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Throughout Area, Voters Still Turning Out in Droves

Virginia voters have waited for hours in line to vote 'in-person absentee' the week leading up to the presidential election, a sign that Tuesday's election will be hard fought in this battleground state. Video by Brigid Schulte/The Washington PostEditor: Jacqueline Refo/washingtonpost.com

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By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Piers Wood, 66, had already made plans to be on his sailboat next week, but he didn't want to miss his chance to vote in Tuesday's historic election.

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So Wood, who is retired from the military, went to the Mason Government Center in Annandale to vote by absentee ballot. He left four hours later -- 3 hours, 59 minutes and 25 seconds later, to be exact.

"No one was being rude," he said. "I was amazed at how cool-headed people were."

In Virginia and all across the Washington region, tens of thousands of people spent another day yesterday standing in line to vote by absentee ballot for John McCain or Barack Obama in numbers that far surpass those of the 2004 presidential race.

"Is this turnout normal? Absolutely not," Fairfax County Registrar Rokey W. Suleman II said. "We expected an increase, but not this large."

In vote-rich Fairfax, nearly 79,000 of 680,000 registered voters had cast a ballot by mail or in person at one of eight locations as of Thursday. Suleman said he expects that number to exceed 125,000 by Election Day.

Election officials are anticipating huge lines today, the last Saturday before Election Day.

In Virginia, the last day to vote by absentee ballot in person is today. In Maryland and the District, absentee voting continues through Election Day.

Election officials anticipate record turnout Tuesday when the country will elect either the nation's first black president or first female vice president. They estimate 10 to 20 percent of voters in the region will likely vote by absentee ballot.

"The fact is there is so much interest in this election," said Marjorie Roher, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections in Montgomery County, where about 1,000 people are voting a day. "They don't want to stand in line on Election Day."

In Virginia, nearly 312,000 voters had cast absentee ballots in person or by mail as of Thursday, compared with 222,000 cast in 2004. In Maryland, more than 218,000 people had voted as of Thursday, almost 100,000 more than in 2004.

In the District, absentee voting was moved to another floor to accommodate the large numbers of residents who have flooded the elections office in recent days. About 8,000 people had voted in person by midday Friday, and an additional 16,000 requested ballots by mail that need to be postmarked by Election Day.

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