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Archive for Sunday, October 31, 2004

Millions vote early in Florida

October 31, 2004

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— More than 1.8 million Floridians have cast their ballots through early or absentee voting -- nearly 2 1/2 times the number of people who voted early in 2000.

Polling places were packed Saturday as people continued to stream in to vote early, with some localities reporting lines several hundred deep and waits up to four hours.

At a mall in Broward County, Patti Bryant voted at 1:25 p.m. -- 3 hours, 55 minutes after she got in line.

"We have to make a change. This election is key," she said. "It's too important for people not to vote, so I was prepared to wait for however long it took."

With early voting still available at polling stations Monday -- and about 1.6 million requested absentee ballots still outstanding -- officials expect the number of early voters to easily surpass 2 million.

"It looks like the All-American tradition of voting on Election Day is going out the window," said Fred D. Galey, elections supervisor in Brevard County.

Since the polls opened on Oct. 18, Democrats and Republicans alike have pressed their die-hard supporters to vote early in Florida, a critically important electoral state where polls suggest the presidential race is a dead heat.

Political rallies end with shuttle buses headed to the polls. Speeches include exhortations to vote early. And nonprofit groups are renting vans to transport voters.

In Miami-Dade County, which has the state's second-largest voter population, officials project about a third of registered voters will cast their ballot before Election Day. In Washington County in the Panhandle, more than 20 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots by Thursday.

In all, the early turnout is more than double that in 2000, when early voting wasn't an option in most places.

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