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Turnout high on caucus night

Republicans and Democrats were both seeing historic turnout at Grand Forks caucus sites Tuesday, for the first year when their votes may influence their parties' nominees.

Republicans and Democrats were both seeing historic turnout at Grand Forks caucus sites Tuesday, for the first year when their votes may influence their parties' nominees.

More than 1,000 Democratic primary voters had passed through the caucus site at the UND Memorial Union shortly after 6 tonight, about two hours before the site closed, according to an official working at the site.

Less than half-an-hour after the Republican caucus site at the Holiday Inn on Gateway Drive opened, a group of more than 300 people were gathered, many of them snaking out of the caucus room, through the lobby and outdoors.

Former North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Earl Strinden said it was by far the greatest number of people he'd ever seen gathered for a Republican caucus in the state.

About 200 Democratic voters cast ballots at the UND Memorial Union site in the first half-hour after it opened at 2 p.m. organizers said.

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"Very heavy is the best way to describe it," said site manager Ell-Piret Multer. She said the site would have a full count and voting results around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

A high proportion of voters appeared to be under 25, likely UND students.

From 2 p.m. to about 2:45 p.m., a line of students snaked from the second-floor room where the caucus was held, out through a lounge and down the stairway.

Other reports from the region indicate heavy turnouts for what observers say is an unprecedented presidential primary.

Because of a national change in primary schedules, North Dakota's Democratic and Republican voters are heading to the polls much earlier this year, during the so-called Super Tuesday primary when 21 other states are holding primaries or caucuses.

In previous years the North Dakota caucuses were held much later in the election cycle, typically after both parties had settled on a nominee.

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