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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Powered by South Florida, state's early turnout hits 50 percent

Miami-Dade touted its record early turnout on Twitter.

Miami-Dade Elections via Twitter

Miami-Dade touted its record early turnout on Twitter.



Powered by a record-setting torrent of last-minute early voters in traditional Democratic strongholds, Florida's pre-election turnout reached 6.4 million Monday, by far the largest of any state.

That's also an all-time Florida record and equivalent to about half of the state's electorate of 12.9 million voters.

The state Division of Elections reported that Democrats have cast nearly 2.6 million early ballots and Republicans nearly 2.5 million for a Democratic advantage of about 87,000 in ballots cast, a figure approaching the Democrats' 160,000-ballot pre-election advantage in Florida in 2012. (A previous version of this post had an incorrect figure).

No-party and minor party voters have cast another 1.4 million ballots. That's another record in a statewide election in the nation's biggest battleground state that is a must-win state for Donald Trump if he's to defeat Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

A telling statistic is that 36 percent of Hispanics who have cast ballots in Florida did not vote in the last presidential election in 2012, according to a review of data by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith.

In another potential sign of trouble for Trump, voters are overperforming in the state's two most populous counties, both of which lean strongly Democratic in statewide elections.

The early turnout in Miami-Dade is 55 percent and in Broward is 52 percent -- both above the statewide average. The two South Florida counties typically lag behind the rest of the state in voter turnout. The combined early and vote-by-mail turnouts were 48.2 percent in Pinellas and 49.2 percent in Hillsborough.

"The numbers speak for themselves: 87.7 percent of the entire 2012 election turnout has already voted in Dade. That just doesn’t happen," Democratic strategist Steve Schale wrote in his daily summary of voting trends. "And Broward is at a respectable 81 percent."

Boosting the early vote total were strong showings by voters in large counties Sunday when many churches held get-out-the-vote drives known as Souls to the Polls. Duval County reported 74,000 early voters on Sunday, Miami-Dade 53,000, Broward 44,000 and Hillsborough 26,000.

What's clear is that voters in the state's most diverse counties are highly motivated. What's not yet clear is how many of those early voters are new and how many otherwise would have voted on Tuesday.

County supervisors of elections hailed the high turnouts on social media. On Twitter, Pasco's Brian Corley said: "Pasco County saw record pre-election turnout with (vote by mail) and early voting and we head into Election Day with > 42% turnout."

[Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2016 9:03pm]


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