Surge of new voters register

YORK -- The number of York County residents who've registered to vote in the past three months is up 44 percent over the same time preceding the presidential election in 2004, according to the county's elections office.

Officials and political observers say the increase shows that people want their voices heard in an election that promises historic results, no matter who's elected.

From June 1 to last Monday, 6,668 people registered to vote in York County, said Wanda Hemphill, director of the county's Registration and Elections Office. In 2004 during the same time period, 4,626 people had registered, she said.

"We've gotten thousands of these (registration) applications in," Hemphill said Saturday, the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election. "We're working on that backlog."

Hemphill said presidential races generate more excitement.

"With this particular election, a lot of people are very passionate. They're more driven to get out and register to vote," she said.

Clover's Lois Benner feels the excitement. She was one of those who registered at the last minute Saturday.

"I have never voted, never registered to vote," Ellens said. "This election is probably the most important election in my lifetime other than the 1960 election for Kennedy. It's my obligation and duty to vote."

Local party leaders say the increased registration is a good sign that voters understand the importance of having a voice in the country's electoral process.

"It's a good sign for our representative democracy," said Jim Watkins, chairman of the York County Democratic Party. "More people are seeing hope that their participation does count for something."

Glenn McCall, chairman of the York County Republican Party, said the county's residential growth is one reason for the registration increase.

"It's good to hear that we have a lot of new voters," McCall said. "Also, the candidacy of Barack Obama, and Sarah Palin as vice president (on the GOP side), is expanding the voting population."

Loads of foot traffic

Hemphill said voter registration applications started increasing in September and have remained steady. The final registration numbers won't be known until Monday, she said.

"It's been busy every day this past week with people walking in to get registered to vote," she said.

On Saturday, cousins Eddie Goforth and Allan Goforth contributed to the foot traffic.

"I need to vote to voice my opinion," said Eddie Goforth, 20, of Clover. "If you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain."

Allan Goforth, 18, graduated this year from York Comprehensive High School and plans to cast his first vote next month.

"First presidential election (that) I can vote in," said Goforth, a York Technical College student. "I don't want to see the country keep going the way it has the last eight years."

Laura New, 30, who works in human resources, also turned out Saturday to register.

"This is the first time that I felt the presidential race was important," said New, who lives in York. "This is probably the most historical race there has been since I've been old enough to vote. I'd be very disappointed with myself if I missed out on the opportunity to vote."

Danny and Loretta Blevins of Clover have never voted. "We've been aiming to register, but we put it off," said Danny Blevins, 57.

Procrastination stopped Saturday. "I got registered, and it didn't even hurt," Danny Blevins quipped.

With the initial step completed, Hemphill hopes voters will follow through on Election Day.

"Take the next step and get out to vote on Nov. 4," she said.