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76,000 Floridians already voted. Dems scoring in Tampa Bay, South FL; Reps dominating North Florida

Voting by absentee ballot is a week old in Florida and already 76,000 people and counting have voted.

Normally, Republicans dominate this type of vote-by-mail system, and again they're leading. But Democrats have made a push for mail-in voting -- especially now that the GOP-led Legislature reduced early in-person voting hours compared to 2008, when Democrats swamped Republicans.

Starting today, Democrats have encouraged their partisans to consider dropping the ballots off in person and supervisors of elections offices in various counties.

The absentee-ballot breakdown:

Requested    Party
894,500        Republican
821,000        Democrat
374,000        Independent

Voted        Party
33,000        Republican
31,000        Democrat
12,000        Independent

The county-by-county numbers are intriguing. Democrats are leading in the crucial I-4 corridor counties of Hillborough, Pinellas and Orange counties. They have smaller leads in the Democrat-heavy counties of Broward and Miami-Dade. Republicans are dominating in North Florida, rolling up comfortable leads in Santa Rosa, Escambia, Okaloosa and Duval counties.

These numbers will obviously change. Absentee ballot voting can occur right up until 7 p.m. Election Day. Early voting starts oct. 27 and ends Nov. 3.

Though this is just a fraction of the vote that is yet to be cast by Florida's nearly 12 million total voters (not all of whom will vote), this is shaping up to be a close election. And while all the focus is on Ohio, there's little chance Mitt Romney can win without winning Florida.

Florida has 29 Electoral College votes; Ohio just 18. So if Romney lost Florida, he'd need to win Ohio plus Wisconsin and its 10 points -- and he'd still be 1 point shy of the Sunshine State's total (the swingier swing state of Colorado is just 9 points).

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