By Bill Kirk
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — If this town is any indication, voter turnout could be huge in the Merrimack Valley and throughout the rest of the state.
With polls opening at North Andover High School at 6 a.m., an hour earlier than most other cities or towns in the area, at least 1,000 of people had already voted by 7 a.m.
As of 8 a.m., the vote count was up to 2,200, according to City Clerk Joyce Bradshaw.
"It's been very steady," she said, adding that there no problems inside the polling place with voters or machines.
In Haverhill, voter turnout was equally heavy.
At Hunking Middle School, Ward 2, Precinct 2 Warden Jim Macdonald said that as of 8:35 a.m., 204 ballots were cast, which is more than voted in the entire primary in that precinct.
"If this continues, we'll have a 60 percent turnout," he said, noting that when the polls opened at 7 a.m., the line was all the way down the main hallway of the school and out the front door. There were approximately 70 people in line.
"I haven't seen this many people in six years as warden here," he said. "It's the highest I've ever seen at this time of morning."
At Ward 7, precinct 2, also in Hunking, the warden there reported about 300 voters as about 8:45 a.m.
In North Andover, Bradshaw said she got to City Hall by 4:15 a.m. and with help from Public Works had the polls set up at the high school, complete with extra, portable voting booths on round tables, in preparation for a 6 a.m. opening. In all, she said, there are 120 booths with more in storage in case they are needed.
Voters in North Andover were happy the polls opened at 6 a.m.
"I always vote early," said John Kosheff, 52. "I don't want to miss out."
The Romney voter said he is in favor of "small government and less taxes."
Derek Rhodes, 56, another early voter, said he likes to "get it out of the way" and get to work. A supporter of Pres. Obama, he voted a straight Democratic ticket.
"I believe in their policies," he said.
Dorothy Varga of the North Andover Music Association stood outside at a fund-raising table near the entrance to the high school gymnasium as a steady stream of people poured through the doors.
"It is amazing," she said. "It's a constant line of people coming through."
Osgood Street was backed up to Pleasant and Park streets, as police directed voters into and out of the vast, nearly full parking lot.
Elizabeth Holleran, who grew up in North Andover but now lives in Haverhill, held a sign for one of the local state representative candidates at the Osgood Street entrance to the high school.
She said she couldn't believe the traffic.
"I've never seen it like this," she said. "This is heavy activity. It's amazing."
Mike Labella contributed to this story.