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As some Florida polling places open, Gov. Scott says early voting is crucial to winning

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — As polling places opened Monday in some of Florida's biggest counties, Gov. Rick Scott said early voting would be crucial to winning.

Residents in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Pinellas and Duval can vote in-person. Other counties will open early voting sites on Oct. 23 and Oct. 25.

The ballot includes the governor's race and Amendment 2, which asks voters to consider legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The general election will be Nov. 4.

Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist and his wife Carole cast ballots in Crist's hometown of St. Petersburg on Monday morning. Crist arrived to the supervisor of elections office in downtown St. Petersburg and was greeted by dozens of supporters holding signs and cheering.

One woman handed Crist a small fan in reference to last week's gubernatorial debate between Crist and Scott. The debate was delayed when Scott didn't take stage because Crist had a portable fan plugged in below his lectern. The rules said no electronic devices were allowed.

"Like a cool breeze," Crist deadpanned, aiming the tiny fan at a couple of women.

Crist and Scott fought over Crist's use of the fan, delaying the start of the debate for several minutes as Crist stood on the stage alone. The unscripted moment made the rounds on various TV comedy and news shows.

Scott and Crist are neck-to-neck in polls and have a final debate Tuesday.

Scott gave an early-morning address to about 50 supporters at a seafood restaurant in Orlando. The restaurant was picked because of its proximity to an early-voting site at a nearby library.

Scott said GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost in 2012 because not enough Republicans participated in early voting.

Scott added that he wasn't going to let that happen again.

"It's important to get the vote out," Scott said. "In 2010, we won because people showed up."

Hoping to drive GOP turnout, Scott later hosted a rally in Miami with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who defeated Crist in the U.S. Senate race in 2010.

Speaking to a small crowd at a park pavilion, Rubio cast Crist — a Republican-turned-Democrat — as a political opportunist who abandoned the state during the recession and linked him to President Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in Florida.

"There is nothing that Barack Obama stands for that Charlie Crist doesn't stand for," Rubio said. "If you want what Barack Obama is doing in Washington to come to your state, then Charlie Crist is your man."

Crist has been one of Obama's most vocal supporters this year, but the two have not campaigned together. The White House did, however, dispatch Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama to Florida last week to rally Democratic voters for Crist.


Schneider reported from Orlando. Associated Press writer Michael J. Mishak contributed from Miami.


Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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