Is early voting worth the cost?

7:07 PM, Jul 30, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA-- More than two weeks before August 14th's primary election day, Hillsborough County voters are already filling out ballots.

Early voting began Monday in Hillsborough, even though nearly every other Florida county is still about a week away from starting.

At a cost of thousands of dollars per day, some wonder if that much early voting is worth the cost. For Guido Maniscalco, it is.  He cast his ballot about an hour after polls opened.

"I love early voting.  I get excited," he explained.

But he didn't have to fight off any crowds Monday. As of 2 o'clock Monday afternoon, 775 people had voted county-wide.

"Compared to all the other years, it's been very slow today," said Willie Mae Williams as she waved a sign at voters.

With 15 polling places open, early voting comes with a cost. The 2008 primary cost Hillsborough County $309,000. At just over 10,000 voters, it worked out to about $30 per voter, or $25,000 per day.

That's why some argue 15 days is too many.

"It shouldn't take that long.  There's no use in wasting more taxpayer dollars," said taxpayer Harriet Jones.

Hillsborough is one of five Florida counties starting early voting already. State legislators changed the election law last year, reducing the number of early voting days from 15 to 10. But those five counties need federal approval to change, due to a history of voter discrimination, and the feds have yet to sign off.

Some lawmakers, though, concede they aren't seeing the turnout they would like.

"The same percentage pretty much showed up when we did Tuesday only than showed up in the last couple of elections. For all intents and purposes, it was pretty much the same," said Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton).

The issue has become very political. Democrats, pushing for even more early voting, have several challenges working their way through the courts. None are expected to be decided before the August 14 primary.

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