By Chip Reid Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/22/2004 7:36:11 PM ET 2004-10-22T23:36:11

In Orlando, Fla., early voters were hoping to avoid crowds. The rush, though, is already on — there are so many early voters there are parking lot traffic jams.

But while Florida voters focus on this election, the front page of the local paper has more disturbing news about the last one.

A new study by the Orlando Sentinel says more than 68,000 Florida voters are also registered in Georgia or North Carolina — and 1,650 of those actually voted twice in the 2002 or 2000 elections. 

It is not a violation of the law to be registered in more than one state, but it is a felony to vote in two states in the same election. The problem is there's almost no chance of getting caught.

"Basically, what we have here is an honor system — the voters don't really have to tell their local jurisdiction — their former home jurisdiction — that they moved," says Dan Seligson of the watchdog group Electionline.org.

Even so, the Florida secretary of state insists she's on the case.

"People will be prosecuted, and we are greatly concerned about the fact that some fraudulent activity may be occurring," says Glenda Hood.

The Orlando Sentinel study concludes that if voting records of other states besides Georgia and North Carolina were analyzed, the number of double-voters in Florida could be well into the thousands — in a state that President George W. Bush won after a bitter battle by just 537 votes.

Many say that election is why they're voting early this year — and not just in Florida. Early voting is exploding — it's now legal in 35 states, and they are lining up from North Carolina to Texas to Colorado.

A new study by the Annenberg Policy Center says 22 percent of Americans plan to vote early this year. That’s as many as 25 million voters — all determined to make sure what happened to many Florida voters in 2000 doesn't happen to them.

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