A record 28 million Americans already have cast ballots nationwide with barely two weeks remaining in the US presidential election.
Floridians have begun early voting in much of the state with no serious problems reported as the Trump campaign tries to cut into an early advantage Democrats have posted in mail-in votes in the key swing state.
Many polling sites had long lines before dawn as voters awaited their opening. One county had to close early voting sites after the elections supervisor and an employee tested positive for the coronavirus and another county had its website go down.
In Miami, Aldo Rodriguez, 62, lined up early and waited in heavy rain to cast his ballot for Democrat Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.
He said he wanted to make sure his ballot for the former vice president gets counted.
Biden "knows pretty much how the country was running and hopefully he’ll get it back the same way it was," Rodriguez said. “No fighting against any colours or races, we are all the same. ... We shouldn’t have this bickering.”
In Orlando, some voters cast their ballots at the arena used by the NBA's Magic, where coach Steve Clifford assisted poll workers. The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning's arena and the NFL's Tampa Buccaneers stadium are also being used as early voting sites as sports teams around the country have been encouraging turn out.
"I felt like I was a player. I just had to make the right decisions," said Anton Versch, 30, after he cast his ballot for Trump. Versch, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, said his main issue is "freedom," particularly of speech and the right to bear arms.
"We should be able to do the most that we are allowed to do, as long as we aren’t infringing on anybody’s rights or liberties," Versch said.
With 29 electoral votes, Florida is crucial to both candidates but especially Trump, who moved his official residence to his Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago from New York last year.
A Florida loss would make it nearly impossible for Trump to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to retain the White House. The state typically has close elections, most notably in 2000 when Republican George W Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes after a recount.
California Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, will visit Orlando and Jacksonville on Monday to encourage her party’s voters to cast early ballots. Trump will visit Florida on Friday after visiting last week.
Under state law, counties can offer up to two weeks of early voting and many do, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and other population centres.
Large counties offer multiple sites and all counties allow those who have received mail-in ballots to drop them off. The latest a county can start early voting is Saturday. The final day is November 1.
Candidates spar over pandemic
At a rally in Carson City, Nevada, on Sunday, where voting began the day before, Trump implored his supporters to "get out and vote" to help him flip a state that he lost narrowly to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Despite his recent recovery from his own bout with the virus, Trump mocked Biden for his cautious approach toward the pandemic.
"Listen to the scientists!" Trump said in a mocking voice. "If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression."
In North Carolina, where 1.4 million, or 20 percent, of the state's registered voters had voted as of Sunday morning, Biden urged residents to vote as soon as possible and attacked Trump for saying the country had "turned the corner" on the pandemic.
"Things are getting worse, and he continues to lie to us about circumstances," said Biden, who will debate Trump for a final time on Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee.
About 2.5 million mail-in ballots have already been cast, with Democrats returning 1.2 million and Republicans about 758,000 as of Monday.
Non-affiliated voters and third-party members make up the rest. The number of mail-in votes is approaching the 2.7 million cast in 2016 when Republicans had a 70,000-vote margin on returns.
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the state by about 113,000 votes. No Republican has won the presidency without winning Florida since Calvin Coolidge in 1924.
The Republican-dominated county has approximately 150,000 voters.