Saturday is last day for early voting in Bradenton

skennedy@bradenton.comNovember 3, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Those who wanted to vote early waited Friday in a line that snaked two blocks from the front door.

The line was moving quickly, however, with some voters reporting that they had only waited 30 to 45 minutes, others reporting a wait of more than an hour.

Manatee Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said there have been no problems, except the long lines.

He estimated that about 2,000 had voted every day at Manatee's sole early voting site, at 600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108.

That would mean roughly 14,000 people have come through the supervisor of elections office to vote.

Early voting began Oct. 27 and ends today. The last chance to vote early is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

Michelle Londke had set up a coffee bar alongside the line, and had cold bottles of water, too.

She was dispensing the drinks for free to people as they stood in line.

"We wanted to show appreciation for people coming out to vote," said Londke, who works for 1st Street Cafe & Catering, 3506 First St., Bradenton.

By midday, cafe owner Dan Conrad said he had made more than 20 gallons of coffee and had given out 100 bottles of water.

Michelle Meegan, 46, a stay-at-home mom from Lakewood Ranch, was one of those waiting to vote Friday.

"It doesn't look good," she said as the line crawled forward in front of her.

"I will wait 40 minutes at the most, because I have to pick my daughter up from school."

People who were in frail health or had disabilities that would make standing in line difficult were seated at the front of the line, and simply asked permission from those going in to step ahead of them, said Sweat.

Everybody acquiesced graciously, he said.

"This is a nice place to live," said Sweat, who is retiring after 28 years as supervisor.

Many in line asked why Manatee had only one early voting site.

Sarasota County operated four sites in the Sarasota area, and one each in North Port and Venice.

Sweat explained that the type of equipment Manatee County uses requires more space -- roughly 1,200 square feet -- than he has in order to operate more than one early voting site.

The type of equipment used in Sarasota County, called a "ballot on demand" system, requires less space, he said.

By mid-morning Friday, Sarasota County had tallied 41,771 early voters, according to Joyce Soltis, administrative assistant for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.

Waiting times there varied by place, ranging from a few minutes to an hour, she said.

There will be no voting Sunday and Monday before polls open Tuesday for Election Day, with voting slated from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Or follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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