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Early voting drew about 40,000

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012 12:19 am

On the last day of early voting, Gainesville residents lingered in a block-long line to cast their ballots.

Some people waited in line for 15 minutes Saturday, while others waited for more than two hours.

More than 39,000 people voted early at the three polling locations, said Pam Carpenter, county supervisor of elections. The county saw fewer voters than the 2008 presidential election, which drew a crowd of about 53,000 people.

“We’ve seen a real reduction,” Carpenter said. “This seems to indicate it is the number of days that increase the number of early voting.”

Last year, Florida’s Republican-heavy legislature slashed the number of early voting days almost in half, from 14 days to eight. This decision led Florida’s Democratic Party to file a lawsuit late Saturday, asking for extended voting hours in certain counties, according to the Associated Press.

Carpenter said election offices still had 96 hours of early voting, but the poll hours were compressed into fewer days with longer hours to compensate for the cutback.

“It was still a great turnout for the eight days,” she said.

The most popular voting location was the Millhopper Branch Library with 15,597 votes, followed by 12,073 votes at the Tower Road Branch Library and 11,602 at the Supervisor of Elections Office, County Administration Building location, Carpenter said.

Gator alumna Cynthia Plunkett left the polls with her 8-year-old sister, Shea, Saturday afternoon. Plunkett said voting early turned into an unexpected family affair.

“We were all together and didn’t plan on going to the game,” the 23-year-old said. “We waited in line for 20 to 25 minutes max. It was definitely worth it.”

UF art senior Layne Thue voted at the downtown location with her father Saturday.

The 21-year-old said the wait was about 45 minutes to cast her vote.

Although the number of early voters dwindled, she said the number of absentee ballots in Alachua County increased from 2008 numbers.

“Absentee voting was over 23,000,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said absentee ballots will still be accepted until Tuesday at 7 p.m. to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office. They can be mailed in or turned in by the individual in person.

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