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Half of Keys voters casting ballots before Tuesday

It all comes to an end Tuesday.

That's when we'll know who our new president is -- well, maybe, since this is Florida, after all -- as well as who our new local elected officials are.

And when it's all said and done, there very well could be a record voter turnout in Monroe County, Elections Supervisor Harry Sawyer says. He's predicting 80 percent or more of the Keys' 50,149 registered voters will cast ballots.

Just about half already have.

At the end of business Thursday, 10,510 Monroe voters had cast ballots through early voting. Another 10,832 had voted via absentee ballot.

That meant 42.5 percent of the local electorate had voted -- and that doesn't count the numbers from Friday, or the ones that will vote up until 7 p.m. Saturday, when early voting ends.

"We've never seen an election like this -- never, never, never," Sawyer said.

The first election the law allowed early voting was the August 2004 primary. In that election, 587 people voted early. In that year's November general election, 8,910 voted early.

"It's wonderful," Sawyer says. "It's exciting and looking at it from our standpoint, we're getting our money's worth."

However, Gov. Charlie Crist might also be getting a bill for early voting's success, since late Tuesday, he expanded early-voting hours by four hours each day.

"We're going to have to pay for it -- the extra hours for early voting," Sawyer said. "It's great for the voters but we would have appreciated getting more notice. After we add up all of the overtime for the staff and the part-timers, I'm sending a bill to the governor."

Early voting Saturday is at the Key West Supervisor of Elections Office, 530 Whitehead St. No. 101; the Marathon elections Office, 490 63rd St. oceanside; the Plantation Key elections office, mile marker 88.8; and the Big Pine Key and Key Largo libraries.

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