The close scrutiny directed at this year's presidential election extended to Clatsop County, where attorneys from both the Bush and Kerry campaigns came to watch the ballot-counting process. But like the rest of Oregon, and most of the rest of the country, the local election went smoothly, despite a heavy turnout.

A total of about 19,400 - 86 percent - of county voters cast ballots in Tuesday's mail-in election, which included not only the presidential race, Congressional contests and several state ballot measures but also races for various local city councils.

Chief Deputy Clerk Nicole Williams said she predicted roughtly an 86 percent turnout. The processing and counting, which took place at the former Assessment and Taxation office in the county courthouse, went smoothly because so many people turned in their ballots early, and the county didn't receive a large last-minute deluge of ballots, she said.

"The majority came in early," she said.

The county hosted several attorneys - three from the John Kerry campaign and two from President Bush's camp - who came to observe the ballot-counting Tuesday. They had questions about the overall process, but did not raise any particular concerns or complaints about the county's handling of the ballots, Williams said.

"They asked a lot of questions, but they were very easy to work with," she said. "I feel like they were satisfied with our procedures."

Several local citizens also had questions about the process - Williams said she invited them to the courthouse to witness the ballot-handling in person. About two dozen observers watched the process throughout the day, but there were no complaints or challenges of individual voters, she said.

"We spent a lot of time educating observers," she said.

The county also received more queries from voters with questions about their own voting eligibility.

"People would come in and say 'I think I'm registered to vote,'" she said.

The county elections office at 820 Exchange St. was open to provide ballots to people who had lost their ballots or were unsure about their registration. The county issued about 100 provisional ballots to voters with uncertain eligibility - for example, those who only recently moved to the county and whose registration the elections department wasn't able to verify before the election, Williams said.

The department will check on those voters' status after Tuesday, and if they are qualified to vote in Clatsop County and did not cast votes in other jurisdictions, the provisional ballots will then be counted, she said.


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