Late last night, a coalition of civil rights groups sued the state, saying voters likely will be disenfranchised if Florida does not extend its vote-by-mail period amid the current public health crisis. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle somewhat agreed but ruled in a written order that it was too late to pull the plug on today's proceedings. Hinkle left the door open for further action to be taken after the polls close, however.
Regardless of how the legal battle shakes out, tonight's results in Florida should be interesting. Will Democratic voters in this new coronavirus reality choose former Vice President Joe Biden in hopes of seeing a familiar face in the Oval Office? Or will Floridians flock to the promise of a drastically expanded social safety net and Medicare for all, as preached by Bernie Sanders?
This post will be updated throughout the night — stay tuned to find out.
11:23 p.m.: It's inching toward midnight, and 98 percent of precincts in Miami-Dade have reported vote totals. So far, Joe Biden has taken home 61 percent of the vote, while Bernie Sanders is hovering around 22 percent. Michael Bloomberg captured 11 percent of the current total.
In prepared remarks, Biden thanked the poll workers who showed up despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
"Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president, is to unify our party – and to unify our nation," Biden said in an email sent to reporters. "It's at moments like these that we realize we need to put politics aside and work together as Americans."
That's all for tonight, folks! We’ll have more coverage for you tomorrow.
9:56 p.m.: It's pretty much decided already, Joe Biden snagged Miami-Dade. But we're still here. Cue the Titanic "It's been 84 years" meme. Miami-Dade is still at 701 out of 882 precincts reporting:
9:17 p.m.: Bernie Sanders once was leading among Latino voters, but that advantage hasn't appeared to help him in Miami-Dade. His Fidel Castro comments probably didn't help, either. With about 61 percent of Miami-Dade precincts reporting, Sanders has only a third of Joe Biden's votes.
BREAKING -- LATINO VOTE IN FLORIDA PRIMARY, data now coming in at precinct level, compiled by @UCLAlatino, here is Miami-Dade most heavily Latino precincts in Hialeah (heavily Cuban) and Biden leads by 20 points -- we're looking at Orange County next.... pic.twitter.com/yJZN2tO6CN— UCLA LPPI (@UCLAlatino) March 18, 2020
Election-day and vote-by-mail ballots are still being counted. Biden leads with 80,130 votes.
9:14 p.m.: It's been a tough night for Bernie Sanders, whose somewhat longshot odds of securing the Democratic presidential nomination became even longer after an electoral thrashing in Florida. Reports are coming in that Sanders did not win a single county in Florida, which might come as a surprise to many, given his strength with Hispanic voters in other states.
Bernie's advantage with Latino voters clearly isn't carrying over to Florida. He's still losing big in all the heavily Latino counties:— Ryan Matsumoto (@ryanmatsumoto1) March 18, 2020
Miami-Dade (69.1%) - Biden +28
Osceola (55.3%) - Biden +21
Hendry (54.3%) - Biden +46
Hardee (44.0%) - Biden +45#FloridaPrimary #FLPrimary
9:07 p.m.: There was very little appetite for bobadas in Florida tonight, as Joe Biden and the No Malarkey Train cruised to what could be a 40-percentage-point victory.
It’s official. Bernie Sanders did not win a single county in Florida tonight. https://t.co/Fmw66eck0L— Sabrina Rodríguez (@sabrod123) March 18, 2020
Evelyn Pérez-Verdía — a Democratic strategist focused on the Latino vote in Florida — says today is the day Democrats should unify around Biden, noting Florida's importance in the general election. According to Pérez-Verdía, the strength of incumbent Donald Trump's victory suggests that Democrats will have to go all-out to beat him in November.
8:32 p.m.: Joe Biden continues to deliver a whooping against Bernie Sanders in Miami-Dade County, with about 35 percent of precincts reporting. Of 882 total precincts, 307 have reported 14,115 election-day votes for Biden and 4,557 for Sanders.
I think think Florida gave the “última bailada” to the “revolución” today. pic.twitter.com/P8AatdSnZ6— Evelyn Pérez-Verdía (@EvelynPR) March 18, 2020
8:28 p.m.: With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Joe Biden has swept the vote in the ultra-blue Broward County. More than two-thirds of voters went for Biden, putting his current vote total at 119,492.
Bernie Sanders managed to grab a little more than 19 percent of the vote, while Michael Bloomberg — who is no longer running — was the pick of 8 percent of Broward voters.
8:24 p.m.: The fat lady is damn near close to singing as CNN has already called Florida for Joe Biden. According to a CNN primary poll, Biden sailed to victory thanks to support from voters older than age 65, moderates, and black voters. It will be interesting to see what the final figures look like for Hispanic voters, who have been a core part of Bernie Sanders' victories in other primary elections.
A fun tidbit: Based off early votes and partial reporting of mail-in votes, Palm Beach County — Trump's new official residence — is one of the localities where he's received the lowest amount of support.
7:57 p.m.: Overall, statewide turnout is up for Democrats compared to 2016 — and they're very happy about it. In the words of a recent email from the Democratic Party of Florida (DPFL), the higher turnout shows "that Floridians are energized and committed to defeating Donald Trump in 2020." Time will tell whether that's true or not, but for now, it's worth looking at statewide turnout numbers.
So far the Florida county where Trump is the most unpopular that I've seen -- is his (now) home county of Palm Beach pic.twitter.com/FBWviVLPnE— Danny Rivero (@TooMuchMe) March 17, 2020
According to DPFL, roughly 140,000 more Democrats voted by mail this year than they did in 2016, while 74,000 more people voted early in person this year than they did in 2016. In-person turnout will likely be affected by concerns related to the novel coronavirus, so take those figures with a grain of salt as they're released.
And NBC News correspondent Steve Kornacki says expected state turnout this year is 2.25 million:
7:48 p.m.: How big of a prize is Florida in the race for Democratic presidential nomination? Bernie Sanders is estimated by the Associated Press to have gained a net advantage over Joe Biden of 108 delegates from his wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, California, Colorado, Utah, Vermont, and North Dakota. If Biden's current advantage holds in Florida, nearly all of those gains by Sanders could be dashed tonight in one single contest.
Our decision desk expects turnout for the Florida Dem primary will end up around 2.25 million. In 2016, it was 1.7 million.— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) March 17, 2020
7:46 p.m.: With 122 of 882 precincts reporting in Miami-Dade County, Joe Biden has the lead with 57 percent of the vote. Bernie Sanders, who's had an uphill battle on the campaign trail in Florida, has so far earned over just 20 percent of Miami-Dade voters.
In the AP projections, Sanders netted-108 delegates over Biden out of his wins in IA, NH, NV, CA, CO, UT, ND, VT— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) March 17, 2020
Nearly all of that will be canceled out by Biden's victory in Florida, alone
Interestingly, Michael Bloomberg has garnered 15 percent of the current vote total, despite dropping out of the presidential race earlier this month.
7:40 p.m.: Fresh out of the oven, we have early voting totals and partial mail-in voting totals for Palm Beach County. Michael Bloomberg is slightly outperforming Bernie Sanders, 14 percent to 13 percent.
The Bloomberg effect in Miami-Dade: Turnout for just early voting and partial VBM shows Biden at 56%, Sanders at 20% and BLoombert at 17%. In Broward, where Biden did better with early voters, Sanders is at 18%— David Smiley (@NewsbySmiley) March 17, 2020
But, as in Broward, Joe Biden has run away with it again, drawing more than 65 percent of voters. The early vote could have an outsize effect on the primary election this year if concerns over COVID-19 lead to lower than normal election-day participation.
7:36 p.m.: Joe Biden seems to have won over Democrats in Miami-Dade County, if early-voting numbers are any indication. Biden received 29,578 early votes, which make up about 75 percent of the early-vote total. Bernie Sanders trailed behind with just 9,927 early votes.
7:15 p.m.: Early votes are in for Broward County and, predictably, they look great for Joe Biden. The former vice president received more than 63 percent of 115,894 early votes. Bernie Sanders came in a distant second with roughly 18 percent of the early vote, followed by Michael Bloomberg who received 11 percent, or 14,285. Had Bloomberg not already dropped out of the race, he might've been disappointed by these early results, having dumped millions on ad campaigns in the Sunshine State.