More than 12.6 million Americans had already voted as of October 28, and early voting is showing signs of strength for Hillary Clinton that matches most recent polling.
Democrats are exceeding their 2012 early voting tallies in some states, such as North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona. Trump is holding steady in Ohio, Iowa, and Georgia, but even the latter state went for Mitt Romney by a greater margin than Trump is polling on average there. Furthermore, Clinton can still win the Electoral College even if she loses the above states where Trump is performing well, and she’s encroaching on states that almost always go red.
Polls show she is running closer than expected in Texas (last won by a Democratic presidential candidate in 1976) and in Arizona, which, other than Bill Clinton squeaking through in 1996, last voted for a Democratic president in 1948. Although it’s less clear in Texas, which doesn’t report party affiliation of early voters, Arizona early voting trends match the polling by indicating that Hillary Clinton has a shot there.
It’s obviously a danger sign that Trump is defending what is normally reliable Republican turf this late in the game. It all adds up to a scenario in which the Republican nominee is on defense in the waning days of the campaign, although he’s accused pollsters of oversampling Democrats and is claiming the polling results are phony. You can see different Electoral College pathways for both candidates here.
Even more ominous for Trump, though, there are some signs that Clinton is “showing strength” in Florida early voting with high numbers of Democratic requests for mail-in ballots compared to 2012. Republicans do lead in overall early voting ballot returns there; thus, Fox News says Trump has a “potential advantage” in Florida as a result. Others say early voting has demonstrated some indications of strength for Clinton in a state where polling has been extremely tight.
However, the early voting largely occurred before FBI Director James Comey stunned the country by sending Congress a letter October 28 saying that the FBI was reviewing a new cache of emails found in an unrelated investigation (it turns out to be the Anthony Weiner sexting investigation). Comey wrote that the agency wants to see whether they are significant to the agency’s previous investigation into Clinton’s email server. Some have criticized Comey’s decision to release the letter, and Clinton has demanded the FBI provide more details. A few states allow people to change early votes and are reporting some people are doing so.
Democratic early voting in North Carolina and Florida is outpacing Barack Obama’s 2012 pace and Republican early voting was behind Mitt Romney’s pace – a trend seen in some other battleground states.
Florida and North Carolina, in particular, could be pivotal and allow Clinton to survive losing a state like Ohio. In reverse, if Trump wins those states, he’s in a much stronger position (and a new Bloomberg poll out of Florida on October 26 has Trump leading that state by 2 percent, within the margin for error). Still, Clinton can afford to lose some of the swing states where Trump is strong if she wins a series of other battleground states. Trump needs to exceed Romney’s results across the country to have a chance.
It’s important to remember that states only report early voting by party affiliation and not actual vote tallies, so it’s not certain for whom registered Democrats or Republicans voted. Some states don’t even provide early voting party affiliation, but geographic analysis can provide clues (such as the fact that populous Texas areas that are more favorable to Democrats have had a huge surge in early voting).
Furthermore, how “unaffiliated” voters cast their ballots could matter (there are a lot of them in some states – 2 million or so in North Carolina alone), and it’s possible some people crossed over from their party to vote for a third party candidate or candidate from the opposite party. That’s especially true as both candidates are perceived negatively even by some voters in their own parties, coming out of contested primaries (and with Trump in outright war at times with the GOP establishment.) It’s been a volatile election year that has defied traditional expectations time and again. And Trump is not a traditional Republican nominee.
Some experts don’t think early voting is a very good way to predict elections, in part because they are voters who were likely to vote anyway. However, as early voting increases across the nation in recent years, that could change somewhat. Some conservatives argue that the enthusiasm seen at some Trump rallies could mean his voters will want to vote in person on election day (although strong enthusiasm could also lend one to believe a person might cast an early vote because his or her mind is thoroughly made up).
It’s more likely to mean something when there’s been an early voting increase over 2012, as we are seeing in some battleground states for registered Democrats. However, an analysis of 2012 early voting returns by FiveThirtyEight found only a weak correlation to final voting tallies. The site noted: “Yes, the relationship is positive, but it’s pretty noisy…knowing how a party is doing in early voting doesn’t tell you much about how it will do once all the votes are counted.” In some states, like Nevada, the early Democratic early voting edge was up compared to 2012 in the first days but is not level with 2012.
Associate Professor Michael McDonald wrote in a detailed analysis for The Huffington Post that: “Despite weakness for Clinton in the Midwest, Clinton looks well-positioned in other states Trump still needs for an Electoral College victory.”
Early voting was causing long lines, despite efforts in some states to controversially restrict early voting locations and hours. In Ohio, where early voting was restricted, it’s down. Thirty-seven states and D.C. offer early voting.
Early voting has been on the rise nationally. Fivethirtyeight reported that, in 2000, 16 percent of votes for president were cast early, but the number rose to 36 percent in 2012. This could also bode well for Clinton as it gives Trump less time to recover from the series of misconduct allegations that hit him just as the polls had become a virtual tie. Since then, Clinton has widened the gap, although a few recent polls (but not others) showed Trump was recovering in polling somewhat. Clinton leads an average 5.4 percent in RealClearPolitics polling averages.
Here’s what you need to know about early voting in some key states as of October 29:
In Arizona, reported Fox News, more registered Democrats have voted early than registered Republicans, although there’s no way to know for sure for whom they actually voted.
ABC News reported that Democrats “have a 44 percent to 31 percent lead over Republicans in ballots returned. Another 25 percent were independent or unknown.” In 2012, Democrats were also leading, but the margin was tighter: 38 percent to 35 percent, according to Catalist, ABC said. That speaks to a surge of Democratic engagement (or at least early voting).
CNN says that, as of October 26, registered Democrats are ahead by 4,116 votes, up from this time in 2012, when they were behind by more than 21,000 early votes.
Arizona has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and a recent poll showed the state deadlocked. The fact that Trump is defending states that should be reliably red bodes well for Clinton. He was ahead 1 percentage point in the most recent poll, but she leads by 1.5 percentage points in polling averages for that state.
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North Carolina is shaping up to be one of – if not the single most – important states for both candidates.
Fox News said more Democratic registered voters have voted early in North Carolina than Republicans. That’s up slightly from their early voting advantage in 2012 (whereas Republican early voting was down slightly). Again, it’s not clear whom people voted for, though. TechRepublic found that many more Democrats have early voted in North Carolina than Republicans (CNN says by more than 100,000 votes), but what matters most is how those trends compare to 2012.
The slight increase in Democratic early voting is not good news for Trump, though, since Romney won North Carolina by only 2 percent in 2012. However, there are some caveats.
According to CNN, an ominous sign can also be found for Clinton in the data; the percentage of African-American voters has dropped in North Carolina since the last presidential election. More early voting polling places were being opened Thursday and Friday, which could boost that turnout.
The Citizen Times said on October 29 that “registered Democrats participating in early voting have consistently outpaced Republicans and unaffiliated voters” buy added a caution, “In the first week the total number of early voters in North Carolina has been less than during the same time in 2012. The percentages of Democrats and Republicans have also been lower than four years ago with unaffiliated voters the only group to gain ground.”
You can see detailed absentee voting data (by mail and in-person early voting) for North Carolina here. More than 778,000 voters have sought absentee ballots (in person early voting or by mail) in North Carolina, according to the spreadsheet on the Secretary of State’s website. The site even breaks the data down by voter. The New York Times conducted a detailed analysis of those voters’ demographics and North Carolina voting history and is currently predicting a 6 percent Clinton victory in North Carolina based on a unique extrapolation of the statistics.
Public Policy Polling polled early voters and found that 63 percent said they voted for Hillary Clinton and 37 percent for Donald Trump.
In North Carolina, 17 counties controversially decreased the number of early voting locations, said NBC News; this has resulted in long lines at some polling places and lower early voting tallies. NBC said one county, Guilford County, which houses the largely black city of Greensboro, “cut early voting locations from 16 to just one.” This has resulted in declining early voting totals in North Carolina overall.
Clinton is up an average 2.4 percent in RealClearPolitics polling averages. The three most recent polls showed her leading in North Carolina (but they were taken before the FBI letter into her emails).
There are more Democratic registered voters in North Carolina than Republican.
Registered Republicans were up very slightly over Democrats in the more than 3.2 million early ballots received through October 29, counting both mail-in ballots and in-person early votes. The Florida Secretary of State was reporting October 29 that Democrats had an edge in early in-person voting, and Republicans in by mail voting.
Total early Republican votes: 1,330,579 (40.8%)
Total early Democratic votes: 1,307,187 (40.1%)
Total unaffiliated votes: 540,565 (16.6%)
Total early votes cast: 3,258,034
(There are also a much smaller number of votes categorized as other)
Voted by mail:
No party affiliation: 306,236
Voted early in person:
No party affiliation: 234,329
There are limitations to the data. In 2008, even though Republicans led in Florida early voting by a large percentage, Obama won the state, said Fox.
However, in 2012, Democrats earned 43 percent of early Florida votes, and Republicans earned 40 percent, Politico said.
The Associated Press says that, historically, Democrats score higher tallies in Florida early voting with Republicans leading in mail-in ballots. The same is true here, but Clinton is keeping it somewhat close in mail-in voting, which The AP says bodes well for her due to the typical GOP edge in that category. Still, this year, when you count mail in and in person early votes, Republicans have a slight edge, according to data from the Florida Secretary of State.
Furthermore, it’s unclear how unaffiliated voters cast their ballots, and they represent 16.6 percent of the early voting totals as of October 29.
In polling, Clinton leads an average 0.7 percent in Florida on October 29, down almost a point in just a few days. The race has tightened in Florida, and it’s in the margin for error. Two recent polls, by Bloomberg and Dixie Strategies, showed Trump up 2 and 4 percent. However, a third recent poll, by the University of Florida, found Clinton up 4. The polls have not yet captured the time frame after FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress saying the FBI would investigate newly discovered emails to see whether they have significance to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s email server.
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Unlike other states, Ohio does not register a person’s party affiliation when they vote early (but does record which primary they voted in last time.)
McDonald conducted a geographic analysis of the early voting results instead, and he found that mail early ballot requests are down in Democratic strongholds but up elsewhere, which bodes well for Trump.
Cleveland.com also found signs of hope for Trump in Ohio early voting tallies, writing that, “the number of ballots cast in Cuyahoga and other key Democratic counties is lagging behind early voting totals from 2012, when President Barack Obama was victorious.”
Republicans restricted the number of early voting days in Ohio, leading to a massive drop overall since 2012, said CNN, and “Democrats have a slight lead in the early balloting, but their lead is smaller than in 2012.” Obama won Ohio by about 3 points in 2012.
Polling trends show the race in the margin for error in Ohio, with Trump registering a lead.
Trump leads by an average 1.1 percent in Ohio polling averages.
There’s promising news for Trump in Iowa, says ABC News. Obama counted on a large early vote tally to win Iowa in 2012, and overall early voting is down in Iowa this year by more than 100,00 votes.
This year, Republican early voting is slightly outpacing Republican early voting in Iowa in 2012 as a percentage of the whole (Democratic is almost level but slightly down by a smaller amount, and unaffiliated voter early voting is down).
The Des Moines Register reported, “…Democrats have out paced the Republicans for number of requested and returned absentee ballots.” Obama won Iowa in 2012 by more than 5 percentage points”
Early voting is down sharply in Iowa overall, however.
The specific numbers, according to The Iowa Secretary of State as of October 29: 177,506 early votes for Democrats (44.5%); 136,957 for Republicans (34.3%); 83,126 no party listed (20.9%); and 1,142 listed as other.
For comparison: As of October 25, 2012, 135,091 early votes were registered for Republicans (32%); 192,435 for Democrats (45%); 95,586 for no party listed (22.5%); and 474 listed as other.
Trump leads an average 1.4 percent in Iowa polls. However, that’s in the margin for error and represents a tightening in the race.
Early voting returns for 2016 show a dramatic Democratic lead in early voting. The Secretary of State combines both in-person and mail-in voting. As of October 25, more than 117,000 Democrats in Colorado had cast ballots, and just over 94,000 Republicans. Seventy thousand were listed as unaffiliated. The advantage is particularly strong for Democrats in some key swing areas, The Denver Post says.
The Denver Post has an early voting ballot tracker. The most recent data as of October 29 showed: Democrats 269,066; Republicans 241,750; unaffiliated 177,225; other, 3,412. The tracker shows that Democrats dramatically improved their early voting totals since 2014 (but that’s a midterm year, not a presidential election). Republican tallies are also up but by nowhere near as much. The wildcard: Unaffiliated early votes have also jumped.
9News reported, “things look good for Colorado’s Democrats this year.”
Clinton leads 6.2 percentage points in Colorado polling averages, although her lead in the most recent poll there was 2.
In 2014, more Republicans voted early in Colorado than Democrats (that dynamic has flipped now), but that was not a presidential year. In 2012, in Colorado, Republicans led early voting slightly. Obama won Colorado by over 5 points in 2012.
According to The Texas Tribune, many Texas counties were seeing “record-breaking turnout figures on the first day of early voting Monday,” leading to long lines at some precincts.
The Tribune said some counties reported that almost double the number of votes were cast compared to 2012. The newspaper has a round up of early voting totals in Texas’ most populous counties. There is higher early voter turnout in populous areas with stronger Clinton support than in 2012:
Texas historically has been a reliably Republican state, though, not a swing state. However, some recent polls have shown Clinton closer in Texas than analysts expected.
Texas does not report early voters’ party affiliation. The Texas Secretary of State reported October 24 that almost 6 percent of registered voters had already voted either in person or by mail.
Texas is now considered a battleground state by some – or close to it. According to The New York Times, Democrats are still calling a Clinton victory in Texas a long shot, but even Republicans think she might make it closer than expected in a state Obama lost by 1.3 million votes.
Trump’s candidacy may be accelerating trends that had already begun taking shape in Texas. The state has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the country, and Trump’s campaign rhetoric on immigration in particular has threatened to undo gains that past Republicans made with Latinos nationwide. Texas is also home to a relatively high volume of college-educated white voters, who traditionally vote Republican but are moving away from Trump in recent polling.
Still, Trump leads an average 4.6 percent in averages of recent Texas polls.
Democrats have a large edge in early voting in the swing state of Nevada as of October 29, with 44.74 percent of the in-person early vote, compared to 35.60% Republican and 19.66 percent listed as other, according to the Nevada Secretary of State. That’s a slight improvement for Republicans, though, compared to the previous days. Democrats have a 9.14 percent edge in early voting. That’s down slightly though from 2012.
In 2012, Obama won the state. In 2012 week 1 early voting, Democrats had a lower percentage of early votes but also a smaller edge over Republicans (9.63). Obama still won Nevada by almost 7 percentage points. Republicans have increased their margin in mail-in early ballots since 2012, when they ran about even with Democrats. There are more in-person early votes than mail-in ballots, though.
There are 1.679 million registered voters in Nevada.
The advantage Republicans hold against Democrats in early voting in Utah has shrunk from 22,000 votes in 2012 to 3,509 this year, said CNN.
In partly Mormon Utah, where Mitt Romney has been vocal in his distaste for Trump, Republican early voting numbers dwarf those of Democrats. However, there are almost as many unaffiliated voters as there are Republicans. And polls have shown that enough of them dislike Trump to make Utah the only state where Independent candidate Evan McMullin has been running strong in the polls.
McMullin is a former CIA agent born in Utah who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like many Utah residents, The Associated Press says.
WCCO-TV said it was the first year early voting was allowed in Minnesota and added that it was “smashing records across the state” and over 350,000 people had already voted or requested absentee ballots.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press said more than 250,000 people had actually early voted as of October 28.
Clinton is up an average 5 points in Minnesota, although one recent poll showed her way up and another was a tie.
Trump appears to have an advantage in Georgia, according to Fox News, although the state does not break down early voting tallies by party affiliation. CNN said Clinton probably needs a strong black turnout to win Georgia but reported that “the African-American share of the early vote is slightly lower than it was at this point in 2012.”
The Georgia Secretary of State said on Twitter on October 28 that more than 1.05 million Georgians had already cast early votes:
Over 1.9 million early votes were cast in Georgia in 2012 in the presidential contest, but the numbers are up so far to date.
Trump is ahead an average 2.8 in Georgia polling. Romney won Georgia by almost 8 points in 2012.
The Washington Post reported that Democrats have raised a series of election concerns, including that “one of the state’s largest counties offered only one early-voting site” and voter registration deadlines were not extended after Hurricane Matthew.
In Wisconsin, an email came to light in which a Green Bay city clerk had raised questions about allowing early voting on a university campus because she said the student vote favored Democrats and a Democratic legislator, among others, had asked for the site.
Clinton is up an average 6.7 percent in Wisconsin polls.
Wisconsin does not tally early votes by party affiliation. The state’s Election Commission last reported October 21 that 223,643 votes had been cast. CNN says early voting in Wisconsin has more than tripled compared to 2012.
More than 680,000 early ballots were returned by election day, according to the state Election Commission, although a small number of those were ultimately rejected.