PINELLAS COUNTY - County voters are exercising their rights at a record setting pace this Election Day, and business is brisk at all county polling places, according to Lori Hudson, deputy administrator for the Pinellas County Election's Office.
As of 10 a.m., 16 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots. Pinellas County has 590,989 registered votes: 223,544 are registered as Democrats; 231,652 as Republicans; and 135,793 as other.
The polls will remain open until 7 p.m.
"We're really excited about the turnout," Hudson said. "It's awesome. I got about two hours sleep last night, but for us this is like the Super Bowls of Super Bowls. It's like Christmas Eve."
Hudson said it is possible that this election will set a new record. The current record was set in 1992 when 85 percent of the county's registered voters turned out.
"We have nice weather and intense interest," she said. "We could very well have an unprecedented turnout."
Voters were waiting in line when the polls opened this morning, she said. Peak voting times include early morning, the noon hour and after 5 p.m.
The Election's Office staff has been working hard to make sure "we have a nice and smooth election in Pinellas County," Hudson said. Thus far, the hard work has paid off.
Hudson said the only reported difficulties, besides long lines, were a couple machines that required recalibration and some people having problems with the sensitivity of the touch screens.
For example, women with long fingernails and men with large fingers sometimes touched boxes that they didn't intend to touch, thus making a wrong selection. However, she said, the review screen tells people of the problem, and the new system allows people to go back and make corrections.
"People can go back as many times as they need to," she said. "The machines are doing their job, making sure that no wrong vote is cast."
Early voting totals
As of Monday night, early votes totaled 69,927. Hudson said the number of early votes added to the absentee ballots totaled one-third of registered voters.
Election officials are pleased with the number of people who took advantage of early voting. Hudson said the numbers well surpassed what had been anticipated.
"The year 2002 was the first time we were allowed to have early voting," she said. "And it was only for the three main election offices. Then the Legislature broadened the rules to include other buildings."
Unfortunately, the decision came too late for election's officials to mobilize. Hudson said many of the spaces in libraries and community rooms were already booked.
"We appreciate the frustration of the people who stood in long lines, especially those outside of buildings, to get in and see only four or five machines.
She said early voting would be improved in the future.
"We know now that people want that (early voting)," she said. "We know that people want to cast their vote in person."
Get out and vote
Voters are assigned polling places within their precincts. Precincts can be found on the voter registration cards. Look for the number under precinct in the top right corner. For a list of precincts and voting places, click here.
Registered voters are urged to take part in the 2004 general election. Many important leadership positions will be decided, including the next President of the United States.
For a list and additional information on the races and questions on the Nov. 2 ballot, visit TBNWeekly.com's election section. Note: information on races and questions outside Tampa Bay Newspaper's coverage area is not included.
Deborah Clark, supervisor of elections, has some tips for voters.