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Voter Turnout Strong At Bahia Vista Polling Site

Nearly 600 voters cast ballots at St. Paul Lutheran Church by 9:30 a.m.

It rained buckets and voters at Precinct 215 Tuesday morning, as people braved the wet weather to cast ballots.

Voters streamed through St. Paul Lutheran Church on Bahia Vista Street, but they didn't experience long lines.  

Matthew Wooddall is precinct captain for the Sarasota County Democratic Party and said he hasn't seen a turnout like this in the elections he's worked in Sarasota County. 

By 9:30 a.m., 582 people had voted at the precinct, Wooddall said. More than 3,500 people live in the precinct, according to records.

Voter registration for the precinct was not immediately available.

"This turnout is absolutely unprecedented for this precinct," Wooddall said. 

Turnout in Sarasota County is anticipated to be strong as well. More than 55,000 early votes were cast, and the North Port Sun reports that 70,521 absentee ballots were turned in by Monday afternoon, already placing turnout in Sarasota County at 45.4 percent before Election Day began.

Wooddall is manning a table until polls close at 7 p.m., responding to voter inquiries.

"Most of the questions I'm getting are about the amendments—both the statewide constitutional amendment and the local charter amendment," Wooddall said, adding that a few people asked about the strong manager.

He has all he needs — a Thermos of coffee, access to a restroom, lunch  delivered and easy access to voters.

Wooddall has been involved in politics since he was 16, when a divisive coroner's race in Clayton County, Ga., happened.

"I believe positive change occurs to the political process and that's my motivation for being involved," he said. 

Wooddall is confident in the Democratic candidates chances in this election and "absolutely" believes that President Barack Obama will win and that Keith Fitzgerald can upset incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

Wooddall moved to Florida in 2002, and now he works in the Supervisor of Elections Office. 

"I think we have a great team in place," Wooddall said. "I think our elections are administered fairly and professionally, and I have absolutely no complaints." 

Ron Turner, chief of staff for the Supervisor of Elections, told Patch Monday that he doesn't anticipate long lines today despite a busy turnout and it's "all systems go." Sarasota County didn't experience the glut of early voting lines that other counties in Florida experienced, Turner said.

A judge ordered early voting extended at a site in Winter Park after a suspicious package shut down the site temporarily, and some elections office were creative by encouraging voters to fill out absentee ballots and drop them off on Sunday.

"It's unfortunate that the Republican-led Legislature has changed it to disenfranchise millions of Floridians by reducing the number of days and hours in early voting in an effort to suppress the vote," Wooddall said. I predict that either the Florida League of Voters at state level or an independent group will lead an initiative to amend the constitution to provide for those crucial civil rights."

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