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More than 1.3M already have voted in Florida's presidential primaries


By John Haughey | The Center Square

With less than a week remaining before Florida’s March 17 presidential preference primaries, more than 1.3 million Floridians have voted early.

According to the state’s Division of Elections (DOE), as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, 1.108 million Floridians have voted by mail and 258,083 have cast ballots at early voting sites.

In the GOP presidential primary, 695,046 of the state’s 4.8 million registered Republicans already have voted – 598,836 by mail and 96,210 in person – in the slam-dunk contest between President Donald Trump and nominal opponents, including former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

In the Democratic primarily, after its coalescence into a two-candidate race between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, 654,764 of the state’s 5 million registered Democrats have voted – 494,072 by mail and 160,764 in person.

With 219 Democratic National Convention delegates in play, Florida is the biggest prize of the four March 17 primaries. Voters in Arizona, Ohio and Illinois also go to the polls that day.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell became the 12th of Florida’s 13-member Democratic congressional delegation to endorse Biden.

“Joe Biden will deliver on the priorities that South Florida cares deeply about,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement, citing his support for gun control as a priority issue for her.

Only U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala has not yet endorsed a candidate in the Democratic primary.

Florida Democrats have not responded kindly to Sanders’ praise of Fidel Castro‘s Cuban regime for providing universal health care and raising literacy rates.

Sanders also condemned Cuba’s authoritarian rule, but anything less than blanket repudiation of Castro does not play well in Florida, regardless of party affiliation.

Florida is a closed primary, meaning only party-registered voters can participate. The elections are, however, an opportunity to gauge registration efforts five months before the party primaries and less than eight months before the Nov. 3 general election.

The registration battle winner, thus far, is "NPA" voters – those with no party affiliation.

According to DOE, of the 13.6 million Floridians registered to vote as March 10, more than 5 million are registered Democrats, 4.8 million are registered Republicans, 150,000 voters are registered with third parties and 3.633 million are signed on under “no party affiliation.”

Democrats are investing heavily in registering voters in Florida, one of six states included in the Democratic National Committee’s Battleground Build-Up 2020 plan.

According to the Florida Democratic Party (FDC), it has registered 17,000 more new voters than Republicans since the 2018 midterm elections.

“This is the first time we’ve increased our margins over Republicans in nearly a decade,” FDC Executive Director Juan Peñalosa said in a statement. “The fact that we’ve been able to close that gap and increase the margin speaks well for our effort and our opportunities moving forward.”

While Democrats have about 280,000 more registered voters than Republicans, the numerical advantage the party once enjoyed has been whittled away since 2010.

Only about 5.5 percent of the electorate separates the two parties, down from 7 percent in 2016, when Trump won the state by 1 percent.

“We need to do a better job of reaching out to 'NPA' voters,” Peñalosa said. “No longer are we going to focus on the little sliver of the electorate – we are going to expand or outreach.”

The number of NPA voters in Florida has increased 17 percent since 2016. More than 27.5 percent of registered voters in the state are unaffiliated.

Florida Presidential Primary, The Center Square


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