TAMPA, Fla. (CBSMiami/AP) — More than half of Central Florida residents who voted with absentee ballots have sent them back.

Pinellas County voters as of Friday had returned more than half of nearly 270,000 absentee ballots mailed to them, according to a report Saturday in the The Tampa Bay Times .

Two years ago, about 42 percent had returned their ballots at the same point, and during the last midterm elections the number was even lower at 34 percent.

A spokesman for the Hillsborough County supervisor of Elections Office says the office has already received more early ballots than it did during the entire 2010 election.

Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted central Florida this season in their get out the vote efforts.

Early voting in Pasco and Hernando counties began Saturday.

Republicans have traditionally voted more heavily in absentee ballots than Democrats, but officials said their advantage was smaller this year than in 2010. Democrats have stepped up outreach particularly in Central Florida. So too have Latino groups, hoping to get more Hispanic voters, who tend to vote less along party lines, to the polls.

This is the first statewide general election in which experts expect the majority of Florida’s nearly 12 million voters to cast their votes before Election Day, Nov. 4.

Officials say despite the increase, the number of ballots rejected so this year is lower than in the past.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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