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Cape voters discover long lines for the first day of early voting; Elections official says turnout high

By Staff | Oct 21, 2008

The line for early voting stretched out of the Cape Coral branch office Monday afternoon as some of the first ballots were cast in the general election.

Election day is Nov. 4, but at least 2,375 ballots were cast in Lee County on Monday, the first day of early voting.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington said things ran smoothly the first day, despite it being the first time some voters used the new optical scanning voting machines.

The machines were used for the first time in Lee County during the Aug. 26 primary, but only 20 percent of registered voters turned out for the primary, and a much higher turnout is expected for the general election.

“It’s going well, everyone is moving through the line really well,” Harrington said.

Harrington’s office moved extra voting machines to the branch offices to compensate for the extra early turnout, which she says will be high.

“I can predict that we will probably be close to 45,000 to 50,000 early voters,” Harrington said.

There were about 32,000 early votes cast in Lee County in the 2004 presidential election.

Early ballots can be cast at five Supervisor of Elections branch offices between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Early voting ends Nov. 1.

For those who are wary of long lines, even at the early branch sites, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 29. Absentee ballots must be filled out and received by the Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. Nov. 4.

The early and absentee alternatives are supposed to ease congestion at the polls on election day, but Harrington is not taking anything for granted.

“I hope so, otherwise we’re all going to be crazy,” she said.