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With 9 million votes cast, Florida nears 2016 turnout total before polls open Tuesday

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Election worker Najeh Fisher places a vote-by-mail ballot for the Nov. 3 general election into an official ballot drop box at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Doral, Fla. Lynne Sladky / AP

Nearly 9 million of Florida’s 14.4 million registered voters had cast ballots in Tuesday’s general election by the close of early voting, coming about 600,000 votes short of the 9.61 million total ballots cast in Florida during the 2016 election.

According to an update posted Monday by the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE), 3.51 million of Florida’s 5.3 million registered Democrats, 3.4 million of 5.17 million registered Republicans and 1.93 million of nearly 4 million unaffiliated voters already have voted – either by mail or at in-person early voting sites.

A total of 4.33 million Floridians voted in-person at early voting sites across the state during the now concluded early voting period. Early voting began Oct. 19 in 52 Florida counties and was underway in all 67 counties by Oct. 24. It concluded statewide Sunday evening.

According to the numbers posted Monday morning by the FDOE, 1,955,692 Republicans, 1,400,130 Democrats, 905,873 unaffiliated and 63,282 third-party registered voters cast ballots in person at early voting sites.

Republican-registered voters eclipsed Democrats by more than 550,000 voters in early voting, and Democrat-registered voters have returned about 650,000 more mail-in ballots to county supervisors.

The FDOE reported Monday it had received 2.11 million ballots in the mail from Democrats, 1.45 million from Republicans and just over 1 million from unaffiliated voters.

The 4.65 million ballots received via the mail far exceeds the 2.7 million mail-in votes cast by Floridians in 2016.

Florida is one of 12 states that allows mail-in and early voting ballots to be processed and counted before polls close Election Day. Nine other states allow local elections supervisors to do so if they choose.

Because local county supervisors can begin counting ballots when they receive them in Florida, in many cases, those early voting and mail-in tallies will be posted in the hours after polls close statewide at 7 p.m.

According to the FDOE, as of Monday morning, 1,35 million of 6 million requested mail-in ballots had not been returned to elections supervisors, including 572,785 from Democrats, 424,785 from Republicans and 335,580 from unaffiliated voters.

Voters who request mail-in ballots still can show up and vote Tuesday, when about 4 million Floridians are expected to show up at the polls.

Those 572,785 unreturned ballots from Democrats who requested them – and high Republican turnouts – have Democrats concerned about their prospects in two key counties: Duval County, where Democrats think they can win for the first time in decades, and Miami-Dade County, where heading into the last weekend, Black voters were not turning out in numbers to win the presidential election or key congressional, state and local elections.

Democrats are concerned about the half-million unreturned ballots requested by Democrats because during the 2016 election, 63,976 more Democrats than Republicans failed to return requested mail-in ballots and did not vote in-person at the polls.

In 2016, 1.18 million Florida Republicans voted by mail compared with 1.03 million Democrats, a 160,000 advantage that played significantly into Donald Trump’s 112,000-vote victory in the state.

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. As many as 500,000 people registered after the August primaries and before registration concluded Oct. 5.

Of Florida’s 14.44 million registered voters, 36.7% are signed on as Democrats, 35.8% as Republicans and 26% are unaffiliated.

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