11/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Absentee Ballot Requests Energize Florida Democrats And Encourage Obama Supporters

Just three weeks before Election Day, Florida has a blue tinge!

Sunshine State Democrats - mindful of the fiasco in 2000 which gave the Presidency to George W. Bush - are being urged daily to vote early or by absentee ballot to provide a huge cushion of Blue votes before November 4th. Meanwhile, Republicans are bringing out their top guns to fire up voters to keep Florida and its 27 electoral votes Red, despite the disastrous weekend news that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has an ethics problem in Alaska.

In overwhelmingly Democratic Broward county (Fort Lauderdale and its suburbs), more than eight per cent of its 997,321 voters had asked for absentee ballots as of this weekend. It leads many to believe absentee voting could set records and that the Democratic campaign to register new voters is paying off.

"There is a huge number of absentee ballot requests-- more than 80,000 so far, and requests will be taken until the Wednesday before election day. And we expect early voting (Oct. 20-Nov. 2) to be equally heavy," said Mary Cooney, public service director and aide to Broward County Elections Supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes. Similar reports are being reported statewide. In several counties, comparable heavy absentee ballot requests, are keeping election supervisors and their staffs busy.

As a result of such keen interest in the presidential election, there is one view that both parties seem to have in common--the possibility that once again, Florida could decide the Presidency. However, media reports and polls indicate a Democratic victory. The state's largest newspaper, the Miami Herald, on Sunday had as its top page one headline "Polls Point to Decisive D.C. Shift," and indicated "Barack Obama could be on the winning end of a transforming election."

Floridians, meanwhile, are getting a constant barrage of television commercials, telephone bank calls, mailed campaign literature, and in-person visits by the candidates or their surrogates in unprecedented numbers.

How does Florida look? As most of the pollsters report via daily newspapers and television, it started out with Sen McCain ahead, then it became an even election, now it looks like Sen. Obama has taken the lead. And, today, with the economy in turmoil, Democrats are saying it looks better and better for their party. A Fox/Rasmussen poll this past week tallied 52 per cent for Obama and 45 per cent for McCain, a CNN report had it at 48-45, and Gallop had a 10 point difference, a dramatic shift to the Democratic nominee from previous polls a week earlier. There are even some predictions now of an Obama landslide.

It should be noted that these polls were taken prior to Friday night's news bulletin that Gov. Palin has an ethics problem in her home state - a news item which could affect the McCain campaign.

However, if one can utilize media reports and polls in this key swing state as an indication, the unprecedented number of absentee ballot requests could be a sign of a trend

Steve Schale, Florida State Director of Obama for America, said that part of the strategy is to
urge absentee and early voting "to make an impact and help us win." Workshops were held
this past weekend throughout Florida to get volunteers and party activists to work toward this

Meanwhile, Republican strategists - buoyed by visits from Sen. Joe Lieberman in South Florida and by vice presidential nominee Palin to some conservative areas near Pensacola and Jacksonville - are also asking for supporters to vote early. For example, Palin was dispatched to Estero, a small town known for its evangelical history, where a rally was held in a hockey rink in which she repeated many of the charges featured in McCain TV ads, blasting Obama and has held private fundraisers, reportedly raising 3 millon dollars at two events. This all occurred shortly before Palin's troubles burst anew that an Alaska legislative committee finds that she unlawfully abused her authority in firing the state's public safety commissioner. The Republican vice presidential nominee has been accused of firing a commissioner to settle a family dispute, an argument vehemently denied by the governor.

Some Florida GOP supporters were trying to get the "news" off Palin while emphasizing McCain's latest economic suggestion. But, McCain is reportedly facing a fresh round of anger from members of his own party -- particularly several economic conservatives --deeply opposed to the Arizona senator's proposal for the federal government to purchase troubled mortgage loans. McCain first mentioned his mortgage relief plan during Tuesday's town-hall debate with Obama. The backlash came as McCain hoped his plan would resonate with moderate voters, while Palin kept the conservative wing of the party soothed.

Campaign visits to the Peninsula are on the increase. Democratic veep nominee Sen. Joe Biden
made several Southeastern Florida stops, increasingly before the area's relatively large Jewish
population. New Year's greetings from Biden and Obama, citing their longtime support of Israel, flooded mailboxes of Jewish voters in several counties. Biden also attracted large crowds in the Tampa area, as well as in normally GOP-leaning Fort Myers.

Most pundits say that turnout will eventually determine the outcome for Florida's important electoral status Democratic leaders are saying that they have registered 170,000 new voters, while Republican strategists say they believe the current polls can be overturned by rallying its party's base. The GOP were leaving that job for Palin, but now with the Alaska legislature ruling against her action Friday, that could change. No news yet on how many stops the Republican v.p. nominee will make in Florida or the number of McCain visits (most believe he will be in Florida often), while Obama enthusiasts say that Obama and Biden will spend a lot of time in the Sunshine State between now and election day.

"You can count on Florida to deliver 27 electoral votes for the Democrats," says Ann Zucker, president of the Council of Broward Democratic clubs.

With the surge in absentee voting, it is beginning to look more every day that Zucker's enthusiasm may be catching!