Much hay was made about early voting this cycle, continuing a tradition every two years where some put an enormous amount of faith in it’s ability to divine the winner. This cycle, an incredible number of voters turned out in Florida, and the margin of Democratic over Republican early votes had shrunk from 2012. Nevertheless, some were confident that Hillary Clinton’s efforts to crank out every conceivable Hispanic voter in the state, particularly the booming Puerto Rican population at the east end of the I-4, would make the state hard for Trump to come out on top.
Mrs. Clinton bested Trump in mail-in ballots by about 40,000 statewide:
2016 Florida Presidential Vote, Mail-In
And enjoyed a sizable 206,000 vote edge in the walk-in early vote:
2016 Florida Presidential Vote, Walk-in
This combined to give her early lead of almost a quarter of a million votes, 3,286,650 to 3,039,706. This margin rode heavily on the early turnout in Miami-Dade (235043 vote margin), Palm Beach (94888 vote margin), Broward (254,948 vote margin), and Orange (117,147 vote margin).
Trump, for his part, cranked out considerable numbers of his own in both mail-ins and walk-ins, trailing Clinton by less than 2% in the mail-in tally, and by 5.5% in walk-ins.
A big unknown lingered over Election Day: if the expected Clinton edge in early votes (estimated by comparing party turnout at the time) could be erased by Trump on Election Day. I’m suspecting more than a few people saw the Republican uptick in early voting and thought to themselves, “Republicans are voting, but they’re cannibalizing their vote early.” Well, it turns out that Clinton, not Trump, did that. Almost three-quarters of her total vote had been cast early, and she wound up receiving only 1.2 million votes on November 8th (click chart to embiggen):
Her votes exhausted early, as the returns came in that evening, a brief bit of joy for Democrats with early vote tallies soon melted away: Donald Trump earned over 1.57 million votes on top of the 3.04 million cast for him early, winning the election-day vote in Hillsborough, flipping Duval, and losing the Miami-Dade election day vote by only 8,000:
2016 Florida Presidential vote, Election Day
Just like in North Carolina, Trump trailed in the larger early vote, but he zoomed ahead with a dominating Election Day finish.