This story was written by APRIL ADUDASH , Independent Florida Alligator
Early voters flocked to the polls during the past month in what is already being called a record-breaking pre-election rush, county officials said this weekend.
As of the early voting deadline at 7 p.m. Saturday, more than 53,000 people have voted early countywide. According to Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter, this year has marked the highest early-voting turnout in Alachua County history.
The last highest was probably somewhere around 20,000, Carpenter said. This was a tremendous turnout.
This year, more than 33,000 Democrats, 11,000 Republicans and 9,000 other voters cast votes early in the county. At the downtown Gainesville polling station, 800 people voted in only four hours, she said.
Michael Martinez, an associate professor of political science at UF, said the high amount of early voting may be due to Alachua Countys support for Democrats and the partys push for early voting in this years race.
Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obamas campaign has been emphasizing the early vote, Martinez said.
Campaigns like early voting because those votes are banked, he said.
The main demographic for early voters are those who are older and more heavily tied to a party, or what he called reliable voters, rather than those who are undecided.
To vote early you have to decide early, he said. (The voters) already have all the information they need.
For students who are voting Tuesday, here are some tips to make the experience go as smoothly as possible:
*Make sure your address on your voter registration card is correct before you go to the polls. The law requires voters to only fill out ballots in the precinct of their current residence. If your address isnt correct, you will be sent to a clerk and will have to fill out a changeofaddress form.
*The address on your voter registration card does not have to match the one on your drivers license.
*Have your picture and signature ID ready. If you forget identification, you will need to fill out a provisional ballot.
*Carpenter estimated that waiting times at some polling places will be about 15 minutes. Plan accordingly.
*You are allowed to wear campaign shirts to the polls but not to campaign in the polling room or within 100 feet of the polling location.
*Leave your camera at home and make sure to silence your cell phone to show courtesy to other voters.
Carpenter said volunteers and staff have been tired but are excited about the response to this election.
We always see an increase in participation at a presidential election, she said. Thats just a given.