Richard Luscombe reports from Miami:
Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a keen Trump ally, ordered national guard troops to spread across the state in anticipation of any election day violence. But as polling entered its final hours on Tuesday afternoon, officials reported a “smooth” day of voting with no incidents.
The soldiers were deployed to several strategic locations, according to national guard spokesperson Lt Col Caitlin Brown, directly on DeSantis’s orders and out of “an abundance of caution”.
By lunchtime, turnout in Florida from mail-in ballots and early and election day in-person voting had surpassed the 9.4m votes cast in 2016, with the populous south-eastern counties of Miami-Dade and Broward recording higher-than-expected numbers.
Amid the record figures, it will be the millions of independent voters who will determine if Donald Trump keeps hold of the key swing state, or it falls back into Democratic hands with Joe Biden.
By late afternoon, almost 200,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats had voted, along with more than 2.5 million independents.
Nate Silver, editor in chief of poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight, said in a tweet: “There’s just not really that much you can tell without knowing who people voted for. Whether the electorate ends up at say R+3 or R+1 by party registration isn’t as important as whether Biden wins indies by 20 points or loses them by two.
“You can find high-quality polls showing Biden with a big lead among independents, a narrower lead among independents, and others with a tie or very small Trump lead among independents. They’re all over the place.”
Biden is pinning hopes on capturing support from Florida’s seniors, hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have a feeling Biden’s going to do better with seniors,” said Charles Zelden, professor of history and political science at Nova Southeastern University.
“If he loses that vote he’s going to lose it by only a couple of points whereas Trump won [seniors] by more than 15 points four years ago. This is Florida, it’s a game of inches.”