TALLAHASSEE – Florida broke its opening day record for in-person early voting on Monday, with at least 350,000 people voting and election officials continue to count statewide until late into the night.
The trend continues at an all-time high in Battlefield State, seen as a must win for President Donald Trump. Postal voting, which began earlier this month, racked up more than 2.5 million ballots by Monday, more than double the 1.2 million during the same period in 2016.
Over 350,000 voters, including some treated to pizza by singer Ariana Grande as they stood in line, easily surpassed the 2016 figures when 291,000 people voted on the first day of the in-person advance poll, which includes 52 of Florida’s 67 counties. All counties begin early voting on Saturday.
Democrats have a significant lead on pre-election day, built by more than 450,000 postal votes, through Monday, but Republicans insist they are only “cannibalizing” their in-person vote. In other words, they are saying Democrats are not winning additional voters, but voters in candidate Joe Biden’s party are only changing the way they participate due to Democrats’ increased emphasis on voting by. mail during a global pandemic.
“Democrats know they cannot compete with our unparalleled ground game,” Trump Victory spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said.
Kamala Harris, a California senator and Biden’s running mate, held in-person rallies in Orlando and Jacksonville to build excitement on the first day of advance voting in person.
“Today I had to come here to kick off early voting in Florida, because you’re all going to get there,” Harris told an audience in Orlando. “What you will do here in Florida … by voting early, you will be the first to get our country back on track.”
His rally locations in Florida weren’t accidental. Orlando is in the middle of the legendary I-4 corridor, a swath of 19 counties in the state notoriously filled with swing voters. Jacksonville, on the other hand, has long been Republicans’ home turf, but for the first time in recent political history, Democrats won the 2018 midterm election, an outcome they hope to replicate in 2020.
The Trump campaign, which has blanketed Florida with surrogate appearances in recent weeks, has staged “Team Trump On Tour” bus events throughout conservative North Florida, including stops in Pensacola and Tallahassee with the representing Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican and Trump’s main ally.
“Today is really the start of our out-of-voting movement, with our supporters wanting to vote in person or mail their ballots in person to polling places,” said the county GOP chairman. de Leon, Evan Power, who attended the Trump events. “We are confident that our voters will come forward by election day to support the president and our Republican team.”
Early in the day, there was anecdotal evidence statewide that indicated there could be a record turnout. Lines formed in some of Florida’s largest counties ahead of the polls opening at 7 a.m. even as rain drenched parts of South Florida.
In Broward County, Parkland Mayor and new Democratic State Representative Christine Hunschofsky posted video of long lines at a polling station in that county, one of the bluest in Florida. .
“This is the longest line I have ever seen at an early poll in Parkland,” she tweeted.
Pinellas County, an indicator that has voted for all but one of the winning presidential candidates since 1980, also quickly racked up record numbers.
“Over 6,300 people have voted so far in Pinellas County on a record-breaking first day of early voting!” Tweeted Julie Marcus, Pinellas County Election Supervisor at 3:30 pm.
The Orange County Election Supervisor’s Office tweeted just before 4:30 p.m. that it had already seen over 11,000 votes more than two hours from the end. In 2016, the county recorded a total of 16,912 votes on the first day of early voting.