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Florida Republican, Democrat turnout close in final day before election

Nearly 9 million Floridians have already cast ballots ahead of Tuesday’s election.
People line up for early voting at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center during early voting, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
People line up for early voting at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center during early voting, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Nov. 2, 2020

Nearly 9 million Floridians, the equivalent of 62 percent of the state’s 14.4 million active registered voters, have already cast their ballots ahead of Tuesday’s Election Day.

The numbers of Republicans and Democrats who have cast ballots is nearly equal, with Republicans casting 3.4 million ballots to Democrats' 3.5 million, according to Monday morning data from the Florida Division of Elections.

In recent weeks, Republicans had been turning out in larger numbers for in-person early voting, cutting into the lead Democrats had established with mail ballots. On Sunday, the last day of early voting, Democrats were able to slightly increase their lead in votes cast to 108,000 votes more than Republicans.

Democrats' voting advantage may continue Monday as more mail ballots arrive to elections offices. But Republicans are expected to turn out in high enough numbers to polling places on Tuesday to possibly overcome the deficit.

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

Those voters who aren’t affiliated to parties — which make up roughly a quarter of the state’s registered voters — have seen a roughly 52 percent turnout so far, with 1.9 million votes cast.

The last weekend before an election usually sees a bump in voters flocking to early voting thanks in part to procrastination and because of events like Souls to the Polls, where churches and other groups bus large groups to voting sites. For instance, Hillsborough County saw its highest early in-person voter turnout during the 2016 election on the Sunday before the election. This year, Hillsborough reported that nearly 20,000 voted in person Sunday — a strong number, but not as high as the 24,000 who cast ballots on the first day of early voting.

That’s due in part to shifting voting patterns, with some voters dropping off mail ballots instead of voting in person during Souls to the Polls events, said Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground Education Fund, which hosted “park and praise” Souls to the Polls events throughout Florida.

Burney-Clark said people seemed motivated to come out during the first week of in-person early voting this year, a shift from previous years where the largest numbers of people come at the end of the early voting period.

“It’s hard to compare this election cycle to past years,” Burney-Clark said.

Expectations are high for a strong turnout this election, with many suggesting that turnout could beat the state’s 2016 turnout of about 75 percent. The modern record for turnout in Florida is the 1992 presidential election, when 83 percent of the electorate voted. To match that turnout, another 3 million Floridians would have to cast ballots by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Voters who want to cast a ballot in person on Tuesday need to go to their designated polling place. Voters should check with their county supervisor of elections to see if their polling place has changed. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

Voters who have not yet returned their mail ballots should not put them in the mail at this point, but should instead drop them off at a supervisor of elections office in their county. Polling places will not have mail ballot drop boxes. Elections offices need to receive mail ballots by 7 p.m. Tuesday in order for them to be counted.

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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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