Florida could set vote-by-mail record this election

Top row: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum (left) and Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. Bottom row: Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (left) and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

With national attention focused on the Florida governor’s race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis and the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, more than 2.7 million Florida voters have already requested mail-in ballots for the Nov. 6 general election.

That exceeds the total for the last midterm election in 2014 and threatens to eclipse the 3.3 million ballots mailed out for the 2016 presidential election.┬áMail-in ballot requests can be an indicator of voter enthusiasm — or of voters switching from in-person voting to the convenience of casting a ballot from home.

As of this morning’s update from the Florida Division of Elections, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans in ballot requests — 1.132 million to 1.064 million. About 550,000 requests have come from voters with no party affiliation or who belong to minor parties. Republicans, however, have been more likely than Democrats to return their mail ballots.

In 2016, the GOP had an 85 percent return rate on mail ballots while the Democratic rate was 80 percent. In 2014 midterms, 78 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats returned their mail ballots.

Some of those who didn’t return their mail-in ballots voted by other means — at in-person early voting sites or at a precinct on the traditional election day.