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Early Voting Typically Helps Democrats, but Not in This State

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

By many indications, Florida can expect a rather large red wave. The state's been heading increasingly Republican, and former President Donald Trump won the state in both 2016 and 2020. Its Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is almost certain to win reelection against Charlie Crist, who is running this time as a Democrat. Also up for reelection is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is running against Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) and is also favored. It's not merely the polls and forecasters showing Republican wins in the state, but also the votes already cast.


Florida's early voting numbers have been in the news quite a bit in the past few days. This is the case for both local and statewide outlets.

"Central Florida counties seeing low early voting turnout," read a Monday headline for WESH 2, a local NBC outlet in Orange County. 

Other outlets pointed to how the 2022 are not what they were for 2018, which was considered something of a blue wave, including WFTV 9, another Orange County news outlet. "Central Florida Decides: 2022 early voting turnout lower than 2018 totals," the headline from Tuesday read. 

That report emphasized how the turnout so far has been "far lower," with a mention of how "Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said while people have been trickling in to vote, turnout is off by about 20,000 from what the county had this time in 2018."

This is the case not merely for Orange County, but for Seminole County as well, where less than 7 percent of voters have their ballot in person so far. 

Not only are the numbers down, but Republicans are actually outpacing Democrats in early voting, despite how such voters are associated with voting in person on Election Day. 

"Republicans outpace Democrats in Florida's early voting," read FOX 35 Orlando's headline from Monday.


From that report:

More than 2.77 million Florida voters had cast ballots as of Monday morning, with registered Republicans outpacing Democrats, according to data posted on the state Division of Elections website. 

The data showed that 1,907,420 people had voted by mail, while 866,784 had cast ballots at early voting sites. Republicans had cast 1.173 million ballots, while Democrats had cast about 1.077 million. About 486,000 had been cast by unaffiliated voters, with the rest from third-party voters. 

Jefferson County Supervisor of Elections Tyler McNeill said he expects more than half of all votes to be cast before the Nov. 8 election.

Such troubling news has been reported since at least last Friday, though, when the Tampa Bay Times noted "Florida Democrats fall behind in early voting, lag with mail-in ballots."

The report includes insight from a political science professor:

ORLANDO — Republicans have surpassed Democrats in early voting so far in Florida and have cut into their advantage using main-in ballots, an ominous sign for the party’s candidates in their uphill battle to unseat Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Nov. 8.

“In Florida, the Democrats are in trouble,” said Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida.

“Historically, Democrats lead in the early vote,” he said. “And right now, when you combine both the in-person and the mail ballots, registered Democrats are trailing the Republicans by about 30,000 ballots that have been returned. So that should be very concerning to them.”


Democrats do have the advantage in mail-in voting, with 726,677 Democrats having returned their ballots as of Friday compared with 635,344 Republicans. Another 333,000 independents and third-party members have also voted by mail.

But even those numbers lag where Democrats should be, McDonald said.

“Democrats started off with an advantage of about 450,000 mail ballot requests that were held over from the 2018 and 2020 elections,” he said. “But the Democrats are simply not returning their ballots at the same rate the Republicans are. … They’re squandering that lead.”


In addition to mentioning what an "uphill battle" it will be to beat DeSantis and Rubio, the report mentions that "Democrats need to rack up big numbers beforehand, especially since the GOP surpassed Democrats in voter registration for the first time last year," which is another sign of an uphill battle.

Scott Pressler, who goes by #ThePersistence on Twitter, broke down the numbers further on Monday. 

Forecasters consider DeSantis' race to be "Likely Republican" as they do Rubio's race. RealClearPolitics (RCP) considers the races to be "Lean GOP," projecting a "GOP Hold." DeSantis is shown ahead with a +12.3 lead and Rubio is shown with a +8 lead

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