2 weeks from Nov. 3: Could election hinge on people with no party affiliation and GOP defectors to Biden?

Voters casting ballots. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Republicans were ahead on the first day of in-person early voting in the general election, casting 144,562 ballots compared to 140,753 Democrats.

But whether President Donald Trump outperformed Democrat Joe Biden for the day on Monday could hinge on 50,041 votes by people with no party affiliation and Republican defectors to Biden.

In fact, a group called Republican Voters Against Trump have bought space on 100 billboards on GOP-majority and swing districts opposing the president’s reelection, as the Orlando Sentinel has reported.

The early in-person votes in all categories totaled 339,152, according to data compiled by the Florida Division of Elections.

By contrast, Democrats lead in mail-in ballots cast thus far — 1,291,463 votes compared to 808,962 by Republicans and 527,483 by unaffiliated voters and other categories. The total mail-in ballots amounted to 2,659,342, with 3,154,521 not yet returned.

That leaves nearly 35,000 Democratic mail-in ballots not yet returned to elections supervisors and around 197,000 for the Republicans with close to 248,000 for the non-party-aligned.

Florida Republicans traditionally have encouraged their ranks to vote by mail but President Trump’s invectives against that process are thought to have dampened enthusiasm for the process.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that the Florida Rights Restoration Project has helped more than 67,000 “returning voters” to register under 2018’s Amendment 4, which the organization promoted to advance voting rights for former felons. The group also has raised money to clear “legal financial obligations” these people owed under the state implementing law for the amendment, including fines, fees, and reparations.

The Florida Division of Elections has notified elections supervisors that they could expect files on reentering voters suspected of failure to have paid in full.

Leon County supervisor Mark Earley, interviewed Monday, hadn’t received anything from the state and would not remove anyone from the registry in any event for failure to pay any financial obligation.

“A voter can take themselves off the roll if they found out they were ineligible. But the information coming from the state is not a declaration of ineligibility. It’s evidence that may point toward ineligibility that my office would weigh, and we would do some additional investigation and also give a voter a chance to either refute that or update the information,” Earley said.

Florida law provides procedures for voters to contest these determinations, including the right to a hearing.

“That takes usually at least 90 days,” Earley said.

Additionally, the National Voter Registration Act forbids purging registered voters close to an election, as the Phoenix has reported.

“Nobody’s going to be removed by an elections supervisor before the election based on any of these packets we’re getting now,” he said.