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Heavy voter turnout reported across Granite State; lines expected into evening

Staff and Wire reports
With correspondent contributions

November 08. 2016 3:50PM
Ward one in Nashua is filled with activity as steady stream of voters hit the polls on Broad Street. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

Busy all day, election workers braced for a final surge of voters Tuesday evening, as the rush-hour was expected to clog roads around polls and create long lines for voters.

"Expect delays this evening at all polling sites," Merrimack police said in a Nixle alert that urges voters who can to vote in off-peak hours.

"We expect traffic to increase as the evening commute begins," Goffstown police said. Polls close in most New Hampshire polling places by 7 p.m., but some are open as late as 8 p.m.

All day across New Hampshire, officials said, turnout was heavy, but no incidents of fraud or intimidation were reported by mid-afternoon.

"It’s looking like (Secretary of State) Bill Gardner’s prediction of a record turnout is going to hold up," said Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan in a phone interview.

On Friday, Gardner predicted 738,606 voters will cast ballots Tuesday, nearly 72 percent of the state’s eligible voters.

Scanlan said voters should only be waiting for 20 minutes to cast a ballot. If the wait is longer "we would through the AG’s office get somebody on site to figure out what’s gong on," he said.

Voting marks the end of a long election season -- Nov. 8 is the latest date an election can be held -- pitting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against New York real estate mogul Donald Trump.

"I was a big supporter of Hillary the last time around but I didn’t realize how dishonest the whole political scene had become," said Alice Noise, a Democrat who voted for Trump.

The biggest issue of the day centered on a Accuvote scanning machine that was not working in Manchester.

For a time, poll workers put ballots in a box, which prompted calls from voters who thought it was unusual, said Mark Zuckerman, an assistant U.S. attorney manning a voter fraud hotline.

Nicholl Marshall, moderator in Manchester Ward 2, said the ballot machine at Hillside Middle School was having trouble accepting ballots early Tuesday. The problem was fixed and resurfaced a few times before the machine remained on track to help tally votes.

At other locations, officials prepared for a late day surge.

In Durham, more than 6,200 votes had been cast by 3 p.m., prompting officials in the university town to predict that the previous record of 7,442 votes in 2012 will be shattered.

"If what we are seeing here today is an indication of election interest across New Hampshire, the entire state will be on track to shatter previous voting turnout records," stated Town Manager Todd Selig. "I would not be surprised to see us break the 9,000 mark."

Nationally, voters reported long lines and a few cases of harrassment and malfuctioning equipment.

Civil rights groups said they were receiving complaints about intimidating behavior at voting sites in Pennsylvania and Florida as supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and backers of Democrat Hillary Clinton went to cast ballots.

But a Democratic Party source said the Clinton campaign was not encountering systemic problems beyond the usual Election Day hiccups.

Trump sued the registrar of voters in Clark County, Nevada, with a claim that a polling place in Las Vegas had improperly been allowed to remain open last week to accommodate people who were lined up to vote. Nevada is one of several states that allow early voting.

Trump has repeatedly said the election will be "rigged" but has not provided evidence for his claim. He called on his supporters to watch for signs of fraud in urban areas, raising fears they could harass minority voters.

Numerous studies have found that voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States, but such claims didn’t stop New Hampshire officials from being prepared.

Assistant Attorneys General visited polls throughout the day and the Office of U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice staffed a hotline.

"It’s all very minor stuff, much of it informational," Zuckerman said. Some called asking for polling locations and voting times. "Over the years, I’ve learned it’s easier to just answer the questions."

The race in New Hampshire also features a close race of the U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Kelly Ayotte and a race for governor.

In Newfields, both Chris Sununu, the Republican candidate for governor, and Maggie Hassan, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, cast votes.

"I think we’re all happy that Election Day is finally here. It’s been a long journey to say the least, about 14 months now," said Sununu, who noted he waited for the first time ever to cast a vote in Newfields.

"I really think we need to follow the example of the people of New Hampshire who solve problems in their businesses and their communities and their families every day," Hassan said.

Scanlan had not received any complaints concerning guns at the polling places but he did hear of a couple issues of people wearing campaign paraphernalia. The people were asked to cover up the election items and they did so without incident, he said.

In the nation’s first votes cast, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump took an early lead in the tally of three of New Hampshire’s smallest towns.

The voting at Hart’s Location began at midnight and ended 5 minutes later. Hart’s Location cast 17 votes for Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine; 14 votes for Trump and running-mate Mike Pence. Others receiving votes included Johnson/Weld 3 votes, Bernie Sanders 3 votes and Kasich 1 vote. Dixville reporting 4 votes for Clinton/Kaine, 2 votes for Trump/Pence, 1 vote for Johnson/Weld and 1 vote for Romney. However, Millsfield reported only 4 votes for Clinton/Kaine, 16 votes for Trump/Pence and 1 vote for Sanders.

With long lines at polls expected this evening, it’s not likely that results will be available quickly.

State campaigns have booked rooms for their supporters. Democrat Colin Van Ostern, who is running for governor, will be at the Raddison in Manchester; Sununu at the Grappone Center in Concord.

Ayotte will be at the Grappone Center; Hassan at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester.

Elections Dixville Hart's Location

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