Politics & Government

Republicans still holding lead in Florida's battle of the ballots

Republicans are maintaining their advantage over Democrats in mail ballot returns in Florida as total ballots cast, by mail and early voting, hits 3.8 million. Republicans make up 40.5 percent of the total and Democrats 40.1 percent.

Over the next seven days, mountains of mail ballots will continue to pour into the 67 county elections offices. For the first time, the number of returned mail ballots hit the 2 million mark overnight.

Of that 2 million, Republican voters have returned 42.1 percent of mail ballots and Democratic voters 38.6 percent. No party voters have returned 16.7 percent of mail ballots and minor-party voters 2.5 percent.

As of Tuesday morning, 80,134 Manatee County voters, or 34.68 percent of those registered to vote, have cast their ballots: 54,384 mail ballots have been received; and another 25,750 have been cast at five early voting locations. A state database shows that almost 25,000 ballots mailed to voters have not yet been returned.

The party breakdown in Manatee was not available Tuesday on the county supervisor of elections’ website, but earlier tallies recorded on a state database show that of the 65,424 ballots received, 58 percent came from Republican voters, 39.3 percent came from Democrats and 2.7 percent came from others.

Democrats appear to have a "mail ballot enthusiasm gap" in South Florida. Statewide, 61 percent of all mail ballots have been returned. But the return rates are much lower in the state's two largest counties, both of them must-win counties for Hillary Clinton. Miami-Dade has returned 50.8 of its mail ballots and Broward 48.8 percent.

Democrats can catch Republicans in the ballot chase by making sure more people vote early and by getting more Democrats to return their mail ballots. Of the 1.3 million mail ballots not yet returned, 40.5 percent belong to Democrats and 34.4 percent belong to Republicans. Simply put, so far, Republicans are more likely to send their ballots back than are Democrats.

The state website showing mail and early voting totals, statewide and by county, is here.