By Ivonne Malaver
Miami, Nov 3 (efe-epa).- Florida, one of the most heavily populated states and with a correspondingly large 29 votes in the Electoral College, is going into the Nov. 3 election with more than nine million ballots already cast, a record, and with President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden virtually tied in the voter surveys.
The election results in this battleground state, which Trump won in 2016 by some 110,000 votes, are as yet unknown, with about two million independent voters and a large Hispanic population divided between the two main parties.
Gov. Ron DeSantis promised on Tuesday that although the polls close at 7 pm, anyone already in line by that time will be allowed to vote and their votes will be counted.
However, on Tuesday morning the scene at the Miami Beach City Hall was unusual, with the few voters on hand contrasting with the long lines of people and vehicles at the nearby Convention Center waiting to get Covid-19 tests.
On Election Day – which amid the pandemic and the various ways to vote early or by mail could string itself out for weeks before a winner is decided – there will almost surely be an historic number of voters at the polls: 3.5 million Democrats, 3.4 million Republicans and 1.9 million independents, according to official figures updated as of midday.
Calculations by the non-partisan Political Polls show that early voting in Florida has already exceeded the 9.4 million people who voted statewide in 2016.
Tension over the election results in Florida, a state with an embarrassing, even shameful, record of delays and irregularities in vote counting, can be seen in downtown Miami’s Design District, where business owners on Tuesday morning hurried to board up their shop windows to protect their stores from possible rioting and looting.
As a preventative measure, DeSantis, a staunch political ally of Trump, joined other governors in deploying the National Guard to help keep the peace on a day that up until mid-afternoon had been quiet.
Republicans in Florida, a group that includes a majority of Cuban-Americans, are seeking to hand Trump another victory in the state and also take back two key legislative districts they lost in the mid-term elections and which are currently represented by Democrats Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala.
In this election, Floridians will also elect some of the representatives for their 27 federal congressional districts as well as a large number of state lawmakers, a majority of whom are from the GOP, along with other officials like judges.
One of the most hard-fought federal seats is that of Ecuadorian-American Mucarsel-Powell, who is seeking reelection but being challenged by Cuban-American Carlos Gimenez, the current mayor of Miami-Dade County who has received Trump’s backing.
Another important campaign is the one in neighboring District 27, which includes a good part of Miami-Dade County, including Little Havana and which is now represented by Shalala, who in 2018 ousted Republican Cuban-American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Her opponent is a well-known journalist and television news anchor, Maria Elvira Salazar, who is of Cuban origin and whom she defeated in 2018.
Meanwhile, Democrat Daniella Levine Cava is facing off against Republican Esteban Bovo, who received the support of Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, for the Miami-Dade County mayoral post, with the heavily populated southeastern county being the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in Florida with some 3,700 deaths and more than 187,000 confirmed cases since March 1.
And Darren Soto, the first congressman from Florida of Puerto Rican origin, is defending his seat against Republican William Olson, a retired US Army sergeant.
Soto was elected in 2016 in District 9, in central Florida, which includes the city of Orlando and makes up part of the electorally strategic I-4 highway corridor, which has a high Puerto Rican population.
That corridor, in which half of the total of more than 14 million registered Florida voters, is a key area within a decisive state, which could give the presidential victory to either Democrats or Republicans. There on Election Day is Jill Biden, the wife of the former vice president.
On the other hand, candidates Anna Paulina Luna and Laura Loomer have also drawn attention, since they have received Trump’s support via the social networks and are going up against veteran Democratic lawmakers Charlie Crist, in the Tampa Bay area, and Lois Frankel, in Palm Beach County.
Luna is known for being an Air Force veteran and Loomer is famous for touting conspiracy theories and claiming to be a “proud Islamophobe,” as well as for having been booted from Twitter and from Facebook for her “dangerous” posts.