With exactly one week until early voting starts in Florida, Democrats have caught up to Republicans when it comes to vote by mail numbers. However, even though the pre-Election Day totals are now even, Democrats seem to maintain an advantage over the Republicans.
First, let’s look at the raw vote totals. With 513,698 votes cast so far in the state, only 90 votes separate the two major political parties, with the Republicans having the edge. Additionally, the overall state turnout rate as of now is 4.06%. When we break that down into political parties, the Democratic turnout rate is 4.39%, the Republican turnout rate is 4.68%, and NPA/Other turnout rate being 2.74%. Of those who have requested vote-by-mail ballots (which, as of now, is 2.453,504), 19.38% have been returned and counted.
If we examine the swing* throughout the state, Republicans do have an advantage of 2.34%. While this might sound like good news to the Republicans, there are two possible issues. First, many Republican votes have already been cast. In the strongest Republican performing counties, Republican return rates are much higher than Democratic return rates. For example, in Okaloosa County, 64% of Republicans have already turned in their vote-by-mail ballots compared to 26% in the same county. We see this gap of at least 25% in the counties of Walton, Okaloosa, Clay, Santa Rosa, Nassau, Bay, and Collier Counties. As a result, Democrats should be able to close the gap, assuming that Democrats who requested a vote-by-mail ballot actually mail in their ballot.
Second, some of the counties that Republicans need to perform well in are starting to slip away. Sarasota County has some interesting trends. As of right now, Democrats consist of 45% of the vote by mail totals, while Republicans only consist of 37%. This is a drastic shift from traditional totals, which usually have both parties very close in vote by mail totals. This could have a marginal impact on Congressional races, though the county is now split between District 16 and 17. At the state level, Frank Alcock now has a fighting chance at beating Greg Steube on Election Day. This could be one of the biggest shocks in Florida if current trends continue. In the House, District 72 has now become more competitive.
While Sarasota County is showing strong trends for Democrats, so are the counties of Alachua, Sumter, Palm Beach, Orange, Pasco and Charlotte.
While the trends do not look great for Republicans, all is not lost. In two of Florida’s largest counties, Hillsborough and Duval, Democrats have been under-performing in pre-Election Day totals. In Hillsborough, the shift is so minimal, at .04% advantage for the Republicans, that too much shouldn’t be looked into the numbers. However, in Duval, Republicans have a 12.76% swing in their direction. Democrats in Duval continue to fail when it comes to turning out their voters.
In addition to these two counties, observers should also keep an eye on Volusia County, which could be the anti-Sarasota County. Since the suburban expansion into southern Volusia began in the early 2000s, there has been a gradual shift of the county toward the Republican side. In this election, Republicans have a 5.91% swing in their direction.