The Center Square – Early in-person voting began Monday in 52 of Florida’s 67 counties, with people in Miami-Dade, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties waiting in line in rain squalls to cast their ballots.
Lines had subsided by mid-morning in those urban precincts. Hillsborough County reported 2,015 voters cast ballots within the first hour of early voting, and the pace is expected to stay steadily brisk throughout the two-week early voting period that ends Nov. 1 – two days before Election Day.
Counties can offer no less than 10 days and no more than 14 days of early voting at least one site. The last day counties can open early voting is Saturday.
Counting mail-in ballots, state elections officials predict about 70 percent of the state’s 14.41 million registered voters – 10 million voters – will have voted by the time Nov. 3 arrives.
During the 2016 presidential election, about 6.6 million Floridians voted by mail or during the two-week early voting period.
More than 2.5 million Floridians already had voted via the mail before early voting sites opened Monday, the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) reported Monday afternoon. Floridians cast 2.7 million mail-in ballots during the 2016 presidential election and 2.6 million in the 2018 elections.
Florida is one of 12 states that allow mail-in and early voting ballots to be processed and counted before polls close on Election Day. Nine other states allow local elections supervisors to do so if they choose.
Releasing tallies before polls close on Election Day is a felony.
According to updated statistics posted by the FDOE, about 500,000 Floridians signed onto the voting rolls between the Aug. 16 state primaries and Oct. 5, when registration for the general election closed.
The FDOE reported 14.44 million people are now registered to vote in Florida, 1.58 million more than the 12.86 million registered voters in the state four years ago.
Of Florida’s 14.44 million registered voters, 36.7% – or 5.3 million voters – are signed on as Democrats, 5.17 million – or 35.8% – are Republicans and 3.75 million – or 26% – are unaffiliated.
Republicans have slashed about two-thirds of Democrats’ numerical advantage in overall registration since 2016, from 3.5 million to about 1.3 million.
Registered Democrats were 37.9% of the constituency in 2016, and Republicans made up 35.4% of the voting rolls.
Those registered without party affiliation increased from 3 million in 2016 to 3.75 million now. In 2000, 15.5% of the state’s voters were registered without affiliation, compared with 26% now.
Republicans are the majority in 48 counties – mostly rural. Democrats hold the advantage in 19 counties. Democrats are particularly dominant in urban counties, including Florida’s seven most populous: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas and Duval.
Nearly 5.77 million Floridians had requested mail-in ballots through mid-day Monday and can continue to request them through Saturday. More than 2.6 million Democrats have requested mail-in ballots, as have 1.8 million Republicans and 1.29 million unaffiliated voters.
Of the 2.5 million mail-in ballots received by county elections officials through mid-day Monday, 1.23 million have been cast by Democrats, 757,696 by Republicans and 494,297 by unaffiliated voters.
The number of mail-in votes is certain to eclipse the 2.7 million cast in 2016, when Republicans returned 70,000 more than Democrats.