By MATTHEW WAITE, CHASE SQUIRES and JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
Handed a chance to tip the scales in the nationwide presidential race, Floridians flooded the polls in what may be record numbers.
Elections officials in Pasco, Citrus, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties said they were on pace for turnout to hit the 70 percent range.
"I don't think it's going to be 80 percent," Hernando Supervisor of Elections Ann Mau said. "But it's going to be good."
Many voters said the presidential contest was what brought them to the ballot box Tuesday.
"I don't usually vote in all the elections, but you have to vote for the president," said Ronald Krna, who voted at the Hernando County Fairgrounds. "It's just a thing you're supposed to do."
George W. Bush and Al Gore had campaigned repeatedly in Florida, with the state's 25 electoral votes ultimately going to the Democratic nominee in what was shaping up as a close contest.
"This one is definitely important," said Diane Manigold, who voted at the Veteran's Village area precinct in southern Pasco County. "It's so close."
Although she and her husband, Bruce, voted for Bush because he is more conservative, their daughter, Tonya, voted for Gore because of his stance in favor of abortion rights.
"It's a strong enough issue that I'd come and vote for it," said Tonya, 19, who was voting for the first time.
If turnout hits the 70 percent range, it would not set a record -- 83 percent of those registered turned out in 1992.
But the actual numbers of voters were higher than ever, at least in some areas. In Hillsborough County, Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio said she thought as many as 375,000 voters might turn out, compared with a previous record of roughly 320,000.
"It's been absolutely steady. Even some of my longtime clerks said "Oh, we've never seen anything like it.' "
At Pasco County's Precinct 1, in Dade City, nurse's aide Judi Cavanaugh came directly from her shift to vote Tuesday morning. Awareness about this year's election has been huge, she said.
"Everyone told me to come out and vote; my husband, my family, everyone," she said.
For Michael Moschuk, 85, of Inverness voting on Tuesday was not a reaction to Florida's potential role as a decisionmaker. He always votes Democratic, no matter what the candidates do in Florida.
"It's my duty to vote for president. Sometimes I don't vote for anything else."
- Times staff writers Jim Ross and Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.