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Lines, Voting Problems Continue For 2nd Day  (FL)

News4Jax    21 October 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The second day of early voting in Duval County began much like the first one: lines at the polling places and problems getting the ballots recorded.

Fortunately, the lines were slightly shorter and the problems were limited to two of Duval County's 15 early voting sites.

After a huge turnout on Monday 11,970, more than voted in all 14 days of early voting in the August primary people were lined up at some sites when the doors opened Tuesday morning.

Monday, when optical ballot scanning machines refused to read ballots Monday at several polling places, Supervisor Jerry Holland thought they had the problems worked out. Holland said seven machines that indicated the ballots physically too long or were affected by high humidity were replaced on Monday and 10 more back-up machines were ordered from the manufacturer.

"Obviously from what we learned (Monday), we will make adjustments and make improvements to the equipment. We've changed out equipment, and at the end of the day, all the equipment was working," Holland said.

Voters at polling places affected by machine problems were asked to place their ballots in an emergency slot so they could be counted Monday evening. While that created concern for some who were uncomfortable leaving without seeing their ballots recorded, those ballots were counted by election workers under the watchful eye of party activists.

"All of us who are here made sure that last night, every single ballot was counted," said state Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville." We didn't leaving the polling locations until that was done."

Similar problems with optical scanners were reported Tuesday morning at the Highlands Library on Dunn Avenue and the Pablo Creek Library on Beach Boulevard. By noon, Channel 4's Jim Piggott reported those problems were fixed.

The election canvassing board was to hold an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday to evaluate the new machines before they could be placed into service.

'Unreal' Response To Early Voting
After encouraging voters to cast ballots early to avoid lines on Election Day, even Holland was shocked by Monday's response to early voting.

Other counties in Channel 4's viewing area had a large turnout on Monday, but not the waits or machine problems experienced in Jacksonville. In St. Johns County, 3,924 people cast ballots on Monday.

Holland said this year's election has the potential to be historic, not only because of the candidates running for president, but because of turnout.

"Just seeing the interest (Monday) on the first day of early voting, which is probably three times what it normally is, we could very well break the record that was set in 1982 of 84.6 percent," said Holland.

That heavy turnout combined with a large number of first-time voters and a ballot containing several races and constitutional amendments is expected to result in lines of two hours or more at polling places on Nov. 4.

Holland and other election officials encourage avoiding those delays by voting early one of two ways:

Absentee Voting: Registered voters do not need a reason to request an absentee ballot, and it can be done by mail up to Oct. 29 or in person at county elections offices through Election Day. Contact the supervisor of elections office for your county to learn more.

Early Voting: Through Nov. 1 in most counties and Nov. 2 in Duval County, registered voters can go to any early voting site in their county, show a photo ID with a signature and cast a ballot. In large metro counties, there are multiple early voting sites so people can vote when and where it's convenient.

Nationwide, about a third of the electorate is expected to vote early this year. That would be up from 22 percent in 2004 and 16 percent in 2000.

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