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In President's Home State, Voter Turnout Heavy

Most of the campaigning in this year's presidential election focused on the so-called swing states, where Republican President George Bush and his Democratic rival, Senator John Kerry, were running neck-and-neck in the polls. But turnout is being reported as heavy even in many of the states that appear to be firmly for one candidate or the other. One such state is the president's home state of Texas.

Election officials at their main office in Conroe were kept busy all day with a steady stream of voters with questions or problems, mostly concerning where to vote and what kind of identification they would need. Voter turnout here in Montgomery County has already set a record. For two weeks before Election Day, people were allowed to vote early at special sites. In the 2000 presidential election, 45,000 people voted early in this county. This year it was well above 70,000.

Carol Gaultney, Montgomery County Election Administrator, says the close race in 2000, which was eventually settled by the Supreme Court, terrorism and the war in Iraq are all factors in this year's turnout.

"Emotions are very high," she said. "We saw that in the early voting, very high emotions. The war has gotten people very interested and people realize, I believe, after 2000, that their vote does count. Every vote makes a difference and I think people are more aware of that than ever after the year 2000."

In Texas, recent polls indicated that President Bush would likely win around 60 percent of the vote, but that did not appear to discourage Kerry supporters from voting nor make Bush supporters complacent. The sense of civic duty motivates many. Some, like Marie Henriquez, say it does not matter that Texas is firmly in the Bush column.

"That actually had occurred to me, but I think everybody should have a say, at least, you know, to be heard," she noted.

Another voter, Armando Recinos, is a member of the U.S. Army reserves, who sees this election as crucial to his immediate future.

"Basically, all the soldiers, what we are worried about is who becomes president," he said. "That will determine whether I go to Iraq or stay home. There are a lot of positive views that Kerry and Bush have, but I am leaning more towards Bush."

In Montgomery County there is a mix of urban and rural, white and black and Hispanic. This is the birthplace of the state's lone star flag and home to many farmers and ranchers who can trace their lineage back through several generations of Texas history. But, being on the northern rim of the Houston metropolitan area, Montgomery County has a large population of people who work in the city as well.

Voters here, like voters all across Texas, came out in record numbers Tuesday to either support the Texan in the White House or his opponent and to play their part in the democratic process.