Early voting starts strong in Central Florida

Employees pack HQ to prepare facility

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Early voting began Monday in 50 counties, including the state's largest counties: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach. 

In Orange County, voters lined up around the outside of the Supervisor of Elections' Office in Downtown Orlando to cast their ballots.

"Over a million voters have already cast their ballots and today 50 of the 67 counties are beginning early voting," Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said. "Sixty-one thousand ballots have been returned. We sent out 207,000. Nov. 2 is the deadline [for mail-in ballots]."

Orange County has 17 early voting sites.

[READ:  2016 Florida Election Guide]

In Seminole County, cars circled the parking lot waiting for spots at the main branch library in Casselberry. The Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office lists the library as the busiest of its eight early-voting sites.

The Osceola County Supervisor of Elections Office in Kissimmee saw a steady stream of voters all day Monday.

"In Osceola County early voting is very popular - the past two presidential elections more people have voted early than on Election Day," Mary Jane Arrington, Osceola County elections supervisor, said.

"We processed a little over 1,500 voters in 3 hours... at 6 locations across the county," she said.

Arrington said she is expecting record turnout. In just the past 2 months, 15,000 people registered to vote in Osceola County.

"We have about 87,000 Democrats and 46,000 Republicans and almost 60,000 no party affiliation," said Arrington. "We have about 33 percent of our voters have chosen to be affiliated with no party and that is the largest in the state. We attribute that to our voters being younger and more ethnically mixed and those two groups tend to choose no party affiliation."

Hispanics make up 44 percent of registered voters in Osceola County, Arrington said. Forty-two percent are white, 9 percent are black, she said.

In 2012, President Obama won the Hispanic vote in Osceola County in a landslide.

The presidential and vice presidential candidates have made several stops in Central Florida over the past few months and are here again this week. Political pundits have predicted that as Osceola goes, the state and the nation will go.

Both candidates are sweeping through Florida this week in an effort to boost turnout among their supporters. Donald Trump will visit several cities over the next two days. Hillary Clinton will hold an early voting rally in Coconut Creek on Tuesday.

Polls have shown a tight race in the Sunshine State between Clinton and Donald Trump.

Nearly 1.2 million voters in Florida have already mailed in ballots. The state has nearly 13 million registered voters.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Copyright 2016 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.