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Early voting in Florida starts Saturday

Republican Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich stands for the Pledge of Allegiances prior to the CNN Republican Presidential Debate in Charleston, South Carolina on January 19, 2012. South Carolina will hold it's primary on Saturday, January 21. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
1 of 3 | Republican Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich stands for the Pledge of Allegiances prior to the CNN Republican Presidential Debate in Charleston, South Carolina on January 19, 2012. South Carolina will hold it's primary on Saturday, January 21. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Officials are expecting high voter turnout for early voting in the Florida presidential primary, which begins Saturday.

Early voting in Broward and Palm Beach counties runs through Jan. 28.

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As of Wednesday, 473,779 Republican voters sought absentee ballots, said the Florida Division of Elections. That represents a 50 percent increase from the 2008 primary, even though Republican registration increased by only 6 percent in the same time, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. So far, more than 179,000 absentee ballots have been returned.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said, however, she expects a low voter turnout for the first day because many Republicans want to see how candidates perform in Saturday's South Carolina primary.

"We are seeing a really slow lull in absentee voting right now," she said. "They're waiting for the Saturday primary to see who is still in the running."

Democrats, independents and no party affiliation voters can go to early voting sites and get ballots for their community's contests, but voting early in the Florida primary is only open to Republicans.

"If you're a Democrat in Cooper City, there's nothing for them to vote on," said Mary Cooney, director of public services at the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office.

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Florida's general primary election is set for Aug. 14.

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