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Early Voting Affects Turnout at the Polls

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It's 3:00 p.m. Where are all the voters? Most of the Tampa precincts are near empty, but volunteers are optimistic that the turnout will pick up as it gets closer to the end of the day. Obama/Biden volunteer Freddye Hudson is ready to assist voters at the Cruise-A-Cade Boat Club precinct. "I want to see Obama elected president," says the 60-year-old when asked what motivated her to work at the polls. "I want to be a part of history. I've helped local candidates before at different events, but I've never volunteered on a national level. I want to be helpful, especially after the 2000 debacle when the election was stolen."

It was a family affair at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church in downtown Tampa, where there have been no lines or waiting since the polls opened. Sisters and first-time volunteers Michelle Johnson, 39, and Cheylene Johnson, 45, had only three words to sum up why they were there: "Obama. Obama. Obama." They've vowed not to let their energy wane. "We'll be out here until 7:00 p.m.," says Cheylene. "And if they extend the voting time, we'll be out here until they shut it down." Michelle's 6-year-old daughter, Loreal Bush, is also caught up in the historical moment. The youngster said that she was excited about the election and that she had voted for Obama last Wednesday in her school's mock vote.

Hudson admits that the Cruise-A-Cade Boat Club precinct is typically a "sleepy poll," but she's seen more action there today than in past elections. Despite Hillsborough County's success with early and absentee voting, foot traffic at the polls is expected to increase in the remaining hours. As long as voters are in line by 7:00 p.m., they will be allowed to cast their vote. Says Michelle, "It's time for a change."

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