Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

So far, voting in bay area glides on enthusiasm and patience

People line up to vote early in Pompano Beach on Wednesday. In South Florida, waits of more than four hours reflect turnout.

Associated Press

People line up to vote early in Pompano Beach on Wednesday. In South Florida, waits of more than four hours reflect turnout.

At the Bloomingdale Regional Library in Valrico, the line for early voters started two hours before the polls opened at 10 a.m.

"We had a senior citizen waiting on the bench outside this morning at 8:01," said elections clerk Frank Behrendt.

But that was the longest wait anyone has reported throughout the Tampa Bay region this week as thousands of voters lined up to cast their ballots two weeks prior to Election Day.

Throughout Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough counties — and, with a few exceptions, statewide — elections officials and voting advocates say there have been no real problems so far.

"There are some glitches, but so far nothing seems to be serious," said Dan McRae of the non-partisan Florida Voters Foundation. "We're recommending everybody be patient."

So far, any long waiting lines have been due to enthusiasm about the hotly contested presidential election this year — not any voting glitches.

Statewide, more than 150,000 voters have cast their ballots so far this week, according to Jennifer Davis of the Florida Division of Elections. By far the longest waits have been in South Florida. The Miami Herald found voters waiting in line for four hours in Miami-Dade County.

In Broward County, voters face a ballot that goes on for four pages. Each ballot must be printed when the voter checks in. On Wednesday, the county elections office began posting wait times on its Web site, listing three hours for the line at Miramar City Hall. Chairs were provided for elderly voters waiting in line.

Some voters began cruising past polling places to see where and when the lines were shortest.

"I came on Monday, saw that the lines were really bad," said Yolanda Consuelo Rams, a John McCain supporter in Plantation. "I also drove by on Tuesday and spoke to some people, and they said they had been waiting for more than eight hours. When I came by Wednesday I saw that the lines weren't as long, so I thought that this was a great time for me to do it."

In Hillsborough County, as many as 100 people waited in line, but most said they were done in less than an hour. At the College Hill Library, in the heart of Tampa's black community, the number of people casting votes in the first two days of early voting was more than twice the first two days in 2004. On Wednesday, 561 people voted there.

Tonya Bostick, 36, was one of them. She arrived at the library with a folding chair. Typically, she said, she waits until election day to vote, but this year, she was too excited about Barack Obama's candidacy to wait.

"It's like Christmas," she said.

A late afternoon breeze made the wait tolerable for the Spencer family of Lithia. Dan and Cathy stood in a line that snaked outside the Bloomingdale library doors with their 20-year-old daughter, Meghan. Wednesday was her first time voting, and the couple's first time doing so early. They wanted to beat the Election Day crowds and still accompany their daughter to the polls.

"We decided to avoid the crazy," Mrs. Spencer said. "And plus, this is her first time voting, and we all wanted to do it together."

At Hillsborough's 13 early voting sites, 8,214 people cast ballots Wednesday, according to Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson. In three days, 25,976 ballots have been cast, he reported Wednesday.

Every day in Pasco County has been record-breaking, said elections supervisor Brian Corley. By Wednesday, nearly 13,000 people had made their selections, and half of the 41,000 absentee ballots requested had been mailed in. There have been hourlong waits, he said, but voters have told him the optical scan voting system is working.

"It seems to be restoring voter confidence," he said.

In Pinellas County, where Supervisor of Elections Deb Clark has been criticized for offering the minimum number of early voting locations required by law, three days of early voting have brought in more than 8,000 ballots so far.

"Lunchtime is the busiest time," Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for the elections office said. "But I don't see anybody waiting more than half an hour at the longest."

In Hernando County, elections supervisor Annie Williams said the longest wait is about 20 minutes. One suggestion to lessen the time: "Make your decisions before you get there," she said.

For Regina Martin, 61, of Brooksville, coming early to vote is a precaution. She works, volunteers and attends classes, so she didn't know if she'd have time to vote Nov. 4. "I might be pushed for time. I might forget," she reasoned. "I do everything early."

In Carrollwood, Noreen Follman, 76, sat working a crossword puzzle while waiting to get into the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library. For her, the wait was worth it.

"I want to make very certain my vote counts and no one tells me they've run out of ballots or anything like that," she said. "This line is long but I have a feeling it will be a lot longer on Election Day."

Anyone who wants to avoid the lines altogether has another option, said Davis of the Division of Elections: "Get on the phone and request an absentee ballot be mailed to you."

Times staff writers John Frank, Chandra Broadwater, Janet Zink, Erin Sullivan, Will Van Sant and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press.

>>Fast facts

Report problems

Had any problem at the polls or with voting? Let us know. Please message or call (727) 893-8215 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505 ext. 8312.

So far, voting in bay area glides on enthusiasm and patience 10/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 5:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday


    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  3. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  4. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  5. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]