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With 1.6m Floridians having voted, Dems cut GOP absentee vote-lead in half in 1st early vote day

In just 12 hours of in-person early voting Saturday, Florida Democrats swamped the polls so heavily that they ran up a more than 39,000-vote margin over Republicans out of the nearly 300,000 votes that were cast at polling stations.

The Democratic vote was so big that it cut a Republican lead, built up during a month's worth of absentee-ballot voting, by about 60 percent. As of Saturday morning, Republicans were ahead of Democrats by nearly 66,000 absentee ballots cast, or 5 percentage points.

Factor in the day's worth of Democratic early voting, and that GOP lead is now just above 26,300, or 1.6 points. Add in Duval, whenever those numbers come in, and the GOP lead should be even smaller.

Here are the absentee and early vote ballots combined:

Party   Total votes      Total %         REP edge
REP     684,744 43%           26,310
DEM     658,434 41%
IND     262,516 16%
Total  1,605,694

 The early vote numbers:

Party    EV votes       EV%   DEM EV edge
DEM     145,470 49% 39,522
REP     105,948 35%  
IND       47,219 16%  
TOTAL     298,637    

 The absentee vote numbers:

Party AB votes      AB%     REP AB edge
REP     578,796 44%           65,832
DEM     512,964 39%  
IND     215,297 16%  
Total  1,307,057    

In the Democrats' favor: the eight days of early voting continues today. And It's the only Sunday of early voting, when African-Americans prefer to head to the polls after church for their "Souls to the Polls" rallies. The Legislature, in shortening the Democrat-heavy early voting days, eliminated the Sunday-before-Election Day early voting.

In South Florida, the biggest Souls to the Polls event is being spearheaded by the Rev. Victor Curry, who's the Miami-Dade leader of the National Action Network founded by MSNBC host and Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton and Curry led rallies yesterday, and they're doing it again today.

If, and it's an if, the vote is the same today as it was yesterday, there's a good chance Democrats will eliminate the Republican lead in ballots cast entirely. But it's unclear whether yesterday's heavier-than-ever early voting was just a reflection of those who want to vote in person at the first chance they get. Or is it a sign of Democratic momentum? Or is it both?

It's also unclear how many Democrats vote for Democrats and how many Republicans vote for Republicans. It's safe to say the 90 percent of partisans back their guy on the ballot, but North Florida Democrats often vote Republican. The independents** are the wild card.

Yesterday, the lines were long -- with wait times in some areas of up to six hours. Today's story about that is here.

This year, it's clear that Democrats, who typically ceded absentee-voting to Republicans, decided not to this year. So they trailed by 5 points instead of more than 15 points as they did in 2008, when Republicans cast more than 250,000 additional absentee ballots than Democrats. Democrats, in turn, cast more than 500,000 early votes in 2008 than Republicans.

But Obama won Florida then by just 236,450 votes (less than 3 percent) over John McCain, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 657,775, or about 36-42% (5.8 percentage points).

In 2012, that Democratic lead is down. They outnumber Republicans by 536,000, or about 36-40% (a 4.5 percentage-point lead). That's a drop of 122,000. Also, relative to 2008, Republican Mitt Romney is in a much better position than McCain in Florida and, unlike in 2008, Republicans are outspending Democrats on TV.

Another troubling sign for the Democrats: Their rolls grew only 1 percent. Republicans grew 4 percent while the overall voter rolls grew 6 percent to 11.9 million voters.

But the complexion of the state is changing and the Republican Party really isn't. Florida is becoming blacker and browner. But the GOP got whiter since 2008 by 4 percent, while the state’s white voter population increased just 2 percent overall.

Overall, since 2008, Hispanics have grown 22 percent on the voter rolls. But GOP Hispanics increased just 9 percent while the Democrats’ Hispanics increased 26 percent. Black voters overall grew by 10 percent in Florida, but decreased by 5 percent for the GOP and grew 9 percent for the Democrats.

The wild-card independents have grown the fastest on the voter rolls, 18 percent, to 445,000. And they've cast nearly 260,000 early and absentee votes (about 16 percent of the total). Polls indicate they're leaning Romney in Florida.

The most sought-after demographic, Hispanics, prefer to be independents. Hispanics increased the No Party Affiliation ranks by nearly 36 percent since 2008. Now number more than 513,000, outnumbering Republican Hispanics by nearly 37,000. There are still more registered Democratic Hispanics at nearly 645,000.

Polls show Hispanics prefer Obama. But white voters, who are still more than two-thirds of the electorate, like Romney.

Put it all together, and the data shows that the clearest aspect of this election in Florida is that we don't clearly know who will win it.

**Note: "Independents" is shorthand for those independent of the Republican and Democratic Party; 89% of registered independents are officially No Party Affiliation voters. All figures here are compiled from state elections data, some of which doesn't exactly jibe with county-reported data. The post was updated once Duval County posted its numbers (the tiny counties of Lafayette and Glades haven't yet). Still, the margins of error are relatively small

  Total votes     Total % REP edge
REP     674,025 43%           31,365
DEM     642,660 41%
IND     258,610 16%
Total  1,575,295