by Shyam Allard

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Alachua County residents showed up in high numbers for early voting this election season, nearly equaling 2008’s record-breaking year.

Early voting closed Saturday, and of the 178,000 registered voters in the county, over 51,000 showed up to cast their ballot in person, exceeding 2012’s turnout by roughly 12,000. The record for early voting was set in 2008 when the county tallied in over 53,000 in-person votes, according to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections website.

Deborah Solomon, library assistant at the Millhopper Library Branch, one of three early voting sites in the county, said lines for voting wrapped halfway around the building during the first few days of early voting.

“There were always people there, whether the line was 10 or 50, they were always there voting,” Solomon said. “I don’t think it ever stopped.”

And it never really did. Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter said every day was very active at all three early voting sites.

“We saw a lot of first-time voters who were just thrilled to be participating, and that’s always exciting,” Carpenter said.

But the large turnout didn’t surprise Carpenter, who said Alachua County usually has a high percentage of early voting activity during presidential elections, especially ones where there is no incumbent.

It’s a different early voting statistic in Florida that seems out of the ordinary compared to the previous election. “African-Americans’ share of the electorate that has gone to the polls in person so far has decreased, to 15 percent today from 25 percent four years ago,” according to a New York Times Nov. 1 article.

Jay Maggio, associate professor of political science at St. Johns River State College, said there was such a high turnout of African-Americans for early voting during the last couple of presidential elections, probably because of “identity politics.”

In other words, Maggio said African-American’s wanted to see the first “black president” take the oval office in the White House, and maintain that office for a second term.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the same African-American support President Obama had when he was running, but Maggio said he thinks the final outcome will still be in her favor.

“The traditional analysis is that good early voter turnout will favor democrats,” Maggio said. “”I don’t see anything this year that makes that different.”

 

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