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Florida voters have already cast more mail ballots than entire 2016 election

Nearly 3 million voters have cast vote-by-mail ballots in Florida, with just under two weeks to go before Nov. 3.

With just under two weeks to go, more Floridians have cast vote-by-mail ballots in the 2020 general election than those who did so for the entire 2016 presidential election.

More than 2.95 million voters have returned mail ballots for this election either through the mail or by dropping them off at drop boxes or elections offices, according to data from the Florida Division of Elections. That surpasses the 2.73 million voters who used that method in 2016.

Mail ballot returns are continuing to skew heavily toward Democrats, with 1.43 million of them casting mail ballots so far compared with 901,000 Republicans.

Meanwhile, after two days of early in-person voting in much of the state, Republicans have taken a solid lead in that voting method. Republicans have cast 321,000 in-person ballots compared to Democrats' 280,000, according to the state data.

As in-person voting continues, it’s possible that Republicans will increase that edge; polls have shown that Democrats are flocking to mail ballots this year amid the pandemic, while Republicans are much more likely to vote in person. That’s at least in part due to President Donald Trump’s attacks against mail ballots in recent months, although he has also said that Florida’s mail ballot system is “safe and secure." His campaign has urged Florida voters to vote by mail and vote early.

The number of people voting in person Tuesday was only a bit smaller than the large turnout seen Monday, the first day that option became available.

Both Liberty and Sumter counties began early voting Tuesday, while Dixie and Gilchrist open their early voting sites Wednesday. That brings the total number of counties offering early voting to 56. The remaining 11 will begin early voting in the coming days, with early voting mandated to start by Saturday.

There are still about 2.9 million Floridians who have requested mail ballots and not returned them. In some cases, that could be because a voter requested a mail ballot and then opted instead to vote in person.

Voters appear to be using drop boxes in a big way this election cycle.

Pinellas County, which has long pushed mail ballots and has used drop boxes for years, received about 30,000 ballots to its drop boxes on Monday alone. For comparison, it had a little more than 8,000 people vote in person that day.

Related: Drop boxes: Florida voters are using them to deliver mail ballots

Floridians must return mail ballots to their elections offices by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 for them to be counted.

Tampa Bay Times elections coverage

VOTER GUIDE: Access the Tampa Bay Times’ Know Your Candidates guide at tampabay.com/voterguide.

HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING IN FLORIDA? WE HAVE THE ANSWERS: We’ve compiled information on early voting locations, rules for voting by mail and more.

AMENDMENTS: State constitutional amendments on the 2020 ballot, explained.

FELONY CONVICTION? Here are Florida’s rules for registering to vote.

MAIL-IN BALLOTS: So you want to vote by mail in Florida? Here’s what you need to know.

POSTAL SERVICE CONCERNS: What’s going on with the U.S. Postal Service and should Florida be worried?

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