Florida, once a state that won the presidency by 537 votes, could be looking red after Tuesday’s election.
Running for re-election are Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, believed to be the front-runner for the 2024 White House, and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who had a failed presidential run in 2016 and is now seeking his third term.
DeSantis faces Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor from 2007-2011 who gave up his seat as the Democratic U.S. Representative after winning the August primary. Rubio faces Democratic Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief who has made a national name for himself with a prominent role in the impeachment of then-President Donald Trump and is on President Joe Biden’s list of possible running mates.
Polls have shown that both incumbents have significant leads.
Florida could also play a role in the struggle for power in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a new post-2020 congressional seat and new political maps heavily favoring Republicans.
Republicans could also clear the three cabinet positions on the ballot. Acting Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis face off against lesser-known former prosecutor Aramis Ayala and former State Assemblyman Adam Hattersley, both of whom have struggled to raise funds.
Similarly, Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson is a big favorite to beat Democratic nominee Naomi Esther Blemur for the Agriculture Commissioner’s seat vacated by Democrat Nikki Fried.
Florida voters are also being asked to abolish the Constitutional Review Commission, which meets every 20 years to recommend changes to the state’s constitution, and to approve two property tax breaks.
While the Democrats had an advantage in voter registration numbers for decades and Florida was seen as a swing state in the presidential election, those days seem to be over.
DeSantis beat Democrat Andrew Gillum four years ago by 32,436 votes out of more than 8.2 million votes cast, a margin so narrow it required a recount.
But in the four years since, Republicans have wiped out the Democrats’ advantage of 263,000 voter registrations. As of Sept. 30, Republicans had a lead of 292,533 voters — an increase from nearly 556,000 registered voters during DeSantis’ first term.
In total there are 14.5 million registered voters.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polling stations close at 7 p.m. local time. Most of the state is in the Eastern Time Zone, but portions of the Panhandle are in the Central Time Zone, meaning polling stations there close at 8:00 p.m. ET.
HOW FLORIDA VOTES
Florida voters are increasingly voting before Election Day, either by mail or in person at early polling stations. In 2020, 83% of the more than 11 million ballots cast were cast by mail or during early voting. Voter turnout for the 2022 midterm is not expected to be as high, but the trend towards early and absentee voting will continue.
In 2020, the AP reported 90% of the vote until just after 9 p.m. ET.
The landfall and devastation of Hurricane Ian will no doubt slow voting processes in the Fort Myers area, even though voting restrictions have been eased on affected residents. The area represents about 7% of the nationwide voters.
Where Florida has historically been evenly split between Democrats and GOP, polls this cycle tend to favor GOP candidates for statewide office. The Interstate 4 corridor from Volusia to the Hillsborough counties will be important in the early return because this set of counties is demographically and politically representative of the state. Victory for state office on election night here requires a strong performance.
The AP lists 130 contested races in Florida: US Senate, US House of Representatives, governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, commissioner of agriculture, prosecutor, three amendments and the state legislature.
On election night, in accordance with state law, early voting and absentee ballots are included in most district returning officers’ initial results released after polling closes.
No statewide races will be declared by AP before the EDT poll closes at 8 p.m. in the Panhandle.
The AP may call a statewide or US house race where the gap between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less if we determine the margin is too great for a recount to change the outcome .
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the gap between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the top candidate is within 2% of the 50% deadline. The AP will revisit these races later in the week to confirm that there are not enough outstanding votes left to change the outcome.
Q: WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THE PRIMARY?
A: Florida voters are still excited about early voting and voting by mail, especially through the mail. And we’ve learned that what was statistically a top swing state is now likely leaning toward GOP in statewide races.
Q: WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE THE 2020 PANDEMIC ELECTION?
A: More GOP voters registered to vote than Democrats, giving Republicans a clear advantage among registered voters.
Q: WHAT ARE THE PARTICIPATION AND PRE-VOTING LIKE?
A: As of October 26, more than 1.6 million votes have been cast, with previous elections expected to count nearly 9 million votes nationwide.
Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING TAKE USUALLY?
A: The first results will come out at 7:05pm ET and 100% is expected later that night or the next day.
Q: WHAT ARE THE EARLY RETURN ERRORS?
A: By election night there will be a wave of millions of returns being released early. Although trends can be seen, it may take some time before potential complications emerge.
Q: WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
A: Due to redistricting, some districts may have more than one officer while others have none.
Also, amendments require 60% or more of the votes to be accepted.