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NAPLES — If the 2012 presidential preference primary is to match voter turnout for the 2008 presidential preference election, nearly 50,000 will have to be at the polls in Collier County on Tuesday.
As of Monday, about 28,000 of the 131,466 eligible Collier voters already had voted early or sent in absentee ballots. In the 2008 preference primary, 83,734 of the 145,245 eligible voters took part by voting early or at precincts on the day of the election.
"We might have a pretty heavy turnout," said Tim Durham, chief deputy Supervisor of Elections for the county. "But 50,000, that's not unprecedented."
And if that's the case, you'll want to plan a good time to head to the polls, open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"I imagine a rush first thing in the morning with people trying to vote before they head off to work," he said. "On the other end of the spectrum, if you're already in line by 7 p.m. you will not be turned away but just as a practical matter you don't want to wait until the last second in case something doesn't go right."
Durham said many of the voters he's spoken with have waited until the last minute to vote while deciding which Republican presidential candidate to back, and this could indicate a surge in last-minute voting Tuesday.
"There are a lot of undecideds out there," he said.
This election in the city of Naples, 2,987 Republicans and 618 Democrats have voted out of this year's 14,436 eligible voters.
During the 2008 presidential preference primary, about 53 percent of the 16,985 registered voters in the city turned out at the polls. During the 2010 election for City Council candidates, that rate dropped to about 29 percent.
City clerks didn't venture a guess as to how many voters could show at polls in the city Tuesday, but acknowledged that presidential preference primaries typically see more voters than off-season elections.
Naples voters can vote for three of four candidates running for three available council positions. The three with the most votes win seats. Running are incumbent Councilwomen Teresa Heitmann and Dee Sulick, Mayor Bill Barnett and former Councilwoman Penny Taylor.
Also in Collier County, residents of the East Naples, Golden Gate and Immokalee fire districts are to decide whether to increase the maximum tax rate for fire services.
Voters should bring a form of photo ID and a signature ID to one of 62 Collier County precincts Tuesday. Options include a Florida driver license, Florida ID, U.S. passport, debit card, credit card, military ID, student ID, retirement center ID, neighborhood association ID or public assistance ID.
As of Monday, 18,369 of the 363,050 registered voters in Lee County had voted early. As of 4 p.m. Monday, the Lee County Supervisor of Elections reported 10,527 absentee ballots returned, for a total of 28,896 voters who already cast their ballot.
Slightly more than a third of the early ballots, or 6,342, were cast at the Bonita Springs early-voting site. In 2008, 57.5 percent of the 264,169 registered voters turned out at the polls for the presidential preference primary.
During the 2008 election, of the 151,808 ballots that were cast, 86,931, or 57.26 percent, were Republican ballots; 43,654, or 28.76 percent were Democrats; and 21,223, or 13.98 percent were nonpartisan.
Four Florida news organizations owned and operated by The E.W. Scripps Co., including the Daily News, have combined resources to launch the new political website FLDemocracy2012.com as the go-to resource for national and Florida political news and opinion for the 2012 election. Bookmark the page FLDemocracy2012.com to stay on top of the 2012 election. The site has a link to return you to naplesnews.com.
Sharon Harrington, supervisor of elections for Lee County, expects a good overall turnout Tuesday.
Harrington is hoping to see about 35 percent to 40 percent of eligible registered voters in Lee County turn out to vote, she said.
"We are a swing state and I think the interest in this year's election has sparked a lot of interest," Harrington said.
But not everyone is able to vote in the closed primary election.
In the Bonita Springs nonpartisan election today, residents will vote for mayor and a council member for District 4. In addition, Republicans in Southwest Florida will pick their presidential nominee, just as they will in Collier.
The two Bonita Springs mayoral candidates are incumbent Mayor Ben Nelson and challenger David Grothaus.
The four candidates vying for an open Bonita Springs City Council seat are Barbara Barnes-Buchanan, Roger Brunswick, Wes Norris and Peter Simmons. They are competing for the city's District 4 seat now held by John Spear, who isn't seeking a second term.
The candidate for Bonita Springs City Council District 4 who receives the most votes for the seat in today's election will win. This conflicts with information that the Daily News published last week, based on information provided by the Lee County elections office.
Only residents who live in the city's District 4 will vote for a candidate.
There are 171 precincts in Lee County.
Lee elections officials were happy with the turnout of early voters.
"That 18,000 is a good number for eight days," Harrington said.
This was the Daily News' series of stories counting down to the Jan. 31 primary election.