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Early voting ends today

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

Early voting in Lee County ends today in preparation for the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Gov. Charlie Crist decided to expand early voting and gave counties the flexibility to spread a total of 12 hours of poll time throughout the weekend. Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington decided that the last day will be Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Headlining the general election is the race for the White House. There are 13 presidential candidates on the ballot, with the two main parties represented by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. John McCain, R-AZ.

The ballot also includes candidates for U.S. Congress, Lee County sheriff, property appraiser, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, the Board of Directors for Lee Memorial Health System, six state constitutional amendments and two county charter amendments.

By Friday afternoon, 53,526 Lee County residents had cast an early vote. Local media reports have described long lines at each of the early voting locations, but Harrington said voters should be patient.

“We only have the optical scan system now,” said Harrington. “That’s why the lines have been so long because it is a totally different system.”

The system used in Lee County is effective because it tabulates votes electronically and keeps a hard copy of each ballot in case there needs to be a recount. In the optical scan system, voters fill out a paper ballot and scan it.

“It is a lot slower because there are a lot of stations to go to pick up your ballot and put it in the scanner,” said Harrington.

There are approximately 400,000 voters in Lee County who are eligible to vote in the general election. The early voting gates will close at 60,000 people, said Harrington, and the election’s office has received close to 69,000 absentee ballots.

“There is a lot of interest in this election, all the way around,” said Harrington. “We are expecting at most 270,000 to vote on Tuesday.”

Since more people are voting Tuesday than over the last two weeks, some have asked whether there will be longer lines on Nov. 4.

“It’s hard to predict,” said Harrington. “There could be lines, but we are asking everybody to be prepared when you go in.”

Voters should make their decisions before they are in the booth, she said, and they should remain patient.

“We only had 20 percent turnout in the primary so not a lot of people are getting experience on these machines,” said Harrington.

There has only been one area where voting has hit a slight glitch.

This week, a total of 250 absentee ballots were thrown away because they didn’t include the proper voter signature. Florida law states that a voter’s legal signature needs to be included on the ballot.

During the initial canvassing, Harrington said officials disposed of those ballots that couldn’t be verified and others because a power-of-attorney signed the envelope.

Also, some 135 ballots were scrutinized because signatures didn’t match, she said, and only 35 of those were accepted as being close enough.

Many voters are turning out on Tuesday for the presidential election, overshadowed by two foreign wars, a financial crisis and high unemployment.

Current polls for the presidential election show that Tuesday will be a tight race. Both candidates are polled with approximately 50 percent of the vote and only foregoing the other by a small margin.

According to Real Clear Politics, an online polling database, national polls are averaging Obama ahead by 6.4 percent. This includes Gallup polls which furnished Obama with an 8 percent lead, FOX News with 3 percent and CBS News polling him at 11 percent over McCain.

In Florida, a key battleground state for both candidates, Reuters determined a tie between both candidates while the LA Times gave Obama a 7 percent lead. The winner of Florida will be given 27 electoral votes towards the 270 needed to win. In both the 2000 and 2004 elections Floridians voted for a Republican candidate, George W. Bush.

Visit cape-coral-daily-breeze.com for news stories and other information on the local races.