1.7 million Florida voters have already requested mail ballots for upcoming primary

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Florida elections supervisors have already received requests for more than 1.7 million vote-by-mail ballots for the Aug.  30 primary as of this morning, the state Division of Elections reported.

Included in that total are ballots being mailed to Floridians living outside the country, including military members. Those overseas primary ballots had to be mailed out by a Saturday deadline – 45 days before the primary election.

Republicans claimed 741,643 of the ballot requests. Democrats had 657,380 requests, followed by no-party-affiliation voters with 268,994 ballots and other party members with 40,569.

County elections supervisors will begin mailing the non-overseas mail ballots to voters between July 26 and Aug. 2.

Pinellas County has the most vote-by-mail ballot requests at 248,346, followed by Miami-Dade at 218,472, Hillsborough at 154,539 and Broward at 146,599.

In contrast, Duval, one of Florida’s largest counties, had only 4,510 requests in as of this morning.

Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, whose office will be mailing out more than 50,000 ballots, said the mail ballots are growing in popularity and help more evenly distribute voters among the mail ballots, early voting and Election Day voting.

“Voting by mail continues to increase in popularity because voters like the convenience of voting at their leisure in the privacy of their home,” Corley said.  “In an effort to avoid long lines at the polls, we are actively encouraging vote-by-mail as a way of distributing the voting population among the three available options.”

Historically, Florida Republicans have had an advantage with vote-by-mail ballots, while the Democrats were stronger with early voting. Both sides have worked to narrow those gaps.

Collier, one of Florida’s most reliable GOP counties, reported Republicans have a better than 3-to-1 advantage in the mail ballots, with 29,908 requests to the Democrats’ 9,832.

Democrats had an advantage in Broward, their most important county in statewide elections, with 76,948 ballot requests to the GOP’s 43,843.

The increasingly popularity of mail ballots as well as early voting means that a majority of votes may be cast before Election Day. That phenomenon has forced candidates and their campaigns to adjust their strategies, including advertising, to accommodate the evolving voting pattern.

Due to a change in state law, these ballots, previously known as absentee ballots, are being called vote-by-mail ballots this year for the first time.

Lloyd Dunkelberger is a Tallahassee-based political reporter and columnist; he most recently served as Tallahassee bureau chief for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.