While Florida Republicans hold a significant lead in the early vote-by-mail (VBM) numbers, the state Democratic Party is insisting a “blue wave” is building among the early mail-in returns.
Numbers compiled by the state Division of Elections through Wednesday morning shows GOP voters submitting more than 40,000 more mail-in ballots to date than have their Democratic counterparts, 247,530 to 207,171. Nearly 2.6 million vote-by-mail ballots were requested by voters statewide.
But Democrats insist there are signs that indicate those numbers could start to turn in favor of Democrats.
“While Republicans are leading in VBM early returns — county-by-county returns, total VBM requests and returns in key demographics, provide early evidence of an impending blue wave for Democrats,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director, Juan Peñalosa, said in a memo sent out Wednesday morning.
In the memo, Peñalosa cites four key points concerning the mail-in ballots that he says provide Democrats with encouragement.
First, both parties have put an emphasis on getting Florida’ Hispanic voters to vote and Peñalosa says Democrats have so far done a better job of motivating Hispanics to vote-by-mail. He says Democrats have a 10-point lead among Hispanic voters who have chosen to cast mail-in ballots.
Peñalosa says while the number of vote-by-mail ballots submitted to date in traditionally Republican-dominated counties have been strong, the number of ballots returned in counties considered to be Democratic strongholds has been lagging. He says that’s expected to change in strong Democratic counties like Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, in the coming days..
Meanwhile, Democrats are over-performing in the base GOP counties.
“With large Democratic counties like Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward under-reporting, Democrats are expecting the votes cast margin to narrow significantly in the coming days,” Peñalosa said in the memo. “Early reporting on key demographics including Hispanic and young voters tells a good story for Democrats, and in a significant number of GOP-heavy counties — Democrats are overperforming.”
Peñalosa points to base GOP counties such Lee, Sarasota, Seminole, Charlotte and Martin counties where the number of ballots returned so far by Democrats is up anywhere from 2 percent to 6 percent.
Peñalosa says Democrats are “redefining the General Election electorate” by adding 370,000 Democrats who do not typically vote in midterms to vote-by-mail rolls, which he says increases their likelihood of voting.
The Democrats’ assertion of a blue wave building in the vote-by-mail numbers had the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida raising questions about the methodology used by Peñalosa to make his claims of a developing wave.
More Democrats did request mail-in ballots than did Republicans. Just over 1.073 million Democrats received a mail-in ballot, that’s more than 100,000 more requests than from GOP voters. The number of requests coming from Democrats is a half million more than four years ago. But many of those mail-in ballots were generated as the result of a person voting absentee in the 2014 midterms and does not necessarily reflect a voter’s intention to do so in this year’s election. State law requires election officials to send out absentee ballots for the next two election cycles following the original request, which means those who requested an absentee ballot four years ago would receive a ballot by mail for this year whether they requested one or not.
Getting voters to cast those mail-in ballots is another story, but Democrats are confident they have the ground game and organization to reach out to a lot of those vote-by-mail ballot recipients and encourage them to return their ballots. The memo states Democrats have contacted 9 million voters to get out to vote this year, while Republicans have only contacted 2 million. The RPOF says number came from a tweet from a party spokeswoman who was referring to the number of “door knocks” and not the total number of voteer contacts.
For now, based on numbers released by the state of ballots returned by voters, the only wave taking shape is “red.”