Early voting off to solid start

Published: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.

Despite the heat outside, voters still took the effort Saturday to find the downtown polling station for early voting.

Early voting in the county kicked off Saturday, continues Sunday and runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Aug. 23. The office for the Alachua County Supervisor of Election in the County Administration Building acted as one of three early voting locations for Gainesville.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, 144 voters cast their ballots downtown. The Tower Road and Millhopper locations had more voters, with 235 at Tower Road and 392 at the Millhopper — 771 votes in all.

“It’s a little quieter down here,” Pam Carpenter, supervisor of elections, said of the downtown site.

One reason for that, she said, is that several churches were waiting until Sunday to bus their members to the polling places.

For the last primary for a midterm election, in August 2010, the entire first weekend of early voting in Alachua County had 775 votes cast.

Unlike then, the polling places this year are allowed to be open for eight hours each day rather than eight hours for the entire weekend.

Compared with the 775 votes for the entire first weekend of 2010, the 771 votes as of Saturday at 5 put the three polling locations on track to easily beat 2010’s first-weekend early-voting turnout, Carpenter said.

“I think we’re really going to pick up voters tomorrow with the ‘Souls to the Polls,’ ” she said.

Souls to the Polls is a nationwide movement to provide free transportation to and from polling places. Pastors throughout the country use the program to encourage their congregations to vote.

For several citizens, early voting provides them a way to conveniently participate in elections based on their schedule.

“It’s more convenient for me,” said a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Thomas. “I don’t have to stand in line. I can really go in and concentrate on what I’m doing.”

Thomas’ pastor, the Rev. Kevin Thorpe, is running for the Alachua County Commission District 4 seat.

“A lot of my congregation will be out here tomorrow,” she said on Saturday.

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