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One week out, voter turnout tops 3 million in Florida

Overall turnout in a Florida midterm election is racing toward an all-time record.
A rally for Andrew Gillum in Fort Lauderdale [STEVE BOUSQUET - Times]
A rally for Andrew Gillum in Fort Lauderdale [STEVE BOUSQUET - Times]
Published Oct. 30, 2018
Updated Oct. 30, 2018

Voter turnout in Florida keeps climbing as more than 3 million voters cast ballots through Monday.

Sometime Tuesday, the pre-election day turnout of returned mail ballots and early in-person votes will exceed the total in the last midterm election in 2014. There are six more days of early voting in most large counties, and 1.6 million mail ballots have not yet been returned.

The turnout total is on pace to set a record for a Florida midterm in terms of votes cast. The highest turnout by percentage in a modern midterm was in 1994, when 66 percent voted. That was the last time Democrats won a governor's race, as Lawton Chiles defeated Jeb Bush.

The statewide turnout four years ago was 50.5 percent. Turnout in 2018 is already 23 percent, and there's still a full week of voting ahead.

Republicans still have a turnout advantage over Democrats, but it's 2 percentage points, compared to 7 points at this point in 2014, the year Republican Rick Scott won a 1-percent nail-biter over Democrat Charlie Crist.

Republicans have a bigger lead in mail ballot returns than do Democrats in early voting.

The cannibalization of Florida's vote is again a subject of study among the number-crunching experts. It's the question of whether people who have already voted by mail or early are the same voters who in past elections chose to vote on Election Day. Here's an analysis by the University of Florida's Daniel Smith.

At an Andrew Gillum rally in Fort Lauderdale Monday, one Democrat after another warned the crowd of 200-plus that voter turnout is still not high enough. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joined Gillum at the African-American Research Library.

"It's all on us now. It is all about turnout," said Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point.

Early voting in Broward is more than twice as high as in the last midterm election in 2014.

The county recorded its highest one-day early voting turnout Monday since its 22 centers opened on Oct. 22, with 18,892 ballots cast.

But turnout remains comparatively low at the African-American Research Library, the site of Monday's rally in predominantly black northwest Fort Lauderdale.

Turnout there after eight early voting days stands at 4,984, or less than half the turnout at overwhelmingly white Broward sites such as the Coral Ridge Mall in Fort Lauderdale or Northwest Regional Library in Coral Springs.

"Let me tell you the sad tale," said Dale Holness, a Broward commissioner, who said not enough Democrats have voted. If turnout doesn't improve, he warned, "you're not going to feel good (next) Wednesday morning."