Early voting brings record turnout

Matt Grant

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Early voting brings record turnout

CREATED Oct. 29, 2012

FORT MYERS - If you think you're beating the crowds by voting early you might want to think again as election officials report record turnouts three days into early voting.

"Why did you want to early vote?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Hopefully to beat the crowds," a Fort Myers voter said.

Those looking to get a jump-start on the election are being met with long lines and long waits. One voter said he waited an hour to cast an early ballot.

There have also been parking challenges. Fox 4 saw several cars forced to make tight turns in an overflow parking lot because there were no more spots.

"It's been extremely busy," said Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington.

Lee County has hit new turnout records, with some people reportedly waiting two hours to cast and early vote, according to Harrington.

"It takes a little bit longer but we're getting everybody through OK," said Harrington. "Just bring a little bit of patience with you and we'll get you through."

By the numbers

In Lee County, 13,626 voted by mid-day Monday. On Saturday and Sunday, 11,799 people voted. Of the people who voted this weekend, 5,234 were Republican, 3,895 were Democrats and 2,002 were unaffiliated.

In Collier County, 13,578 people voted by noon Monday. On Saturday, the first day of early voting, 6,387 people turned out compared to 3,657 on the first day of early voting in the 2008 election.

So far, 7,373 Republicans, 4,138 Democrats and 2,549 unaffiliated voters have cast a ballot in Collier.

Absentee ballots are also up by 10,000 in Collier County, according to election officials.

"It's our civic responsibility to vote as citizens," said one voter.

Adding to the wait time this year is the ballot which is four pages long. By 2 p.m., the lines at the election center across from the Bell Tower shops in Fort Myers snaked around the building.

It was the same scene Saturday morning.

"I thought we'd avoid the line because people are working. But, you know, Florida retirees. I should have thought a little more," said Fort Myers voter Yvonne Diaz laughing. "I'm going to get out there and do my duty."

Both Collier and Lee County election officials say they had to bring in more machines to keep up with the overwhelming demand.

There have been no reported problems so far. Harrington says it might be quicker to vote on election day instead of voting early.

Early voting ends Saturday.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com

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