By Kathy Gibbons
TRAVERSE CITY — East Bay Township Clerk Sue Courtade says voter participation in today's general election could set a record in the township.
"As of 3 o'clock, we had about 55 percent turnout already," she said, estimating that around 65-68 percent of the township's registered voters came out in 2008.
The numbers of registered voters in the township are also up, from 7,800 in 2008 to 9,033. As a result, she said that instead of being solely at the township hall on Three Mile Road as it has been since 2004, voting will be conducted with an additional precinct at multiple locations in 2014: two precincts at the township hall, two at the fire station on High Lake Road and one at a fire station on Three Mile Road.
The stream of voters was steady today, she said. Election worker Kathy Marks said she was both "astonished" at the turnout and touched by the mood of the voters.
"The calm dedication and patriotic feeling and people coming by and thanking us for our hard work — it's very moving," Marks said. "It really makes me want to tear up.
"We share a great concern for our country, no matter what way you vote."
The Record-Eagle interviewed about 18 voters as they exited East Bay polls this morning. Many said they voted for Romney.
"He shares my values," said DeeAnne Graczyk, 39. "We need to take this country back. We're going in the wrong direction."
Tony Miliusis, 64, also supported Romney.
"I voted in general for more conservative values," he said. "I think our government spends too much money."
Robert Rienas, 62, opted for a straight Democrat ticket because he doesn't trust the Republican presidential candidate.
"I don't trust anybody who only pays 15 percent income tax and won't divulge his income tax records," he said.
Voters interviewed were about even when it came to the Traverse City Area Public Schools' bond proposal.
John Rizzo, 39, supported the school bond with his "yes" vote.
"I always think education is important," he said. "I don't think I've ever voted 'no' on a school bond."
Almost universally, those interviewed expressed relief that the campaign is over.
"Obviously, there's record money spent and all of the commercials and calls and literature I felt were more exhausting than any of the other elections," Rizzo said. "It just got to the point that the information didn't help anymore and that point was a pretty long time ago for me."
But Katrina Shonk, 19, still wore the shiny enthusiasm of a brand new voter as she left the township hall.
"I was really excited to be here," she said.
And who did she vote for? "Obama, because I feel like he would bring better change than Romney."