Of course, it must be said that early voting data can be a very poor predictor of election results.
Firstly, the the breakdown is by voter party registration (in states where there is party registration and this data is available), and not necessarily by whom the voter actually voted for. It is specifically weak in this regard when it comes to Independents or non affiliated voters (who did they vote for? That remains the question).
Secondly, early voting comes in at various times and is counted at various times so comparing results from one election to another is difficult. However, those caveats aside, it is still something that we can look at for some general trends.
The mainstream polls are predicting a very large Biden victory, and we are also seeing very large early voting ballot numbers compared to previous years. This is in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic fears, that have many voters weary of going to the voting booth. Democrats have been pushing for more mail-in ballots than Republicans who typically prefer to “see” their ballot going in.
All of these factors put together, plus others, may have many expecting large Democratic voter ballot leads in early voting, especially in key battleground states. Democrats (and women in particular), in general tend to like early voting (though it depends where) more than GOPers. This is especially the case in this election, Democratic voters are more likely to fear the coronavirus, and are also more likely to live in riot and unrest-prone urban centers. If you are not afraid of the virus, you may be afraid of riots. Either way, big incentives for Democrats to vote by mail and early, as their party and mainstream media has been urging them to do.
And while the overall early voting numbers are up big time, the big Democratic leads we might be expecting are not there, at least not yet and not in certain key states.
So first let us take a look at some states with more solid data:
Here are the early voting numbers in Florida for the past few elections.
The 2008 data is as reported by CNN on Nov 4th 2016, as being at the same point in the election. The 2016 data is as reported by the Florida SOS on November 7th 2016. This is one of the reasons one must be careful with early voting data, but it is more or less equivalent to our current point in the 2020 election, right near the end, and a day or two before the actual election day.
To break this down further, and get a better visual look, we have the following table:
With final Results in Florida of:
|By How Much
We can see that early voting ballot numbers for registered Democrats fall for each election. The numbers for 2016 and 2020 might be identical or slightly different since our 2020 numbers are rounded (note if you round the 2016 numbers you get the same as the current 2020 numbers). This means that that we have a lower number of Democrat votes thus far compared to elections where the Democrats carried the state, and we are on par with an election where the GOP did. Republican ballots as a percent diminish also from 2008, but less so. This indicates perhaps increased disappointment (if not disgust) for both major parties, and we have an evident increase of “Other” returned ballots. Depending on the state, Other may include Independents, smaller party registrations, and non affiliated voters.
Furthermore, for the past 3 election cycles, the final results have shown a growing GOP voting trend. This corresponds to the shrinking registered Democrat turnout, and a preference among Independents (“Other”) to favor the GOP candidate in recent elections.
Nothing we see thus far, in the early voting indicates a drastic change in the opposite directions which is what the left would need for a Biden victory in the state. It also does not correlate well with some of the mainstream polling numbers we have been shown.
While the GOP carried Florida the last 2 elections, Nevada has been a consistent blue state since 2008. However, again we see the same trends as in Florida.
For final Results in Nevada:
The trend in Nevada is quite striking, as the Democratic registered voter edge shrinks, despite demographic changes purported to be causing the opposite, and sharply reduces the final Democratic party lead in the state. While we do not see a large swing in the GOP’s favor thus far, one that might finally flip Nevada for the GOP, we do see a small improvement with the share of GOP ballots turned in going up about a percent (depending on what the true un-rounded 2020 number is), and a further drop in Democratic votes. Again, we see about a 1% increase in the “Other” category, now reaching a quarter of the ballots turned in thus far. We do not know which way these are breaking of course, but again, if we consider that at this point rather than seeing large Democrat early voting leads1 as the common wisdom expects, which the GOP has a chance to make up for on election day, we instead are seeing small improvements for the GOP, these may be bright news indeed.
At the least, it is not a sign of the Biden landslide the mainstream media has been predicting. It also means that it is possible for Trump to make a play for Nevada, which has been trending towards the GOP since at least 2008.
Again, a sharp decrease for Democratic numbers, while GOP numbers have been steady. In fact, again depending on rounding being done in the 2020 numbers currently reported, we may have a slight increase from 2016 in GOP early ballot numbers. The shrinking Democratic vote, seemingly has mostly gone to the “Other” column, now at a very high 31% of early ballots turned in. Which way are they going? Probably not to Biden in large measure, but we shall see.
For final election numbers in North Carolina:
|By How Much
Clearly, the type of turnout Obama was able to bring forth in 2008 was sharply diminished even for him in 2012, when Romney carried the state, and completely gone in 2016 when Trump carried the state with a comfortable lead. The early voting data does not indicate this has changed drastically for Biden.
Now, one might say that while Florida looks likely to go Trump, North Carolina very likely to do so as well, and Nevada a toss up that may still be leaning towards Biden, this is nothing new.
This may be nothing new to conservatives and Trump supporters following more nuanced fact-based reporting, but it would certainly be a shock to anyone regularly watching the mainstream news and mainstream polls. Outside of Trafalgar, Rasmussen, and another pollster or two, the majority of polls have Biden easily carrying all 3 of the discussed states.
More importantly, this early data is a good sanity check for those contrarian pollsters, and it may mean that if they were right in these three states, they may be right in others.
I would have loved to do this analysis for Arizona as well (not to mention Pennsylvania which did not have early voting in 2016), but it proved difficult to do so accurately, meaning lining up the early voting ballots by party affiliation in the equivalent dates. Early voting results vary wildly earlier on in the election period, and so the comparison would not be meaningful. If anyone would like to contribute with a similar Arizona comparison, that would be most welcome.
If we extrapolate the trend in these 3 states, since 2008, (logarithmic, though any type will have a near perfect R squared since it is only 3 points), it looks promising for the GOP. The GOP goes from taking none of these 3 states in 2008 to all 3 in 2020. The pandemic circus of course throws a wrench into what otherwise might have been but many voters are smart enough to separate such a world-wide event like that from partisan politics (or assume blindly and against evidence to the contrary, that Biden would have done better).
The early voting data, as being reported by ABC has a couple of other real shockers. However, these, though undoubtedly encouraging to Trump supporters and other patriots, have to be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s take a look.
Given everything that has been reported about Michigan, the Democrat’s propensity for early voting, the massive size of the early vote (up nearly 200% from 2016), it is incredible to see Republican ballots significantly more numerous than Democratic ones. Especially with a non affiliated number that is not that large compared to some of the other states we have looked at.
Even more incredible is the data for Wisconsin.
That is simply unbelievable! So why does this have to be taken with a grain of salt I say? Well to temper this data with an important caveat, neither Michigan nor Wisconsin make this data available. Registration is typically at the local primary level and not state registration. In both states, there is no publicly available affiliation information for registered voters at the state level. Due to this reason, you can see ABC’s disclaimer on these particular graphs:
Last updated Nov. 1. Party registration is modeled by TargetSmart from multiple commercial sources.
I don’t know how well or how poorly TargetSmart is calculating this, but for what it’s worth, there is certainly positive data for the GOP. With any luck, these trends are real, powerful, and will carry through to the critical state of Pennsylvania along with Minnesota and Arizona (besides those discussed here).
The other factor to keep in mind is the following. If we think that there is no inherent reason why more Democrat voters vote early than Republicans, than this early data looks cautiously optimistic for Trump. If we believe as we were told that Democrats will vote early in much larger numbers, than the data would be a very large positive indicator for Trump.
The truth may be, for these states, somewhere in the middle. For example, in Pennsylvania, where early voting is new, the state has released information indicated registered Democrats voting early in a ratio of 3 to 1. So this effect is certainly a reality at least in some places, but it may be diminished in states where early voting not new and fairly common as is the case in these states. In Nevada for example, 69% of all votes were cast early already in 2016. The assumed disparity may be diminished in certain states because voters of both parties are used to the early voting system, are comfortable with it, and perhaps just as likely to use it regardless of affiliation.
That caveat aside, voter registration rolls in general are favoring the Republicans, and unlike in 2016, Trump and the GOP have an excellent groundgame in place. The enthusiasm gap, which Trump enjoys helps in this factor, and even in Michigan and Wisconsin where party affiliation is an unknown, we do have reporting that shows diminished registration in Democratic leaning areas and increased registration in Republican or conservative leaning areas.
The final result is far from certain yet, it all depends on who shows up on election day, besides obviously for whom the 80 plus million early voters voted for, but this early data bodes well for the Trump campaign. If these trends are correct, the campaign needs to capitalize on them in the time remaining.
If the mainstream polls are wrong to the extent that the likes of Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida are safely in the Red column, then there may still be work to be done on the remaining states critical for a Trump victory where the mainstream polls are showing larger gaps.
This means a strategy of winning either Pennsylvania, and/or Michigan AND Arizona at the least. With Wisconsin, Maine, and Nevada also critical for buffers in more unlikely scenarios. The election is very much in play.