Nearly 30,000 District residents have participated in early voting so far, and officials warn that it could take more than an hour to cast a ballot on the final day of early voting Saturday.

In a turnout that has stunned elections officials, a little over 28,000 early votes had been cast at the city’s eight early voting sites as of Thursday night.

Clifford D. Tatum, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections, said residents continued to stream into early voting locations Friday, resulting in wait times of 30 to 40 minutes.

“We expected a good turnout, but it is really just even beyond our expectations,” Tatum said. “So bring your patience. Bring your umbrellas. Bring your enthusiasm. Dress warm.”

After voters overwhelmed neighborhood early voting locations Saturday, Tatum said elections officials have increased the number of voting machines.  The increase, including up to 13 machines at some locations, have expedited the process and shortened lines.

But Tatum warns that a crush of residents may try to cast a ballot Saturday, the final day of early voting in the District. 

“If we get the same heavy push that we saw last Saturday, are seeing today, there could be a wait of an hour, hour and half,” Tatum said.

Tatum said voters who see a long line at the polling location in their neighborhood may want to consider traveling to another site.  Lines are generally shorter for voters who are not casting a ballot near their home precinct because several machines at each location are reserved for residents who live in other areas of the city.

In 2009, the D.C. Council approved a bill authorizing early voting, with one polling site in each of the city’s eight wards. During the 2010 mayoral election, about 20,000 votes were cast early.

Based on high early voting totals this year, Tatum said overall turnout this year may exceed the 2008 presidential contest.

 About 62 percent of registered District voters turned out in 2008, resulting in 266,000 votes cast in the presidential contest.

“I think it is going to be higher than we predicted,” Tatum said. “In 2008, we saw maybe around 60 percent turnout. If this keeps up, we will surpass that.

The District’s early voting locations will be open until 9 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, early voting takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The early voting locations are:  Columbia Heights Community Center in Ward 1, Judiciary Square in Ward 2, Chevy Chase Community Center in Ward 3, Takoma Community Center in Ward 4, Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Ward 5, King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Ward 6, Dorothy Height/Benning Library in Ward 7 and  Southeast Tennis and Learning Center in Ward 8. 

The polls on election day, November 6, are opened from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.