There’s really no other way to say it: Early voting went absolutely gangbusters in Florida’s two most populous counties on Sunday, during the last day the polls were open before Election Day.
Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Christina White reported 53,095 ballots cast, a number that shattered the county’s previous record of 42,810, set Friday.
Before that, Miami-Dade had never exceeded 39,400 in-person early voters in a single day; 40,051 voted Saturday, when much of the county was drenched in rain. Bad weather typically drives down turnout.
“This has no doubt been a record breaking election. Both in terms of overall turnout and because we broke the daily record today by more than 13,000 voters,” White said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “This coupled with minimal wait times has made early voting in Miami-Dade a success.”
In Broward County, 44,216 people voted Sunday, the highest total from the two weeks of early voting this year. The previous 2016 high, from Friday, was 36,276. On Saturday, 35,905 Broward residents voted, also despite persistent rain.
The day brought Broward’s total number of early votes over two weeks to 426,498. Another 188,489 people had cast ballots by mail, for a total of 614,987. Compared to 2012 totals, that’s a nearly 47 percent jump.
Miami-Dade saw 475,864 in-person early votes during the two-week 2016 period, and 287,224 mail votes, for a total of 763,088. That’s a 61 percent increase from 2012. Four years ago, there were only eight days of in-person early voting, and no voting on the Sunday before Election Day.
Florida had already shattered voting records by Sunday morning, when some 6.2 million people had cast ballots. Democrats led Republicans statewide by about 32,000 ballots cast, though of course no one knows yet how anyone actually voted. Turnout of registered partisans, however, is a key indicator for political campaigns on how they’re doing in reaching their reliable supporters.
South Florida is of utmost importance to both presidential campaigns. Democrats hope to build a large enough cushion in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach to counter Republicans in Southwest and North Florida. Republicans hope to keep their South Florida margins close enough to have a shot if they do well in red areas and the swing I-4 corridor.
A Bloomberg report Sunday cited the Donald Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, calling the Miami media market, which comprises Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the Florida Keys, as a place with “large numbers of persuadable” voters — despite the areas clear Democratic tilt.
Miami-Dade in particular has contributed significantly to the spike in Florida Hispanics at the polls. Though many are registered without party affiliation, polls indicate Latinos as a whole tend to favor Democrats. The exception are Cuban Americans, many of whom lined up Sunday at the West Dade Regional Library, a Republican stronghold.
At a rally organized by the Miami-Dade GOP, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio reminded Republicans that their vote matters for Florida, even if the county is solidly blue. He’s running for reelection against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter.
“What if this election is decide by 100 votes?” Rubio said, reminding Republicans about the 537 Florida votes that separated George W. Bush from Al Gore in 2000. “By 150 votes?”
Sunday’s Miami-Dade and Broward numbers should mollify Democrats who worried about lackluster turnout during the first weekend of early voting, which suggested that their supporters — especially African Americans —were staying home. To counter the apparent indifference, Hillary Clinton visited Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, President Barack Obama dropped in on Miami on Thursday, and Clinton returned Saturday, to Pembroke Pines. (Donald Trump campaigned Wednesday in Miami.)
On Sunday, a black-church-driven voting day known as Souls to the Polls, Pines reported some of the longest waits to vote. Some of the county’s 21 polls closed at 7 p.m. with hundreds of people still in line. They were allowed to cast ballots.
“President Obama has practically moved to Florida in the last couple of weeks, because he knows that of any state in America, this state is the state that will decide whether Hillary Clinton will be president of the United States,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, said at an afternoon rally at the African-American Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Miami-Dade, with its 30 sites, saw shorter waits. One site, the Lemon City library in Little Haiti, remained open until 9 p.m. under a judge’s order. The Florida Democratic Party had sued, arguing that people couldn’t park at the library for two hours Sunday morning due to nearby road closures.
A Miami Herald reporter who stopped by the polling place shortly after 7 p.m. didn’t see any voters, though Democrats said some people did come during the extended period.
Miami Herald staff writer Amy Sherman contributed to this report.