HELENA – The presidential primary season was drawing to a close Tuesday in Montana as the state’s voters cast the final ballots for either Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The voting continued amid word that Obama had enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
The excitement over the closely contested primary between Obama and Clinton prompted election officials to brace for unusually high turnout and possible long lines at the polls. As of 5 p.m., the Secretary of State’s office reported there were no reports of problems at the polls.
The historic race brought unexpected attention to Montana, where the June 3 primary usually means little in presidential politics. This year, both candidates and their respective spouses came to Montana to personally ask for votes.
“This is the first chance we’ve had in an election to really voice ourselves and say this is where we stand on the issues,” said Colin Curry, a 26-year-old coffee shop barista in Helena.
Curry, describing himself as “mostly independent,” said the excitement prompted him to vote in his first election since he turned 18. He picked Obama over Clinton.
“It’s like they say. He represents change,” Curry said.
The state’s primary was open to all voters, allowing Republicans and independents to vote on the Democratic side.
This year, the candidates fought hard for the state’s 16 pledged delegates and eight superdelegates. Obama was here first with offices and advertising, while Clinton hired experienced Montana political operatives.
A Clinton supporter said she voted early for the candidate and hopes the New York senator will continue to pursue the nomination.
“Why should all of this be pre-decided? This should be decided on the convention floor,” said Cindy Butler, 50, of Billings. “I hope she stays in and continues to fight.”
Other voters were attracted to Obama’s message of change. Republican Crisse Hall, 44, of Billings said she voted for Obama because he “talks a lot about doing what’s right and not just a short-term fix.”
Obama has won contests in Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Clinton won Arizona and a cliffhanger in New Mexico.
South Dakota residents also voted Tuesday, but the polls there closed an hour earlier — allowing Montana to lay claim to the title of last primary in the nation.
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