Democrats take the lead in Florida early voting

Story highlights

  • More than 5.7 million Floridians have already hit the polls
  • Turnout among Hispanics is up about 103% from where it was at this point in 2008

Washington (CNN)With three days before Election Day, Democratic turnout has edged ahead of Republicans for the first time since early voting began in the critical battleground state of Florida.

The milestone is a boon to Hillary Clinton's chances of carrying the Sunshine State and its 29 electoral votes -- a prize so large that it would help her close off most of Donald Trump's paths to victory.
    But it's not all good news for Democrats: Their current lead is significantly smaller than the turnout advantage they had over registered Republicans at this point in 2008.
      Clinton and her vice presidential running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, were in Florida this weekend. Even though Clinton's rally in Pembroke Pines was cut short Saturday due to heavy rain, she visited two early voting locations near Miami, and her effort to churn out early voters might be working.
      More than 5.7 million Floridians have already hit the polls after about two weeks of in-person early voting. So far, 2,268,663 Democrats have cast their ballots and 2,261,383 Republicans have already voted.
      These are not results -- ballots aren't tallied until Election Day. But the numbers provide clues on who is voting and which party is turning out to vote. And while the numbers track voters' party affiliations, not all Democrats are voting for Clinton, and not all Republicans are supporting Trump.
      The GOP lead was carried by strong numbers in absentee voting, and their overall edge stood at about 16,500 earlier this week. But Democratic turnout picked up steam, and they're now ahead by a little more than 7,200 votes, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of State.
      Democrats slowly chipped away at the Republican advantage, largely thanks to strong turnout from Hispanic voters. While they are more split in Florida than in other states, Hispanic voters disproportionately favor Democrats. And this year, turnout among Hispanics is up about 103% from where it was at this point in 2008, according to a CNN analysis of early voting data from Catalist.
      CNN has partnered with Catalist, a data company that works with progressive candidates and advocacy groups, academics and think tanks, to receive detailed early vote return information this year. Catalist's voter list connects returned ballots with demographic and registration information, such as party registration, gender and age, and allows a closer look at who has already cast a vote in the election.
      The huge growth among Hispanics is notable because they are the fastest growing ethnic group in the Florida electorate right now.
      Turnout is up across the board, compared to early voting in 2008. But it only increased by about 41% among white voters and only about 13% among black voters.
      The relatively small growth in African-American turnout helps explain why Democrats are behind their early voting pace from 2008, a year when then-Sen. Barack Obama carried the state by only 3%.
      Right now, registered Democrats are ahead by about 7,200 votes. That pales in comparison to the roughly 146,000-voter edge they saw at this point in 2008. African-Americans were 16% of the early voting electorate that year, but they're only about 13% of the electorate so far in 2016. An overwhelming majority of black voters in Florida are registered with the Democratic Party.
      Doing well in the early vote is absolutely critical in Florida, because a majority of voters cast early ballots in the past two presidential elections. This means the candidate behind in the early vote must make up ground on Election Day to stand a chance at winning Florida's electoral votes.