Central Florida polls close; Those in line still alowed to vote

Updated:

Loading
FLORIDA —

Elections officials said anyone in line when the polls closed at 7 p.m. local time would be allowed to vote Tuesday.

State officials said more than 4.5 million people have already voted in Florida, by mail or in person.  Officials said 43 percent of those voters were Democrats and 39 percent were Republicans.

Florida is poised to play a crucial role in picking America's next president. Florida has 29 electoral votes in Tuesday's election, and President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have worked hard for them.

At the University of Central Florida campus, it took some voters stood in line for more than three hours.

Sydney Solyn is ovting for the first time and said she’s happy to do so.

“I definitely want to do my part and vote and you know, I don't care how long it takes,” she said. “This is an important thing to do.”

WFTV found a lot of the students waiting in a line were first-time voters.

“I just turned 18, and this is a big step for me, for my first time voting,” said student Rebecca Jadooram. “I really wanted to be the one to say my vote counted.”

Channel 9’s Daralene Jones said the lines were moving extremely slow, only a few steps every 15 minutes.

Channel 9's Mark Joyella spent part of Tuesday at the Rosement Community Center in Pine Hills, a site with one of the longest wait times reported.

Part of the issue was a ballot scanner, officials said. At the precinct, the voting machine got jammed, which caused an absolute gridlock early Tuesday morning.

"The voters are skeptical when the machines go down," said Supervisor of Elections, Bill Cowles. "We've had some machine problems. There are not enough machines in there, tabulators. When one of the machines stops working properly, gets stuck, there are no options. The line stops."

Cowles said the combination of a three-page ballot and big turnout simply overwhelmed voting machines.

"I have now deployed every piece of equipment that Orange County owns out to these precincts," said Cowles. "The other part is these machines were never built for three ballots per voter."

The backups forced some voters to wait in line for more than 3 1/2 hours.

But despite the hang-ups, glitches and long waits, there were few reports of voters who decided not to vote, and turnout is climbing toward 70 percent.

Property tax relief, a repeal of Florida's ban on public funding for churches and other religious organizations and new limits on abortion rights are among 11 proposed state constitutional amendments that voters are facing.

Other high-profile constitutional proposals on Tuesday's ballot would cap the growth of state revenue and give the Legislature greater control over Florida's court system.

Another would prohibit the state from requiring people to obtain health insurance.

However, it won't affect a federal mandate that's part of Obama's health care overhaul, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

All of the amendments required 60 percent approval and were placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Most would advance the GOP's low-tax, small government agenda. Meanwhile, Romney is heading to Ohio and Pennsylvania on Election Day for a last-minute flurry of campaigning before the polls close. Romney's campaign has confirmed that the Republican presidential nominee will make two stops Tuesday -- in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise as Romney was scheduled to wrap his campaign with a late-night rally Monday in New Hampshire. Romney and Obama are aggressively fighting to win Ohio.

Recent polls give Obama a narrow lead in the battleground state. Romney began making a significant play for Pennsylvania last week.

The last time the state voted for a Republican presidential candidate was 1988. Obama has turned over his re-election prospects to the voters.

Obama closed down his campaign late Monday with a nostalgia-filled rally in Iowa, the state that jump-started his first presidential bid. He'll spend Election Day in his hometown of Chicago, making his last appeals to voters in satellite interviews rather than a final flurry of campaign rallies.

"It all comes down to you," Obama told supporters in Des Moines on Monday. "It's out of my hands now. It's in yours."

The president heads into Election Day about even with Romney in national polls.