1. Florida Politics

Hillsborough, Pasco report increase in early voting turnout

The early voting period ended Saturday for the Republican presidential primary with two local counties drawing more voters than they did four years ago.

Hillsborough County reported a total of 22,515 early votes cast by the time the polls closed, an increase of 1,000 votes from 2008.

"We've had no delays or problems at any of our polling locations," said Travis Abercrombie, spokesman for the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections. He added that voter turnout has steadily increased since the beginning of the second week of early voting, averaging about 1,500 votes per day.

"I think it really speaks to the training and efficiency of our poll workers as well as the voters themselves who come in and make it a very smooth and efficient process," Abercrombie said.

Pasco County reported that 8,441 Republicans had voted early by the time the polls closed Saturday. That broke the county's previous record from the last presidential primary, when 7,594 cast early votes.

"We're very pleased with the brisk turnout," said Brian Corley, Pasco County's supervisor of elections, noting that this year's early voting period was six days shorter than it was four years ago.

In Pinellas County, a total of 1,972 Republicans voted early at the county's three polling locations in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg, a decrease from the 4,738 early votes the county saw in 2008.

Nancy Whitlock, Pinellas County's supervisor of elections spokeswoman, noted a much higher number of absentee ballots submitted this year. As of Friday, 52,760 Republican ballots had been received, while in 2008 only 20,000 absentee ballots were received. That year's election also included several nonpartisan ballot items, including a statewide amendment and various municipal elections.

Hernando County reported a total of 3,525 early votes cast.

The statewide Republican presidential primary will be held Tuesday.