MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Historically speaking, a high turnout for absentee ballots has favored the Republican Party. This year, while Republicans are enjoying a lead, Democrats have started to chip away at the absentee ballot numbers and it’s generated a new emphasis on getting the vote out early.

According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, more than 284,000 voters have already cast absentee ballots in the state of Florida over the past week. To date, roughly 2 million Florida voters have requested absentee ballots.

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According to the Herald, Republicans are leading the absentee-vote race in North Florida, Naples, and Miami-Dade County. Democrats are seen leading in Central Florida, Tampa’s two biggest counties and in Broward County.

Overall, Republicans have case 126,000 absentee votes to Democrats 114,000, or by a 44-40 percent margin. But these numbers are in stark contrast to 2008, when President Barack Obama won the Sunshine State en route to the presidency.

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At this time in 2008, Democrats were down by 16 points in cast absentee ballots, compared to a four percent difference this year, according to the Herald.

In years past, Democrats would hold the trump card of early voting in their back pocket. But, after the legislature cut early voting hours, when Democrats typically far outnumber Republicans, Democrats turned their attention to also trying to get typically early voters to cast absentee votes.

As for independent voters, which make up roughly ¼ of the electorate, they have cast roughly 44,000 early ballots and requested a total of 357,000. The ballots began coming in just after Obama’s miserable first debate performance, which the Herald indicated could mean a lead for Romney.

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(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)