Floridians line up to cast ballots as early voting crosses 30 million mark

by Reuters
Monday, 19 October 2020 23:17 GMT

(Adds updated early voting figure)

By Zachary Fagenson and Joseph Ax

CORAL GABLES, Fla., Oct 19 (Reuters) - Florida voters lined up outside polling places on Monday on the first day of early voting in the battleground state, as 30 million Americans have already cast their ballots in November's presidential election.

Republican President Donald Trump, running out of time to change the dynamics of a race that he appears to be losing, campaigned in Arizona on Monday amid signs that Democrats were leading the surge in early voting.

In a conference call with campaign staff, Trump showed characteristic self-confidence in describing the state of the race, notwithstanding national opinion polls that show him well behind Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

"We're going to win," he said. "I wouldn't have told you that maybe two, three weeks ago."

Trump has appeared to cut into Biden's lead in Pennsylvania, one of the election's most important battlegrounds, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday. The survey found Biden leading 49% to 45% in that state, a margin 3 points narrower than last week. The poll also found Biden leading in Wisconsin 51% to 43%.

At least 30 million votes either by mail or in person had been recorded in 44 states and Washington, D.C., as of mid-afternoon on Monday, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Voters have cast more than 21% of the overall total in 2016, when more than 136.6 million Americans voted. In 2016, there were 5.9 million early votes by Oct. 23, 16 days before Election Day.

The surge this time has been driven by many voters' desire to avoid the risks of the coronavirus associated with potentially long lines on Election Day on Nov. 3. But it also appeared to reflect enthusiasm among Democrats in particular.


In states that publicly report the party registration of voters, nearly 54% of ballots came from registered Democrats, compared with 25% from Republicans. Opinion polls show that most Trump supporters plan to vote in person on Election Day, following months of unsupported claims by Trump that absentee voting is unreliable.

Biden had no public events on Monday, instead taping a "60 Minutes" interview that CBS will broadcast on Sunday. The former vice president again tested negative for the coronavirus, his campaign said on Monday.

He and Trump have a debate scheduled for Thursday, following Trump's decision to back out of last week's planned debate.

The Trump campaign urged debate organizers to reconsider the topics under discussion, saying they stray too far from foreign policy. Biden's campaign said both sides had agreed months ago to let organizers pick the topics.

"The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response," spokesman TJ Ducklo said.

Biden's running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, urged supporters in Florida to vote early.

"This man had an opportunity to deal with (the virus) but denied fact, denied science, and lied to the American people," Harris said of Trump in remarks to supporters at a "drive-in" rally in Orlando.

Social media posts showed lines of voters in some of the 52 of Florida's 67 counties that began in-person early voting on Monday, suggesting similarly high levels of enthusiasm as seen in other early voting states this year.

Hundreds of people, most wearing face masks, stood in pouring rain in the morning outside the public library in Coral Gables, a majority-Hispanic city near Miami.

Louis Perez, 57, an insurance fraud investigator, said he was voting for Biden because of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"He lied about it right from the beginning," Perez, who is not affiliated with a party, said of Trump.

Registered Republican Antonio Sanchez, an architect who arrived in the United States from Communist Cuba, said he supported Trump because he "stands for freedom" and against socialism.

"My two daughters are doctors. I don't think this could have happened anyplace other than America," said Sanchez, 59.

Florida is widely seen as a must-win for Trump, whose path to victory becomes razor-thin if he loses the Southern state. The state's prize of 29 electoral votes is tied with New York for third most, behind only California and Texas, in the race for the 270 Electoral College votes that determine the presidential winner under the U.S. system.


An Oct. 7-14 Reuters/Ipsos survey of the state showed Biden with 49% support and Trump with 47%, within the survey's credibility interval of 4 percentage points.

Trump campaigned on Monday in Arizona, another battleground state. He has mocked Biden for holding fewer campaign events and for limiting the number of attendees, while Biden and public health experts have assailed Trump for hosting crowded rallies with few masks and little social distancing amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 Americans.

On his call earlier on Monday, Trump told his campaign staff that Americans were fed up with pandemic restrictions, even as case numbers rise in many states, and called Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, a "disaster."

"People are saying: 'Whatever. Just leave us alone.' They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," said Trump, who has played down the pandemic for months.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Coral Gables, Joseph Ax, Andy Sullivan, James Oliphant and Simon Lewis; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)

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