her concern that the country is going in the wrong direction.

"We need to change direction," she said.