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With weekend surge in early voting, Florida Democrats close in on GOP

Statewide early turnout is 4.8 million and is expected to shatter the 5 million mark on Sunday.
An early voting march in Fort Lauderdale on the Sunday before the August primary [David Smiley - Miami Herald, via Twitter]
An early voting march in Fort Lauderdale on the Sunday before the August primary [David Smiley - Miami Herald, via Twitter]
Published Nov. 4, 2018
Updated Nov. 4, 2018

Early voting surged to its highest levels yet in Florida's biggest counties on Saturday, giving Democrats new hope for a "blue wave" that could catapult Andrew Gillum to the governor's mansion and keep Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate.

Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Orange, the five biggest "blue" counties, all reported their highest one-day early voting totals of the 2018 campaign.

As a result, on a day when President Donald J. Trump rallied thousands of Republicans in Pensacola, the GOP's ballot advantage over the Democrats shrank to six-tenths of 1 percentage point (0.6), with GOP ballots at 40.8 percent of the statewide total and Democrats at 40.2 percent.

Those numbers are the combined early and vote-by-mail ballots cast by Republican and Democratic voters in all 67 counties.

"I'd rather be us than them," tweeted Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

The remaining 19 percent of all early ballots have been cast by independents and minor party voters, who according to numerous statewide polls favor Democratic candidates.

Early voting by Democrats also broke the 1 million mark Saturday, and Democrats organized last-minute "Souls to the Polls" marches to drive early turnout even higher, two days before election day.

More Republicans than Democrats have voted on election day in the past two statewide elections in which Floridians narrowly favored Trump and fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The big three South Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, home to about one-third of all Democrats in the state, historically have under-performed in past statewide elections compared to the state as a whole.

All three counties reported their highest 2018 early voting totals on Friday and Saturday.

In Miami-Dade, 64,000 people voted early on those two days. That's nearly twice as many as voted early on the previous Friday and Saturday.

Not all counties provide daily turnout totals by party, but Orlando's Orange County does. According to Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles' report, more Democrats voted early Saturday than any day so far and more independents voted than Republicans for the first time in 2018 in one of the I-4 corridor's critical battlegrounds.

In Broward, 60,000 people voted early on those two days, also nearly twice as many as on Oct. 26-27. The figures were similar in Hillsborough, too.

Gillum scheduled early voting events in Miami-Dade and Broward Sunday, while Republican Ron DeSantis planned to campaign in Daytona Beach and Boca Raton with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a legal advisor to Trump.