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Saturday Start To Early Voting Could Be Big For Dems

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Democrats hopes for taking an early lead in the presidential race in Florida will be fully underway on Saturday when early voting begins statewide. But, unlike in 2008, there will be less days for voters to cast their votes early.

The Republican-led Florida Legislature cut the number of early voting days down to just one week for the 2012 election. The total number of hours for early voting will remain the same, however. The days were cut from two weeks to one week.

For its part, the Miami-Dade Elections Department said Friday it is ready.

"We've maximized all of our resources," said Christina White, Miami-Dade Deputy Supervisor of Elections. "We've maximized poll workers, equipment, privacy booths, so operationally we are ready for the voters to come out."

A total of 8,400 poll workers will be deployed by Miami-Dade County on Saturday, which is a record number for any election.

"We believe that the voter will take the longest amount of time actually voting that long ballot," said White. "So we've made sure that we have fit in as many privacy booths as we can in all of our early voting locations."

Democrats are behind in absentee balloting by roughly 5 percent, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald. However, historically speaking, Democrats do much better in early voting than Republicans, so Florida Democrats are hoping to take a lead when early votes are added to the equation.

More than 1 million absentee votes have already been cast, according to the Herald. For comparison purposes, in 2008, Republicans led by roughly 17 points in absentee balloting. Democrats hope that the fact they have narrowed the gap before early voting is a good harbinger of things to come.

White said the county is ready and that the voting machines are all working properly ahead of Saturday's start to early voting.

"We do three levels of testing on each piece of equipment that leaves this building," White said. "So anything that we use for early voting or election day we test three times before deployment. If for some reason we had an issue with a machine, it certainly wouldn't be deployed."

In Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, early voting will start on Saturday and run through Saturday November 3. The early voting polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day during early voting.

Long lines are possible due to increased interest in the presidential election and in Miami-Dade County waits could be longer as voters have to make their way through a ballot that could be at least 12 pages long for some voters.

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