Early voting shows positive signs for Donald Trump, but Miami-Dade turnout heavy
It's a dozen days from Election Day 2016. Here's a snapshot of how close the vote looks in Florida based on overnight county-by-county turnout reports filed with the state Thursday morning.
Nearly 2.5 million people have voted or nearly 20 percent of all Florida voters based on the voter roll as of Sept. 30. Republicans maintain a slim overall advantage in combined mail and in-person early votes cast, with 41 percent to 40.5 percent for Democrats and 16 percent for voters of no party.
The GOP holds an advantage in mail ballots, but it's narrower than in previous cycles, and Democrats lead in early voting.
More Democrats than Republicans have received mail ballots, but a higher share of Republicans have returned them (53 percent) than have Democrats (49 percent).
Through Wednesday, more people in Miami-Dade have voted than anywhere else: 238,888, or 17.8 percent of the county electorate, based on the Sept. 30 registration numbers.
If this pace continues, Miami-Dade turnout would match or exceed the state as a whole. That would be an anomaly and a major advantage for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
Just up the road, a possible cause for concern for Democrats is that turnout so far in overwhelmingly-Democratic Broward is sluggish, at 16.5 percent.
Based on the Thursday morning reports, here are turnouts in selected counties: Pinellas, 24.2 percent; Hillsborough, 17 percent; Palm Beach, 12.1 percent; Orange, 14.3 percent; Duval, 12.1 percent. These percentages will grow dramatically and are subject to wide fluctuations in the days ahead as more people vote, mail ballots pour in and early voting reaches its final-day peak with "Souls to the Polls" on Sunday, Nov. 6. For the moment, these numbers show how these counties are performing in turnout based on the state as a whole, and so far, Democrats are under-performing in two key counties, Broward and Palm Beach.
A very positive sign for Donald Trump and Republicans is that Fort Myers and Lee County is an outlier with an impressively high early turnout of 33 percent. Turnouts in nearby Collier and Charlotte counties are not far behind.
The first three days of early voting were heavy in many counties with some reporting record turnouts and Democrats maintaining their usual advantage. The remaining 17 counties will start early voting by Saturday and the largest of those by far is Pasco, a Republican county with about 333,000 voters.