Historic early voting turnout boosts Democratic ballots cast
As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton crisscrossed Florida on Saturday, the people of Florida were making some history of their own.
Boosted by a big surge in early voting, Florida's total early ballots cast reached the 6 million mark, with Democratic ballots leading Republicans statewide by about 33,000 out of more than 5.9 million ballots cast. The Democrats' total passed Republicans for the first time at midday Friday. Four years ago at this point, Democrats had a small six-figure lead in ballots cast and President Barack Obama carried the state by 0.9 percent.
The 2016 early voting total is historic. Miami-Dade reports that voting by mail and early is up by more than two-thirds over 2012, one of many signs of a massive turnout by Hispanic voters in Florida. Almost every county has set new records for early voting and voting by mail and the total early turnout is more than 1.2 million ballots higher than the combined early and mail ballots in 2012.
In addition, more unaffiliated voters are casting early ballots than ever before in a Florida election. Through Saturday, NPA and minor-party voters accounted for nearly 20 percent of all votes cast. As the campaign enters its final 48 hours, it's possible that these voters will be decisive not only in the race for president but across the ballot.
Saturday was the final day of early voting in most Florida counties, but the 11 that will continue to offer early voting through Sunday evening are mostly in the most populous counties in the state, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Orange. Sunday's turnouts will be a test of the efforts to mobilize African-American churchgoers to go to the polls.
It's important to note that ballots are not the same as votes. Some Republicans won't vote for Trump and some Democrats won't vote for Clinton; some partisan voters will vote for another candidate; some won't vote for anyone for president, casting undervotes that are allowed by law. But ballots cast is the best available way to measure which party is getting more of its voters to vote, and it's incredibly close as usual. The Democratic ballot advantage on Sunday morning, based on figures on the state elections wwebsite, stood at about one-half of 1 percent.