* Registered Democrats ahead in ballots cast early
* Legislature cut early voting days
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla., Nov 5 Florida voters cast fewer
early ballots in the 2012 presidential election than in 2008,
but they submitted more absentee ballots than they did four
years ago, according to statewide elections figures released on
Overall, almost 40 percent of Florida's 11.9 million
registered voters have already cast their ballots, and
registered Democrats had cast 88,314 more votes than registered
Republicans through Sunday.
Opinion polls for the Nov. 6 election showed Democratic
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney
running neck and neck in Florida, where a mere 537 votes decided
the 2000 presidential election in George W. Bush's favor.
The early voting period in Florida ended on Saturday, though
voters were still submitting absentee ballots at election
supervisors' offices on Sunday and Monday.
The state's Republican-led legislature cut the number of
early voting days nearly in half this year, leading to long
lines where voters had to wait up to 8 hours and complaints that
the change in voting rules was part of a Republican effort to
suppress Democratic votes.
Republican Governor Rick Scott rejected a call last week to
extend early voting by a day.
The data suggests the changes curbed in-person voting at the
early polling sites. Florida voters cast 249,974 fewer ballots
at those sites in the 2012 presidential election than in 2008.
Democrats, who typically make up a large proportion of early
voters, managed only a 167,653 edge over Republicans in the
voting at early balloting sites. That was well below the margin
in 2008, when Democrats led in early voting by almost half a
Republicans have the edge in absentee voting - 79,339 more
Republican ballots were turned in than Democratic ballots by
Sunday. Absentee voting had exceeded the 2008 totals by 207,308
All told, the battleground state entered the final day of
voting before the election with 4.46 million votes cast compared
with 4.51 million in 2008 - a drop of 42,666.
The total number of registered voters in Florida has risen
by 6.1 percent since the last presidential election to 11.9