JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The rush to get in ballots early shows no sign of easing. More than 1.7 million Floridians voted during the first five days of early voting. While the number of in-person ballots so far swamped records of early voting, it remains dwarfed by the avalanche of 3.5 million mail-in ballots received as of Friday night.
The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Saturday and early voting is now open in Union County and other places around Florida that officer the minimum amount required by the state. Most counties continue early voting through next Saturday while Nassau and Duval counties remain open on the Sunday before Election Day, as well.
Mail-in ballots received have already surpassed the total number received in any previous Florida election and more than 2 million ballots mailed to voters have yet to be returned.
Democrats have returned nearly 600,000 more ballots by mail than Republicans, but Republicans have edged Democrats in in-person voting by just over 200,000 and in-person voting totals are growing faster than the number of mail-in ballots.
Added together, 36% of Florida’s registered voters had cast ballots 10 days before the election.
Nationally, more than 55 million Americans have voted. Ballots submitted or voted in states that have already opened in-person early voting represent more than 28% of all registered voters and is approaching 40% of all the votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, according to the United States Election Project.
Americans' rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.
Among local counties, turnout rates are lower than the state average in Duval and Clay counties, but higher in St. Johns and Nassau counties.
Republicans have braced themselves for this early Democratic advantage for months, as they watched President Donald Trump railed against mail-in ballots and raise unfounded worries about fraud. Polling, and now early voting, suggest the rhetoric has turned his party’s rank and file away from a method of voting that, traditionally, they dominated in the weeks before Election Day.
But it does not necessarily mean Democrats will lead in votes by the time ballots are counted. Both parties anticipate a swell of Republican votes on Election Day that could, in a matter of hours, dramatically shift the dynamic.
“The Republican numbers are going to pick up,” said John Couvillon, a GOP pollster who is tracking early voting. “The question is at what velocity, and when?”
Floridians voting by mail in recent elections
Associated Press contributed to this report.