Election Day? 34 Percent of Likely Florida GOP Primary Voters Have Already Cast Ballots

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 30, 2012 | 9:07am EST

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigning in Naples, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - Election Day in the Florida Republican presidential primary is officially set for tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 31. However, Florida voters were not only able to cast absentee ballots in this primary election, they also were able to cast their ballots in person at designated polling places during an early voting period that ended Saturday.

The early voting lasted 8 days in 62 of Florida’s 67 counties and 14 days in the other five.

A survey by Public Policy Polling completed yesterday indicated that 34 percent of likely Republican Party primary voters had taken advantage of this system and had already cast their ballots.

Among this 34 percent who voted early, according to the PPP poll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had 45 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 33 percent, former Sen. Rick Santorum had 12 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul had 9 percent.

Santorum and Paul were doing better in PPP’s polling of all likely Florida GOP primary voters than they did among those who said they voted early--and Gingrich and Romney were doing worse. In fact, Romney’s support dropped by 6 points among the full polling sample compared to his support among those who said they voted early.

Among all like primary voters, according to the PPP poll, Romney had 39 percent, Gingrich had 32 percent,  Santorum had 14 percent, and Paul had 11 percent.

In PPP’s analysis, Romney’s twelve-point lead among the 34 percent of primary voters who had already voted appeared insurmountable even if Gingrich were able to surge in the final hours of campaigning in Florida.

“That [Romney's lead among those who had already voted] puts Gingrich in a position where he'd have to not only win the election day vote, but win it by 6 or 7 points to upset Romney in the state,” said PPP’s analysis.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported on Friday that through Thursday—with still two days to go in early voting--462,741 voters had already cast their ballots for Tuesday’s primary. In Florda’s 2008 Republican presidential primary, 1.95 million people voted.

Previously, Florida law allowed voters to go to designated polling places and cast their ballots during a 14-day early voting period before an election. Counties were allowed to keep the polling places open for up to 8 hours on each day of the early voting period. A new Florida law enacted last year shortened the early voting period to 8 days but allowed counties to keep the polling places open for up to 12 hours a day.

For this Republican presidential primary, five Florida counties operated under the previous rule and held 14-day early voting periods because a federal court is reviewing whether Florida’s new election law complies with the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act in those jurisdictions.

PPP is a North Carolina-based Democratic poll firm. It's survey for the Republican primary in Florday polled 733 likely voters on Jan. 28-29 and had a margin of error of +/-3.6 points.

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