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Early Voting Starts Saturday Across S. Florida

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the South Carolina comes to an end Saturday, early voting in the Sunshine State will be just getting underway for the January 31 primary.

Voters can start to cast their early votes at locations across the state starting Saturday. Florida holds a closed primary, which means only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary and vice-versa.

  • Click here to see where you can vote and check out sample ballots and more on the candidates.

Early voting began earlier this week for five counties in the state who were using last year's early voting rules while they awaited word from the Justice Department if the new election law passed by the legislature would be allowed to be enforced under Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act.

If the flow of absentee ballots is a sign of things to come, it could be quite a busy time at early voting locations. As of earlier this week, more than 100,000 of roughly 440,000 absentee ballots had been returned to the state.

That could be the best news Mitt Romney gets coming out of South Carolina. After two debates, Newt Gingrich has been surging in tracking polls heading into Saturday's South Carolina primary.

Gingrich is now expected to pull off the upset and take South Carolina.

Romney would have lost two states in roughly 48 hours if that happens. Thursday morning, he conceded the state of Iowa to Rick Santorum after a recount in the state.

All of it could be putting a serious dent into the argument that it's inevitable that Mitt Romney will become the GOP nominee.

Gingrich's potential victory in South Carolina will also ratchet up the pressure on Santorum to possibly drop out of the race and throw his support behind Gingrich to unite the more conservative vote in the Republican primary.

Florida though will be the biggest test for all the candidates. It costs millions to run television ads across the state and it will also be the largest voter turnout so far in the primary season. The absentee ballot numbers alone are already greater than the total turnout in Iowa.

Florida will test the candidates' ability to spend money and test the organizational skills of the respective campaigns.

Florida's ballot will still be congested with candidates who have dropped out, most notably Rick Perry, who left the race Thursday.

Perry threw his weight behind Gingrich as both are considered among the most conservative in the primary race and many conservative Republican voters are searching for anyone to vote for but Mitt Romney.

  • Click here to see where you can vote and check out sample ballots and more on the candidates.
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