Parties deadlocked as Florida's early turnout nears 5.3 million
Florida's early turnout is at a record 5.3 million with Republicans and Democrats nearly dead even in ballots cast four days before Election Day. Reports posted on the Division of Elections website Friday morning showed Republicans cast 39.74 percent of votes and Democrats 39.71 percent through Thursday. That's three-tenths of 1 percentage point. The difference stood at 1,833 ballots out of 5,267,750 cast. Can you say "swing state"?
Democrats like what they see, party executive director Scott Arceneaux told the Times/Herald. Democrats are outpacing Republicans in mail ballot requests for the first time and early voting is much higher than in 2012. The fact that African-American turnout has been slower than in 2008 or 2012 is not a major concern, he said, and the party will use black churches on Sunday to coordinate a massive get-out-the-vote effort known as Souls to the Polls.
"We always do better toward the end," Arceneaux said. "We vote later."
Speaking of later, Republicans predict Trump will carry Florida on the strength of an outpouring of voters next Tuesday.
"The Republican Party of Florida is very pleased with the numbers we are seeing so far," party chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in an email late Thursday. "While we expect to continue to have the lead, the reality is, all we have to do is keep it close going into Election Day."
Four days out four years ago, Democrats narrowly led Republicans in early and mail voting by 101,000 votes out of 3.2 million cast. Republicans did win in Election Day turnout, but President Barack Obama still won Florida by just under 1 percent. One big difference four years ago: No early voting on the Sunday immediately before Election Day (the Legislature restored it after Democrats accused Republicans of trying to suppress the black vote).
Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who directed Obama's first successful Florida campaign in 2008, said the intensity of early voting, diversity of Florida's electorate, the fact that women are outvoting men by 55 percent to 45 percent and the Hispanic turnout in the I-4 corridor are all markers that point to a Clinton victory in Florida. In Jacksonville on Thursday, Schale had a private meeting with the president and told him Clinton will carry Florida, just as he correctly predicted an Obama win eight years ago.
"I told him, 'It's not like she's going to win by a ton, but it's trending in a place where she wins,'" said Schale, who expects Clinton to prevail by 1 to 2 percentage points. He said Democrats lagging Republicans up until now in total votes cast has its advantages: "I don't mind being down. Being down is a huge motivator."