KEYSER, W.Va. - Tallying the ballots for West Virginia's primary election should go fairly smoothly tonight, according to Mineral County Clerk Lauren Ellifritz.

"We don't have any write-in candidates, so we don't have to physically touch every ballot," she said.

Voters will go to the polls to cast their ballots today to decide which candidates will represent their party and proceed to the general election in November.

In addition to the presidential and statewide races, voters will decide the county races for one seat on the commission, two seats on the board of education, as well as for the offices of assessor, sheriff, magistrate, prosecuting attorney, circuit court judges, state Senate and House of Delegates.

They will have the opportunity to vote yea or nay for the $15.8 million school bond issue designed to renovate and/or construct much-needed classroom space throughout the county.

Although she expected a large voter turnout this year due to it being a presidential election, Ellifritz said the number of early voters surprised her.

"It hasn't been good," she said Monday, noting that only 563 people came to the courthouse to cast their ballots during the 21-day early voting period.

Fifty-nine persons voted absentee ballots, for a total of 622 people who have already voted.

Earlier this year, when she told the county commission she didn't feel her office would have sufficient space for early voting, Ellifritz estimated there would be "a good 2,000 or more come out and vote early."

"I was really surprised," she said Monday. "I was prepared for this big turnout and we didn't get it."

In Hampshire County, Clerk Sharon Link also reported a smaller number of early voters than anticipated.

"We had 606; that's less than we expected," she said.

Voter registration in Mineral County was also way down this year.

"In the '04 presidential election, we had 1,500 register to vote. This year, we only had about 200," she said.

The polls will open at 6:30 p.m. and remain open until 7:30 p.m.

Once the polls close and the election clerks perform the required tests of the ballot-counting machine, the results from the county's 32 precincts should be counted fairly easily, Ellifritz said.

The ballots will be in two forms, however, as voters still have the choice of using a paper ballot or the Ivotronic computers.

The ballots will be counted separately, with the totals combined at the conclusion of the evening.

"We should be done by 11:30 without any problem," Ellifritz said.

Due to the lateness, preliminary results from the election will appear on the Times-News Web site, www.times-news.com, after midnight. The complete results will be added to the Web on Wednesday morning and published in the Times-News Thursday edition.

Results in Hardy, Grant and Hampshire counties will be posted on the Times-News Web site Wednesday morning also and published in the Times-News Thursday edition.

Those counties, too, are nominating candidates for assessor, commissioner, sheriff, magistrate, prosecuting attorney and circuit court and family court judges. The winners of Tuesday's Primary Election will face off in November's General Election.

Contact Liz Beavers at lizbeavers@yahoo.com.

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