Early voting turnout is strong on the Suncoast

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Before the polls even open Tuesday, nearly half of all Suncoast voters will have turned in their ballots. Both the Sarasota and Manatee County Supervisor of Elections reporting a huge turnout for early voting, which ended Saturday.

Even though early voting was cut back to only eight days this year, instead of the usual ten, it didn't keep people from getting their votes in early. With Manatee and Sarasota counties voting over 50,000 people each.

“We had lines everyday, and I think we had not quite 17,000 people in those eight days,” says Bob Sweat, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections.

54,000 people have already cast their votes in Manatee County, and Sweat says out of the number of absentee ballots sent out, he's already received 81% back-- which sets a new record. “I think we're going to have about 78%. We're going to have some lines, but I don't think we're going to have near as bad as early voting lines,” says Sweat.

And at Sarasota County's Supervisor of Election's Office on Monday, people were still coming in, picking up and dropping their absentee ballots. “They're coming in minute by minute because people can still drop them off until 7 o'clock tomorrow night. We will have a couple of mails that we will be picking up and we've been seeing hundreds coming in in these last minute mails so I'm thinking we're going to be close to 50% by the time we open the polls tomorrow,” says Kathy Dent, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.

Dent says Sarasota County usually has over 81% of voters turnout. “That's much higher than the national average.  Sarasota County is usually much higher than the other counties in the state, which shows we've got good voters here. We have a lot of senior voters and I think senior voters really, really value the right to make their own choices.”

But with one day left, both Sweat and Dent encourage those who haven't cast their votes to get to the polls and vote. “In Sarasota County, over the last 12 years, we had a presidential election decided by 537 votes, we had a congressional election decided by 269 votes, and even a municipal election here in the city of Sarasota decided by 13 votes, so every vote is important,” says Dent.

You can still pick up and return an absentee ballot up until seven o'clock Tuesday night at either the Sarasota or Manatee County Supervisor of Election's offices. Sarasota County will have a drive through drop off for absentee ballots at the office on Adams Lane from 7am- 6pm, and the polls open at 7:00.