TAMPA, Fla. — A quarter of Florida’s primary voters can now ignore candidates' TV ads that are blanketing the airwaves in the state’s six major media markets.
More than a million Florida voters have already cast their votes.
Florida elections officials say upwards of 1.23 million voters in the Sunshine State have already made their choices official, and by March 15 (primary day), more than 2 million early votes will likely have been cast.
Of the votes cast, either in person or by mail, so far: 56 percent (690,071) have come from registered Republicans while 43.9 percent (540,990) are from registered Democrats.
Florida is a closed primary state, meaning only those registered in a political party can vote in that party’s primary. Independent voters cannot participate in choosing a either party's nominee.
So who benefits most from all of this early voting?
Florida Atlantic University political science professor Kevin Wagner said “polling at FAU showed Donald Trump well ahead of the field in Florida in January.”
“Having that kind of lead is powerful when combined with early voting. While candidates can close the gap with Trump on Election Day, you cannot reverse ballots that are already cast,” Wagner said.
But early votes can also become wasted votes.
Florida supporters who voted early for Republican Jeb Bush will have their votes counted but they’re meaningless because he suspended his campaign on Feb. 20.
Ironically, it was then-Gov. Jeb Bush who signed the early-voting law into effect in Florida.
Early voting is well-established nationwide. Thirty-seven states now allow in-person early voting.
Other states, like Oregon and Washington, have exclusively moved to mail-in ballots.
“Florida was a little late to the early voting movement," Wagner said. "The Florida legislature authorized early voting in 2004. This was part of the reforms spurred by the well-documented problems in the 2000 election."
The melt-down gave birth to the phrase coined by the late NBC News moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert: “Florida, Florida, Florida.”
With 99 delegates in Florida on the Republican side and 214 on the Democratic side, the winner-take-all primary in “Florida, Florida, Florida” could well determine who wins each party’s nomination.