Tampa Bay may set early voting record

4:32 PM, Nov 1, 2012   |    comments
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New Tampa, Florida -- We may be looking at a record when it comes to early voting in our region.

Elections offices around the Bay area say voters are clearly enthusiastic about this year's presidential race. And even with fewer days to cast an early ballot than in 2008, more of them are being cast. Thirty to 40-minute waits are not unusual right now, and elections officials think Friday and Saturday will see even longer lines.

See Also: Gov. Scott rejects early voting extension

In 2008, most precincts had more days and extended hours for people to cast their early ballots... and they still had long lines. This time, with fewer days to get it done, the early turnout has been even stronger.

In some cases it's sheer determination.

Arthritis, a hip replacement and triple bypass surgery couldn't stop 83-year-old Robert Mayfield from casting and early ballot on Thursday. He stared down a 30 minute wait and a line 20 people deep that stretched its way outside his Pasco County polling place.

Truth be told, "I don't want to come back another day," laughed Mayfield.

And he is by no means alone. With just over 48 hours left to cast an early ballot, several voters are feeling a sense of urgency. They know Saturday's 7.pm. deadline is fast approaching, know that lines are expected to get longer not shorter, and know that on election day itself this coming Tuesday, they'll likely be that much worse.

Patricia Gress, also an early voter, says the line surprised her.

"Last year there was no lines. This year we came out here to vote, because we didn't think there'd be any lines and we had to wait in line," she said.

Regional supervisors of elections say early voters are right in their assessment of the increase. In fact, their stats show the early voting rate for this election is now outpacing the race in 2008.

With the two busiest days still to go, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco elections offices all show numbers that are at least half of 2008's totals.

And they expect when you add in Friday and Saturday's numbers they will exceed the last presidential election.

"I dealt with it last time and I waited 'til the last minute to do it and it was just complete chaos," said voter Julian Morris.

Morris decided this time he'd vote early and avoid the lines. He still ended up waiting a bit, but -- knowing his vote would be counted -- he had no problem with it.

"This is what you fight for. People fight for this, for our freedom to vote and everything like that and 20 minutes is nothing; you just got to get out here and do it, that's it," he said.

Despite the lines, election officials say it's been very orderly and there had been no word of any major issues at area precincts. 

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