JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Democrats are outpacing Republican by a large margin in the surge of vote-by-mail ballots returned to Florida by Thursday. With 2.1 million votes received -- the most of any state in the nation so far -- we’re on target to set a record for voter turnout.
So far, Democrats are vastly outperforming Republicans in mail-in votes, with nearly 50% of the ballots returned so far vs. about 30% ballots from Republican voters and the rest split between NPA and smaller party voters.
Democrats also have more than 400,000 more mail ballots sent and not yet returned than Republicans.
In Northeast Florida’s largest counties, the percent of the mail ballots returned is slightly smaller, but the Democratic vote is outperforming their percentage of registered voters by party.
St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vickey Oakes said the interest in voting this year is very high.
“We are preparing for an 85% to 90% voter turnout,” Oakes said.
Election officials are now preparing to open early voting sites, available in most Florida counties on Monday.
Clay County’s supervisor, Chris Chambless, said there are going to be long lines then and on Election Day for a number of reasons.
“It’s an exhausting ballot,” Chambless said. “So my concern is, given the length of the ballot, iven the time necessary to clean all of the hard surfaces, the social distancing (and) the fact that we really want to control the numbers in the room, that equates to a long line," Chambless said.
Florida GOP chairman, state Sen. Joe Gruters, is not concerned by the Democratic advantage in mail-in votes. He believes in-person voting will be where President Donald Trump will shine.
“Our voters are, you know, typical old-fashioned. They like to go in person and have their voices heard,” Gruters said.
Republicans see their advantage in new voter registrations, which Gruters believes will be about 200,000 more than Democrats when the final tally comes out.
“I’d rather have more voters to go after than just shifting when my voters vote. We know our voters are going to vote,” Gruters said.
But Steve Shale, head of the ‘Unite the County’ Super PAC that supports Biden, said the Democrat has advantages in some key demographics.
“He’s doing better with Democrats than Hilary Clinton did. He’s doing better with Republicans and better with independents," Shale said. “So if we’re in a tie situation, that probably benefits my guy a little bit.”
At this time during the 2016 Presidential race, polls showed Trump with a slight advantage in the Sunshine State. Most recent polls show Joe Biden leading Trump in Florida.
In the end, as the GOP chairman put it, this election will be decided not by persuading voters to change their minds, but by parties turning out their base. And both are clearly energized this year.