First day of early voting brings out politicos

08/09/10 Kate Bradshaw
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If you couldn’t tell by the clusters of candidate signs at polling sites today marks the start of early voting for the August 24 primary election. While there weren’t exactly lines out the door at the polls, political die-hards were out in full force.

Outside the College Hill Branch Library in East Tampa, the midday sun was getting harsh. Former state legislator and current Hillsborough County Commission candidate Les Miller was standing in the shade next to dozens of signs sporting the names of people who hope you vote for them. Miller said that early voting may have changed the way campaigns are run but what’s important is that more people are voting.

"Hopefully, people will get out there and vote early. It's usually a high number. When the legislation was passed, years ago, Hillsborough County was like 8,000. Now, it's over 100,000 people who go out early. So, it's an important time. Even though it's almost two weeks long, it's important to go out the first day and hopefully, see people out voting."

Nearly one quarter of registered voters in Hillsborough County voted early in 2008. Polling places are open six days a week in Hillsborough and Pasco Counties and seven days a week in Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

With so many hotly contested primaries on the ballot from school boards to the U.S. Senate, lines may be a little long at some places on the 24th. That was far from the case today. Lanell Williams-Yulee, a candidate for County Court Judge, Group 10, was also standing near the College Hill Library with her “I voted” sticker prominently displayed. She said voting was a breeze.

"I went in and I produced my drivers license and a copy of my voter's registration card. They put me in the system, and the gave me my ballot, and I moved right through the process. It was fairly easy. It took about 7 minutes total."

Outside the West Tampa Library, a District Three polling place, was another slew of campaign signs for local politicians as well as those campaigning for statewide seats. And like College Hill volunteers stood outside with t-shirts touting their preferred candidate. On the second floor of the air-conditioned library was a room full of empty voting booths. One poll worker said it was slow at the moment although a few dozen people had cast their ballots on the way to work earlier in the day. Tampa resident Jean Pavone said she was passing by and decided to stop in. She said two races were of particular importance for her.

"Well, I'm interested in the governor, and I'm also interested in the senate."

Pavone said as a Democrat she was hoping to help Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink into the Governor’s mansion. As for the vicious Democratic US Senate primary between US Representative Kendrick Meek and billionaire Jeff Greene, she looked to her hometown.

"I like Meek because I was born in Miami."

As Pavone walked off, businessman and State House District 58 hopeful Joe Redner pulled up. He said he never misses a chance to cast his vote.

"Oh, I going to vote. I have to vote. I think I've voted in every election for 20 or 25 years. I just think it's a duty and a privilege to vote."

Since he’s registered as NPA, or no party affiliation, he can’t vote in the primaries like those for county commission, governor, or US Senate, but he can have a say in judicial and school board elections. Redner said come November candidates’ stances on a wide range of issues will determine how he votes.

"Oh boy. I think of transportation issues, job issues. I think in the state, we have to have a clean energy policy because companies that have high paying jobs, they want certainty in their energy policy. And 26 states have it, we don't. That's just because they're fooling around up there in Tallahassee."

Redner says he hopes to vote for Les Miller in the Hillsborough County Commission’s District three seat come the general election. Back at College Hill, Miller said it’s been an interesting election year, but he’s glad his race has been one that’s focused more on issues rather than going on the attack.

"It's been one of the strangest. Unfortunately, in some of the races, it's been one of the dirtiest I've ever seen. One of the most expensive, I've probably ever seen. So, it's a strange election, but it's not unusual. You've seen people, ho have alot of money, get into these high powered races, and it's different. It's different."

Early voting ends on Saturday, August 21.

Find out where and when you can vote early in your county by following the appropriate link:

Hillsborough County

Pinellas County

Sarasota County

Manatee County

Pasco County

Polk County

Hernando County

Citrus County

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