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Stronger local voter turnout expected for Election Day as registrations increase

By Richard Yeakley
Oct. 3, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Election administrators in Gregg and surrounding counties reported Wednesday a stout increase in the number of voters registering in September. And, with the registration deadline less than a week away, election officials said they are preparing for a large East Texas turnout Nov. 6.

Oct. 9 is the deadline to register to vote in the general election, which includes a White House battle between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Paul Sadler also are vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Kathryn Nealy, Gregg County elections administrator, said her office at the Gregg County Courthouse has received about 100 registrations a day since Sept. 24.

"We are hoping this is the busy time and that not everyone will come on the last day," Nealy said.

Gregg County is seeing a traditional amount of people registering as first-time voters leading up to a presidential election, said Nealy, who has 23 years of experience in the county's elections.

Election officials for surrounding counties also reported seeing a large number of voters registering during the final days before the deadline.

"We are expecting a very large turnout, as a matter of fact," said Harrison County Elections Administrator Dan Teed. "In 2008, nearly 30,000 people voted. I am printing slightly more ballots than that and expecting more turnout."

Historically, American voters have viewed the presidential election as more important than mid-terms, in which Senate and House seats are filled.

During the last presidential election in 2008, 131 million people voted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2010, 90 million people voted in mid-term eletions, according to numbers from the U.S. Elections Project.

The perceived stakes of the 2012 election could not be higher for local political leaders.

Keith Rothra, chairman of the Gregg County Republican Party, said he sees 2012 as a make or break moment for America.

"People want to say in almost every election that this is the election of your life. Please hear me: this is the election of your life. The future of our country is very, very much at stake in this election," Rothra said.

Rothra said he has helped many people register - including five in one day - who are fearful of the country's fate due to a consistently high unemployment rate and Obama's foreign policy decisions.

Vic Verma, who works with the Gregg County Democratic Party and serves as the Pct. 16 chairman, agrees with Rothra about the election's importance.

"We look at it as an opportunity to build on the successes we have had," Verma said. "I think that the election is clearly a choice, between President Obama, and continuing the progress he is making for all Americans, and Governor Romney."

Other organizations, such as the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, are sponsoring non-partisan voter registration drives across East Texas as the Oct. 9 registration deadline approaches.

Phillip White of Rock the Vote said his organization will have a three-day push in Longview later this week, culminating in an after party at a local club.

Rock the Vote will set up registration drives from 5 to 7 p.m. today at Anytime Fitness at 1011 Wal St.; noon to 4 p.m. Friday at Super 1 Foods at 1800 S. High St.; and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Verizon Wireless at 3080 N. Eastman Road.

Residents can register at their county's election office or download the application from and mail in the application post-marked before Oct. 9.

Voters will then get a voter card in the mail.

Several election centers are closed for Columbus Day, but all will be open Tuesday to process last-minute registrations.

However, elections officials encourage voters to register earlier to avoid any complication.

"There is always a chance that on the last day there will be so many, a person does not get processed," Nealy said.



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