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Polk County voter roles grow by 1,200

Polk County has many more voters ready to cast a ballot in this year&squo;s primary election compared to the last one in 2006.

According to figures from the Polk elections office, the county has 1,200 more registered voters for this year&squo;s primary, an increase of nine percent over the total for the 2006 primary. Last Friday was the deadline for voter registration prior to this year&squo;s primary on May 6.

The elections office shows a total of 14,673 registered voters this year, up from 13,473 in the spring of 2006.

The biggest increase came in the number of unaffiliated voters, which jumped from 3,519 in 2006 to 4,217 this year.

The number of unaffiliated voters is up 19.8 percent, while the number of Democrats is up 6.5 percent and the number of Republicans is up 3.7 percent.

The number of unaffiliated voters in the county has been gaining steadily on the number of Democrats and Republicans in recent years. Unaffiliated voters now make up 29 percent of all registered voters in the county, up from 20 percent in 2000.

Unaffiliated voters can vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primaries.

Polk County Elections Director Dale Ed-wards said prior to Fri-day&squo;s registration deadline that the county was seeing many new voters register this year, and many voters switch affiliations.

She said the county is expecting a big turnout for this year&squo;s primary, particularly because of the interest in the close race between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.

Despite the large increase this year, the number of voters in Polk County is still lower than it was in 2004. The number of voters dropped by more than 2,000 in 2006 after the county purged its voter rolls, eliminating people who no longer live in the county or are ineligible to vote.

Many other counties in the state have also seen a surge in voter registration this year ahead of the May 6 primary. The total number of voters in the state is up by more than 300,000, or 5.5 percent, since 2006, according to figures from the state board of elections. Unaffiliated voters are up 16 percent.

Early voting will begin in North Carolina on April 17 and continue through May 3. This year the state is allowing people who did not register as of last Friday&squo;s deadline to register during the early voting period. But those people are allowed to vote only during the early voting, and cannot make any changes to name, address or party affiliation.