By Chip Reid Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/27/2004 7:43:22 PM ET 2004-10-27T23:43:22

They're lining up all across Florida — early voters determined to make sure their votes count. In Palm Beach, they're all but wilting in the hot sun. In Fort Myers, the wait can last for hours. In Tampa, the lines are out the door and around the block.

"This is the third day I've come to check the line, and every day it has been like this," says voter Angie Rodriguez. "So I decided to wait today."

In Broward County, there's growing voter outrage over absentee ballots — tens of thousands of voters have still not received theirs. Callers from Broward are already flooding the NBC Voter Alert line.

Meanwhile, Republicans say groups associated with Democrats have engaged in widespread voter registration fraud, especially in urban areas.

"We don’t want dead people to be able to vote and we don't want people who have been registered 59 times to be able to vote," says Mindy Tucker Fletcher of the Florida Republican Party.

But Democrats and voting rights groups say Republicans are using exaggerated claims of fraud as an excuse to mount challenges against minority voters.

"They're not going into Democratic precincts that are Caucasian," says Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way. "They're targeting African-American voters or Latino voters — that's illegal, that's wrong, that's immoral."

There are some glimmers of good news in Florida. There have been relatively few problems with the controversial touch screen voting machines. And while many states are reporting a severe shortage of poll workers —  that's not a problem in Florida.

"Florida has no shortage of poll workers primarily because it has such a high rate of retirees in the state, and so many people have responded to help after the hurricane," says DeForest Soaries of the Federal Election Assistance Commission.

There are signs of hope amid a long line of worries that Florida could be, Florida — all over again.

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