Opinions differ on why so many are voting early in Manatee County

rdymond@bradenton.comOctober 29, 2012 

MANATEE -- Everyone has an opinion why Manatee County's early voting turnout has been surprisingly high.

Although the final tabulation was not available, another day of long lines Sunday at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office will probably yield a bit less than the 1,820 that stood in line to vote Saturday, said Bob Sweat Supervisor of Elections.

So, the first two days of early voting are likely to exceed 3,000, which may just reflect the weekend availability, Sweat said.

"Everyone was off work and decided this was a good time to go vote," Sweat said when asked his first take on the high numbers.

But Sweat is eager to see what the numbers do when the Supervisor of Elections office is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through the close of early voting on Saturday.

"I think the number of people is a little different from any of the recent early voting, which started about 12 years ago," Sweat acknowledged.

Some agree that getting it done early is part of it, but

that, also, the presidential race is encouraging rabid, not tepid, voters.

One of those is Joyce North, a nurse at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center who waited in line 90 minutes Sunday with her daughter, Kelly, to vote for her candidate.

"Yes, part of it was if I work early or I work late on election day, I know I have already voted," North said after she voted. "Also, I like having that little sticker on my shirt that says, 'I voted' which I am wearing now."

But North also thinks registered voters are not lukewarm about the 2012 presidential election.

"I was shocked," said North. "I am very in tune with the political happenings. I watch 'Meet the Press' and other political shows. I have them taped. And it seems like it's been going on so long I thought people stopped caring. Going out there today made me proud."

The first three voters in line arrived at 6:30 a.m. Dick Passwater, Aundrea Britt and Jarita Andrews all said they had personal reasons for getting it done early.

"We also have some important local elections," said Sweat's assistant, Nancy Bignell, when asked to analyze the turnout. "We love seeing these crowds. It's sad when we have a 21 percent turnout of registered voters. On Saturday we were really surprised at the turnout."

Louis Murrell and his daughter, Dolly Jenkins, were among those who also waited 90 minutes to vote early in a presidential election they feel many are taking very seriously.

"I am making my voice heard in this line today," said Jenkins who is also involved in the Souls to the Polls voting drive across Florida. "We're pushing the early vote."

Sheila Longo said that there were groups sending out fraudulent letters suppressing voters..

"If there is a problem, you will find it now," Longo said.

Frankie Soriano, executive director of Unidos Now, a non-for-profit dedicated to issues in the Hispanic community, but with a mission to get people registered to vote, was delighted by the line. His group, which does not endorse a candidate, had a table near the voting poll.

"This is impressive to see," Soriano said.

Irma Aguilar, a Unidos Now supporter, said, "It's important that everyone recognize that the Spanish vote matters and if we all unite we have a chance at real progress."

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