CHIPLEY — Early voting in Washington County was happening at record levels Thursday, according to the county Supervisor of Elections office.


CHIPLEY — Early voting in Washington County was happening at record levels Thursday, according to the county Supervisor of Elections office.



As of Thursday, 4,205 early and absentee votes had been received at the Supervisor of Elections office, said Supervisor Carol Finch Griffin and Deputy Supervisor Denise Stephens.



“This is better than we have had in the past,” Stephens said of the voter turnout. In fact, nearly 28 percent of the voters in the county had voted by Thursday afternoon.



According to Griffin, 2,067 Democrats, 1,905 Republicans and 233 other party candidates had already voted.



“We’re having a lot of voters come in,” Stephens said. “A lot of people are getting involved this year.”



As of Wednesday morning, Democrats held an advantage over Republicans statewide in total pre-Election Day ballots cast: 49,000. But Republicans pointed out that, compared to 2008, Democrats aren’t in the position to rack-up a major early-vote lead.



Part of the reason for that: the GOP-led Legislature last year cut early voting days to eight in Florida, down from 14 in 2008.



In all, Democrats edged Republicans by 118,000 early-vote ballots early in the week, but Republicans extended their absentee-vote lead to more than 69,000.



Nearly 2.7 million ballots have been cast out of a total of 12 million registered voters, 75 percent of whom are expected to vote. That means about 30 percent of the ballots could already be in.



Officials said this week that 2 million Floridians have already voted early.



In the final week before the election, both the Mitt Romney and the Barack Obama camps were present in Florida, if not in the Panhande. The sometimes acrimonious presidential campaign is likely driving some of the early voting, with the president’s vote early ads seemingly omnipresent on the internet. Florida is considered a key swing state in Tuesday’s election, and both candidates are polling practically neck-in-neck.



Mitt Romney campaigned Wednesday in Miami and Tampa where he delivered his standard campaign speech, with two notable exceptions.



Romney called on people to aid the survivors of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. And he never mentioned President Barack Obama by name, shying away from ostensibly attacking the Democrat.



“This is quite a time for the country, as you know,” Romney said in both Tampa and Miami. “We’re going through trauma in a major part of the country. … It’s interesting to see how people come together in circumstances like this.”



Romney’s toned-down approach underscores the difficulties of criticizing the nation’s commander in chief after a disaster.



But, with Vice President Joe Biden sharply criticizing Romney and running mate Paul Ryan on a campaign stop in Sarasota, the chances are that the Republican campaign won’t stay too positive for too long.



Romney’s positive tone also indicates his status in Florida — He’s ahead, albeit narrowly, according to numerous polls. Add in absentee ballot and early-vote numbers, and the race is as close as ever.



Front-runners usually stay as positive as long as possible.



To juice up Election Day turnout in Florida’s most-Democratic county, Obama plans to visit Broward on Sunday. With her husband busy surveying damage left by Superstorm Sandy, first lady Michelle Obama was heading to Florida on Thursday to speak to his supporters in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Miami.



She was trying to firm up the President Obama's message about what he believes is at stake for Florida voters going into next week's election.



President Obama cancelled his appearance in Orlando last week as Sandy prepared to make landfall and has since been using surrogates, including former president Bill Clinton, to keep a presence in a state that is expected to play a huge role in whether he wins a second term.



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.