Democrats weigh in at polls

Staff and Wire Reports

Polling places throughout the state were witnessing heavy turnout for the Democratic Presidential Preference Caucus Tuesday and Roosevelt County was no different.

Long lines in some areas of the state forced party officials to hold up releasing returns until everyone had a chance to vote, according to the Associated Press.

KOAT in Albuquerque was reporting Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by 9 percent with 12 percent of New Mexico precincts reporting.

In Portales lines were never too long but the traffic at the single polling place in town, the Memorial Building was steady all afternoon, according to poll workers.

“There was a line when we opened and it’s been busy ever since,” said former Roosevelt County Clerk Pauline Clark. “It’s much heavier than it was four years ago.”

Roosevelt County officials said they were unable to release the hand-counted local results to the media. They said that all results would come from state party headquarters.

“Based on what I saw (when voting) we had a healthy turnout in Roosevelt County,” Roosevelt County Democratic Chair Jim Lee said.

A lack of ballots at a handful of polling sites and hours-long lines that snaked through hallways, gymnasiums, fire station garages and around buildings turned off many voters throughout New Mexico. As the polls closed at 7 p.m., between 1,000 and 1,500 people still were waiting to vote at Rio Rancho High School.

“Unfortunately the lines were long, but the good thing was there was absolutely a ton of interest to participate in this caucus,” said Jim Noel, a volunteer at the Rio Rancho site.

Long lines were a sign that turnout could exceed early expectations, said state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon, who acknowledged that the party had to supply additional materials to voting places around the state.

The Democrats opened 184 caucus sites statewide, sometimes consolidating many precincts at a single location — leading to confusion among voters about where to vote and adding to caucus problems.

Sen. John McCain swept a string of delegate-rich, East Coast primaries Tuesday night, reaching for command of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama traded victories in an epic struggle from Connecticut to California.

The former first lady said, “I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation.”

McCain, the early Republican front-runner whose campaign nearly unraveled six months ago, won in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware to gain all 198 delegates at stake there. He also put Illinois and Oklahoma in his column.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won a series of Bible Belt victories, in Alabama and Georgia as well as his own home state. He also triumphed at the Republican West Virginia convention, and told The Associated Press in an interview he would campaign on. “The one way you can’t win a race is to quit it, and until somebody beats me, I’m going to answer the bell for every round of this fight,” he said.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, won a home state victory. He also took Utah, where fellow Mormons supported his candidacy. He, too, breathed defiance. “We’re going to go all the way to the convention. We’re going to win this thing,” he told supporters in Boston.

Democrats played out a historic struggle between Clinton, seeking to become the first female president and Obama, hoping to become the first black to win the White House.

Clinton won at home in New York as well as in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas, where she was first lady for more than a decade. She also won the caucuses in American Samoa.

Obama won Connecticut, Georgia, Alabama, Delaware, Utah and his home state of Illinois. He also prevailed in North Dakota, Minnesota and Kansas, three caucus states.