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54% have cast ballots as Florida enters final weekend of voting

Early voting goes through Saturday in Pasco and Hernando and through Sunday in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
The scene with no lines or waiting as the polls open for early voting at Raymond James Stadium , Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 in Tampa.
The scene with no lines or waiting as the polls open for early voting at Raymond James Stadium , Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 30, 2020
Updated Oct. 30, 2020

More than 7.8 million of Florida’s 14.4 million registered voters have already cast ballots as the state heads into its final weekend of voting before Election Day.

With Republicans widely expected to turn out in greater numbers to polling places on Nov. 3, a lot of eyes are on turnout this weekend among Democrats in the final days of early voting, particularly with events like Souls to the Polls, and in the final few days to return mail ballots.

Florida’s turnout so far of about 54 percent of all active registered voters in the state mirrors what is being seen in some other parts of the country as Americans flock to mail or in-person early voting options amid the pandemic. In Texas, about 53 percent of its registered voters have already cast ballots, according to Friday figures provided by the U.S. Elections Project, which is run by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald. North Carolina has seen more than 4 million people vote so far, equal to about 56 percent of total voters in the state.

McDonald’s data shows more than 84 million Americans have already voted in this election.

In Florida, Republicans have significantly narrowed the early lead Democrats had taken in votes cast. As of Friday morning, 3.13 million Democrats had cast ballots, compared with 2.97 million Republicans and 1.62 million no-party-affiliated voters. Democrat turnout stands at roughly 59 percent, while Republicans are at about 57 percent and voters without a party affiliation are at 43 percent.

For the past three days, no-party-affiliated voters have had slightly larger day-over-day percentage increases in the numbers of people who have voted than either Republicans or Democrats. Given that that group’s overall turnout has so far lagged that of Republicans and Democrats, it’s possible some of these voters are just choosing to vote later in the cycle.

Party turnout numbers may not completely reflect which candidate’s voters are choosing. The large number of voters who aren’t affiliated with a party also don’t help clarify how the presidential race will go in the country’s largest swing state.

Related: Tampa Bay elections supervisors seeking cures for mail ballot signature issues

In Tampa Bay, early in-person voting runs through Saturday in Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties and through Sunday in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Polk counties. Those days have historically seen high turnout, as voters who had not yet gotten around to voting rush to do so before Election Day.

Voters who have not yet returned their voted mail ballots should drop them off in person at this point instead of putting them in the mail. Experts have repeatedly cautioned that one of the main reasons a mail ballot ends up not getting counted is because it arrives too late. Florida requires that elections supervisors receive mail ballots by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 for them to be counted.

Given Florida’s history and its role as a key battleground state, Florida’s elections are always closely watched.

A key area getting scrutiny this election is Duval County. In recent days, its canvassing board has come under intense scrutiny for some of its decisions related to public access to its meetings and its rules about photographing or recording the board’s meetings. The rules raised questions about whether the board’s decisions could have to be redone if the board were found to have violated the state’s open meetings laws.

One of its board members, Judge Brent Shore, also had to resign only days before the election after a Florida Times-Union reporter discovered he had repeatedly donated to Trump’s campaign and had several signs supporting Trump outside his home.

Tampa Bay Times elections coverage

SIGN UP FOR ELECTION TEXT MESSAGES: Get voting information, news updates and ask political editor Steve Contorno questions about the candidates and issues, directly through your phone.

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.

WHY A FLORIDA CITY’S BLACK VOTERS BEAT NATIONAL AVERAGES: Turnout is 10 percent over the national average. That’s been true for generations. The story of Chester James Sr. helps explain why.

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

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