By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Hill County Clerk and Recorder's Office has received a record number of voter registration forms this year. Deputy election administrator Betty Williams was sitting next to a pile of registration forms today, one day after voter registration closed across the state.
"They're higher than I've seen in a long time," Williams said. She plans to have every form processed by Thursday.
Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem said voter registration numbers are the highest she has seen in 20 years.
Blaine County Clerk and Recorder Sandra Boardman said her office has also seen a growth in registration numbers.
Hill County and its neighbors are experiencing a taste of the voter registration upswing in counties and states throughout the country. Georgia reported a 50 percent increase in voter registration over the last presidential election. Denver had to hire 14 full-time workers to help process the registrations that were coming in at 2,000 per day. Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are also reporting high numbers.
Before the presidential election in 2000, the Hill County Clerk and Recorder's Office added 326 voters to the rolls. As of 5 p.m. Monday, the office had counted 650 voter registration forms, and is still counting.
Most of those are new voters - people who have not previously registered to vote, Williams said.
"We ask people to tell us where they were previously registered to vote," both to be able to cancel a previous registration, and also to monitor the numbers of new voters, Williams said.
This year, Hill County has seen "a lot of new registrations, a lot of young people," Williams said.
Absentee ballots have been available at the Hill County Courthouse or by mail. Williams has sent out 367 absentee ballots.
Absentee voting at the Courthouse will continue until noon on Nov. 1, but people can bring their absentee ballots into any polling place by 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.
The number already sent out is up from the same time last year, Williams said. A voter can request that option as late as the day prior to the election.
Hill County made absentee ballots available beginning Sept. 21, ahead of schedule, because the ballots were available that day.
Thirty-seven absentee ballots have gone out overseas, 31 of these to U.S. Army or U.S. Navy post office addresses. Eighteen absentee ballots have been sent to military personnel throughout the country.
The Hill County Clerk and Recorder's Office is also responsible for issuing and recording deeds and other records. In a crunch like this one, the office doesn't have the ability to hire extra staff, Williams said.
"It gets pretty hectic, but it's handled," Williams said.
The Clerk and Recorder's Office will stay busy until the election as staffers await a steady stream of absentee ballots.