It’s All Coming Down to Turnout
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It’s All Coming Down to Turnout

Record Early Voting Turnout Shows Bump in Key Voter Groups

Early voting data suggests this will be a record turnout for a mid-term election.

To date, more than 30 million Americans have cast early ballots ahead of Tuesday’s contests, surpassing 2014’s totals and underscoring the notion that there is unusually strong voter enthusiasm this year, even in areas studied with demographics where people have all but ignored midterms in the past.

Analysts are predicting that overall turnout this year could approach 50%, a level not seen since the 1960s, a pivotal time in American politics and activism.

As most people know, the winning party comes down to the one that galvanizes its base to get to the polls. Without that, nothing really matters. That’s why we see efforts like that of Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, trying to purge voter rolls in the historic race where he is up against a candidate who could become the state’s first female black governor, Stacey Abrams (D). On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross filed an injunction granting an emergency request to allow more than 3,000 individuals to vote on Tuesday. Of course, these residents are disproportionately minorities and were flagged by Kemp, who heads the state’s election system, for so-called citizenship issues.

538.com’s most recent forecast for the House of Representatives. Click for a bigger map.

The turnout for 2014 with 83 million Americans voting was only about 36%, which is considered low, even for midterms that typically run at levels well below presidential elections. In the 2016 presidential election, 137.5 million Americans voted—representing more than 60% of the electorate.

Turnout is expected to be up across the board, which means we shouldn’t be in for any real surprises on election night, according to The Cook Political Report. Jaw-droppers happen when there are disproportionate turnouts with a few groups voting in unusually higher or lower numbers than anticipated.

This year, everyone is banking on the female voter making big gains at the ballot box, specifically college-educated white women who are expected to vote Democratic. As the Cook Political Report also noted, African-American women historically turn out in big numbers, compared with black men, who do not.

States with Election Day registration. Click for a larger map.

And though Latino voters have historically turned out in low numbers for mid-term elections, this year more than 29 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, up 4 million from 2014, and a majority – 55% – said they are more enthusiastic about voting this year compared with other congressional midterms, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center. Only 37% expressed enthusiasm about voting in the 2014 mid-term elections. In addition, 63% of Latinos have aligned with Democrats, up from 57% in 2014.

If some other equally impassioned group does not turn out to negate the blue wave of women and minorities, there should not be surprises election night and Democrats will likely take back the House, though most likely not the Senate.

Here are some other factors early voting is showing:

  • Democrats are outvoting Republicans in states that require party registration. To date, Democrats have cast 41% of early ballots compared with 36% for Republicans, according to a story in Time. And both parties are exceeding numbers in key locales; for Democrats, in urban strongholds, and for Republicans, in more rural counties.
  • Young voters in Florida are turning out in record numbers. Perhaps motivated by the activism of the victims of the Parkland, Fla., high-school shooting, of the 124,000 voters between the ages of 18 to 29 who voted early, nearly a third had not voted in the presidential election of 2016. And about half of those new voters were newly registered, according to Time.
  • Georgia is seeing a huge spike in new voters – 36% of 1.8 million early votes were from newly registered voters. New female voters outnumber men by more than 70,000 votes and the racial breakdown is almost a 50% split between whites and minorities, which all bodes well for Stacey Abrams. More than half of the early votes came in from voters over the age of 65 and in many of the state’s more conservative areas, which could help Abrams’ opponent, Kemp.
  • In at least six states, the total of early votes is nearing the total turnout for the 2014 midterms. Those states include Arizona, Georgia, Montana, Nevada (where early voting has already surpassed the total number of ballots cast in the 2014 midterms), Tennessee and Texas.
November 5, 2018