Lines steady at many precincts as voting nears end


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County's supervisor of elections says between large early and absentee voting and the crowds at polling places in the first half of Election Day, he expects a turnout of 80 percent or more.

As of 5 p.m., that number was 65 percent.

The line began forming outside Fort Caroline Christian Church at 5:30 a.m., with lines reported at most Jacksonville precincts when the doors opened.

"I wanted to be one of the first ones to get my vote in," Jane Baulk said. "Sorry I didn't do it earlier."

Voters and campaign workers carried umbrellas against a steady rain that started just before the polls opened Tuesday.

Channel 4 received isolated reports of issues -- mostly ballot scanners not working -- but they've all been fixed quickly.  Election workers allow voting to continue, the ballots cast while the scanners are down were placed in sealed envelopes to be counted at the end of the day. Voters who cast ballots during that time are invited to come back at 7 p.m. to watch their votes being counted.

Two precincts went dark when the power went out in part of Riverside that also affected St. Vincent's Hospital. One of those precincts continued to vote by flashlight, but the other had to close for about one hour until the power was restored.

Other voters didn't get word that their precinct had changed as Duval County consolidated from 256 to 198 voting sites this year. To confirm where you should vote, each county's supervisor of elections website allows you look up your precinct by entering your address.

Crowds picked up again during lunch hour, and were expected to grow after 5 p.m., when many people will head to vote after getting off work.

Election officials said most voters were informed about what was on the ballot and predictions of three-hour waits caused by people having to read descriptions of all 11 constitutional amendments never materialized.

At Green Cove Springs City Hall, voting was also going smoothly and wait times were only about 10 minutes for much of the day.

"Haven't really had any great reports of huge lines," said Chris Chambless, Clay County's supervisor of elections. "I think it's just consistent and steady throughout the day."

Chambless said voter turnout as of 6 p.m. was about 70 percent. He was expecting between 80 and 85 percent voter turnout for the county.

"Clay County is very fortunate to have a strong voting population. So, no, I'm not surprised," he said. "Of course, Fleming Island is really strong. Just about every single polling location in Fleming Island is in the high 60s and 70s percentile right now. So it's going to be strong."

The record for voter turnout in a presidential race in Clay County was 87 percent in 1992. Republican turnout Tuesday in the county was outpacing Democrats by nearly 3 to 1.

In St. Johns County, Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes said about 25 percent of registered voters had voted Tuesday as of about 6 p.m. Add that to the 49 percent who voted early or absentee, and St. Johns County's turnout was at about 74 percent.

State officials say about 40 percent of registered voters -- more than 4.5 million people -- had voted either by mail or in person before Election Day. Officials say 43 percent of those voters were Democrats and 39 percent were Republicans. Long lines of voters snaked outside many polling precincts before early voting ended Saturday.

In Duval County, about 44 percent had voted going into Election Day, and Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland expects an 80 percent turnout when the day is over. The early and absentee vote will be tallied first when the polls close -- results expected about 7:30 p.m. Votes from the precincts counted as they close -- which won't be until the last person in line casts a ballot.

"Does make for a long day, but we do get a break," said a precinct volunteer at the precinct at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church.

Holland said because of the length of the ballot and choice of three languages on the ballot in South Florida, he doesn't expect all of Florida's vote to be reported until about 2 a.m.

Florida is poised to play a crucial role in picking America's next president. Florida has 29 electoral votes in Tuesday's election and both President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have worked hard for them.