Elections 2020,  State

Democrats Lead Republicans on Vote-By-Mail

With less than a month left until Election day, Florida Democrats have a substantial lead over Republicans in vote-by-mail requests.

2.4 million Florida Democrats have requested vote-by-mail compared to 1.6 million Republicans and 1.1 million no party affiliation and independents, according to the secretary of state. The 767,000-request advantage that Democrats have over Republicans is encouraging for the Biden campaign and down-ballot races across Florida.

“Democrats in Florida are turning out in full force; we’re maximizing turnout while Republicans are turning against each other,” said Terrie Rizzo, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.  

While there is early excitement for the Democrats on vote-by-mail, Florida Republicans are seeing a surge in voter registration efforts. Republicans registered 58,000 new voters in August. The 58,000 new voter registrations are 41% higher than new Democrat registrations.

“We’ve turned our focus to voter registrations in a more meaningful way than before. Everyone said you can’t do it – get the gap between Republicans and Democrats to such a smaller number. Well you can do it,” said Susie Wiles, the Florida campaign director for the Trump campaign.

“We did it through the mail, but the main way we had success was at the doors, and because Democrats aren’t meeting people at the doors…we are having great success,” she said.

The different Get-Out-The-Vote strategies from Democrats and Republicans in Florida highlight how both party operations view the race amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats overwhelmingly opting for vote-by-mail as a safe voting method from the pandemic is radically different from Republicans still going for door-to-door canvassing. Despite the high numbers on both sides, respectively, it is still too early to know which specific strategy is paying off.

Democrats getting higher vote-by-mail requests can signify more than increased voter registration this election cycle. Unlike vote-by-mail requests, where a returned ballot is expected, higher voter registration does not directly translate into casting a ballot. 

Florida Democrats have another advantage with having a higher return rate for vote-by-mail ballots. 612,982 Florida Democrats have returned their vote-by-mail ballots compared to 337,927 Republicans.

The data breakdown can be attributed to Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, who is currently tracking vote-by-mail requests, returns and early in-person voting data from across the country. At the time of writing, more than 6 million people across the country have voted already – a number that will continue to increase as more states release voting data.

1,178,032 people have already voted in Florida; all vote-by-mail since early voting is not open yet.

The surge of vote-by-mail, especially on the Democratic side, has also raised questions about the percentage of rejected ballots.

More than 35,000 vote-by-mail ballots were rejected in the August primary. Almost 66% of the rejected ballots were disqualified because they arrived past the deadline.

Late ballot arrivals during election day are possible, especially when the Postal Service has had delays in delivering mail.

Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida and elections expert, raises this concern for November. “We could exceed 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots that don’t count.”

Since the Democrats are leading the vote-by-mail requests, the projected rejections could disproportionately impact the outcome of the presidential ticket as well as down-ballot races considering how razor-thin margins often decide many of Florida’s elections.

It is too early in the voting process to predict if vote-by-mail rejection could exceed Smith’s projections.

It is not early to predict, however, that the current numbers in Florida and around the country indicate that there is going to be historic turnout for the 2020 election.

Featured Image: Vote-by-mail ballot with a face mask Unmodified photo by Unsplash under a Creative Commons license (https://bit.ly/3nw2I09)   

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.

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