POLITICS
12/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Florida Early Voting Driven By 2000 Anxiety, Official Says

Standing outside a early voting location in Leon County, Florida, Ion Sancho estimates that it's a two hour wait for those lining up. "The voting enthusiasm, I just can't begin to describe it," he told the Huffington Post over his cell phone. As the Supervisor of Elections in Leon County, Sancho estimates that by the close of business on Saturday, 40,000 of registered voters in his county will have pulled the lever -- more than twice the number of early voters in 2004.

Overall in Florida, the most up-to-date early voting totals are close to half the total number of voters who cast ballots in 2004.

"I like early voting because it allows me to use my limited infrastructure to get everybody voted. I couldn't handle 160,000 voters [in my county] on election day. But I can handle 100,000 very easily," Sancho said.

At this point, Sancho occasionally feels moved to inform some of those waiting in long early voting lines that the middle of election day will be a breeze. But when Sancho makes a gentle pitch for voting on November 4, he finds "there's no way they'll get out of line. They'd rather wait two hours now and get that vote in."

The reason, Sancho believes, is that "anxiety is driving" the historic early turnout. "People are concerned about the history here in Florida," he said. "Not that we've had any big concerns in this county at all. But people are concerned. And early voting allows a person to get in before election day. It seems to be providing a certain comfort."

Florida Democrats have been doing their best to make sure voters take the possibility of potential election day shenanigans seriously. On Thursday the state party joined a lawsuit against Florida's GOP, which ran into controversy in September for sending confusing fundraising letters to longtime registered Democrats. The letters suggested that the voters in question were possibly registered Republicans. Also, since the mailers were stamped "Do Not Forward," some Democrats alleged that Republicans were preparing "challenge" lists for every voter whose mailing was returned as undeliverable to the state GOP.

As the St. Petersburg Times reported in September:

Two top Florida elections officials, both Republicans, faulted the GOP mailing, calling it "confusing" and "unfortunate" because of a potential to undermine voter confidence by making them question the accuracy of their registrations.

"It is unfortunate, because it does put a lot of doubt in people's minds," said Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the state's top elections official.

After his office received dozens of calls, Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland issued a media alert that his office had nothing to do with it. "They were upset folks and they were very concerned," said Holland, a Republican. "They mainly said their party (listing) was different than it was."

Holland, reached Friday by the Huffington Post, said he did not think there was "any correlation between [the GOP mailers] and early voting." However, Holland said the "emphasis of elected officials" on early voting had transformed the process of electioneering in the state. "The message that it's better to do it early than to wait to election day, that is what I think has made the push to go vote early so successful," Holland said.