Voters on Sanibel and Captiva waited for hours to cast their ballots in the General Election Tuesday, a sign they wanted their votes to be counted.
As of 8:15 p.m., a long line still was seen at Precinct 117 at Sanibel Community Church.
According to Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington, people in line at 7 p.m. were allowed to vote no matter how long it took to
Voters wait in the Florida rain at Sanibel Community Church, Precinct 117, on Election Day Tuesday.
progress through the line.
Island Pizza even made a free delivery to voters waiting. With 99 percent of precincts in Lee County reporting early Wednesday morning, 68.68 percent of registered voters had cast ballots.
"The turnout has been great," said Dalia Jakubauskas, co-chair of the Democratic Club of the Islands. "That is good for democracy."
Three candidates were running for seat 3 on the Sanibel Public Library Board. Melanie Congress drew 1,887 (60.79 percent) votes, more than double the votes for Linda Estep (693) and Thomas Rothman (524).
"My greatest hope is, no matter who wins, we can all put our swords down, reach across the isle and work together," said Jakubauskas. "I'm going to
give whoever wins the benefit of the doubt to work in bipartisan fashion."
Lines at polling sites around Lee County stretched to four, five, and in some cases six hours.Lines at Sanibel precincts were reported common at three
hours for most of the day.
A number of polling places became bottlenecks because only one electronic scanning machine was available. The time needed to scan the longest ballot in state history - four pages, front and back - stretched the wait further. There were reports of scanners breaking down and jamming, making the wait even longer.
Harrington was unavailable for comment.
Voters dealt with the elements and stood around as the lines slowly snaked their way toward the polls. It helped to have a sense of humor.
A few months ago, Trey Radel was known as that former reporter who hosted a conservative morning radio show. Today, he is a United States Congressman in Florida's 19th District after the Republican cruised to a comfortable victory over Democrat Jim Roach for the seat prviously occupied by Connie Mack.
In August, Radel scored an upset win in a six-man race for the Repubican nomination that included two current state legislators. And in an area that has been predominantly red, that made Tuesday's vote almost anticlimactic.
Radel took 134,101 votes to beat Roach with 85,853 votes. Brandon Smith was a distant third.
In the State Representative race, Republican Dane Eagle cruised to an easy victory over Democratic challenger Arvella Clare with over 62.45 percent of the vote to Clare's 37.55. The vote count was 38,819 to 23,337.
"I'm excited. It's been a long year. I got some good ideas from people in the district and I'm ready to put them to use," Eagle said.
Eagle, who worked as a deputy chief of staff under former Gov. Charlie Crist, said he will use that inside knowledge to benefit his constituents.
"It's great for Southwest Florida that I can get to work on day one," Eagle said.
In the 30th Senate District, GOP candidate Lizbeth Benequisto rode to a 26-point victory over Democrat Debbie Jordan, who was outgunned financially, but had no regrets.
"It was still a wonderful journey. I'm still going to be in the community and make sure the commitment to education they've been talking about takes place," Jordan said.
Benequisto got 112,013 votes (62.08 percent) to Jordan's 68,423 (37.92 percent).
In the nonpartisan runoff for Lee County School Board, Jeanne S. Dozier staved off a challenge by Robert "Bob" Chilmonik.
County voters also approved an ordinance to authorize slot machines at the Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Track winning 62.78 percent (144,928) of the vote.
Three seats on the Lee Memorial Health System board went to Marilyn Stout with 120,258 votes in District 1, Sandy Cohen in District 3 with 96,974 votes and to Stephanie Meyer in District 5 with 67,237 votes.
In the race for Tax Collector, Larry Hart, who spent 11 years as assistant tax collector before being appointed to fill the top seat following the death of Catherine Curtis, breezed past challenger James Chandler. Hart earned 166,211 votes to Chandler's 66,168 votes, with 99 percent of precincts counted.
Melissa Dortch edged Larry Murphy by three percentage points for county Mosquito Control District Area 1.
All results are unofficial until certified.
Senior editor Jim Linette and freelance writer Chuck Ballaro contributed to this report.