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More voters are hitting the polls on Election Day

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Jessica Palombo

Republicans have surpassed the 4,000-vote lead Democrats held leading up to Election Day in the special election to fill the City Council seat vacated by the late Tommy Hazouri.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Republicans had pulled ahead in total voter turnout by at least 1,500 votes.

More than 16% of Duval voters had cast a ballot by Tuesday afternoon, surpassing the 12% of voters that cast a ballot in the December special election that narrowed the field of candidates to Republican Nick Howland and Democrat Tracye Polson.

After early voting wrapped up Sunday, about 4,000 more Democrats had voted than Republicans — 47.3% of voters compared with 42.1%.

A recent University of North Florida poll showed few voters were breaking rank with their party in the council race. About 3% of polled Republicans said they would vote for Tracye Polson, and about 4% of Democrats said they planned to vote for Nick Howland.

At a polling precinct in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, many voters were longtime residents who said they always trek out to the polls, no matter what the race.

"I vote in every election because it's my duty to vote," Bill David said Tuesday.

Another longtime voter, Julie Humphress, said she almost never misses an election and was getting information from all sides leading up to Election Day.

"It's at my door, it's in the mail, it's on social media — it's everywhere," she said.

But she added that the city's suspended curbside recycling was the biggest issue on her mind in this race.

"The recycling and the garbage situation is pretty pitiful," Humphress said.

Another voter said the most substantial information he received about the candidates was through friends involved in the Polson campaign.

"To understand that stuff was definitely through friends that were intimately familiar with policies and ideas," Nick Kaisharis said.

New campaign finance reports filed late last week show both candidates pulling last-minute fundraising sprints to get voters out to the polls.

Records show Howland raked in about another $30,000 in PAC dollars, largely from PACs with untraceable donors, and less than 25 individual donations in the last 2 1/2 weeks.

Much of Howland's campaign spending has also been through the Freedom Florida PAC, opened last August. The PAC has received almost $200,000 in the past six months and has paid for TV ads promoting Howland and attacking Polson.

Democrat Polson received more than 150 donations from individuals over the past 2 1/2 weeks and added another $90,000 of her own money to the campaign.

Polls are open until 7 p.m. All Duval voters are eligible to cast a ballot.