Political Animal


October 15, 2012 4:51 PM Tracking Early Voting Non-Anecdotally

By Ed Kilgore

So like many of you, I’ve casually followed early voting news from the battleground states, and had the impression that Dems were doing well in Iowa and maybe Ohio, while Republicans were doing well in North Carolina and Florida. Makes sense, right? But a closer look by Aaron Blake at WaPo’s The Fix shows it’s all a little more complicated. Iowa does seem to be fitting the anecdotal evidence:

The only state where we have a large amount of data is showing very good signs for Democrats. About 219,000 Iowans have cast early votes or absentee ballots (13.4 percent of the state’s 2008 turnout), and so far the breakdown is 53 percent Democratic and 28 percent Republican.
Republicans have been steadily narrowing that gap, but right now, Democrats are exceeding even their 2008 early voting performance, when they carried the early vote by 18 points and President Obama won the state by nine points.

Okay. How about Florida?

A Republican National Committee memo last week cited its their edge in absentee ballots in a number of states, including Florida. But you need to look at those numbers in context. The Herald’s Marc Caputo notes that, at this point in 2008, Republicans had a 16-point advantage in absentee ballots and still lost the state. Today, that advantage is just four points.

It’s yet to be seen whether Florida Democrats can match their 2008 advantage in in-person early voting, particularly given the restrictions on opportunities that Rick Scott and a GOP legislature enacted. But Florida’s not a GOP success story for early voting just yet.

In Ohio, the in-person early voting looks good for Democrats, except for the fact that it’s down significantly from 2008 in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), which is crucial for statewide Democratic prospects.

And in North Carolina, headlines about big GOP advantages in absentee ballot requests disguise the facts that (1) Republicans always dominate this type of voting in the Tar Heel State, and (2) early in-person voting begins later this week.

It’s too early for early voting to be calculated with any precision. The general feeling is that Team Mitt is doing a better job at it than Team McCain did, but that’s kind of like saying the Washington Nats won it all this year by showing baseball’s best improvement.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on October 15, 2012 5:09 PM:

    NY, one of the most Liberal states (thanks to NYC, and other urban areas, and NO thanks to the rural knuckleheads, who are little different from the morons in MI, only colder) DOESN'T have early voting.

    One of the most populous states makes all of us poor schmucks vote on the same day.

    I loved living in NC, if, for no other reason other than the mild winters, was that you could vote over a few week period.

  • Nick on October 15, 2012 5:21 PM:

    Where'd you get that Cuyahoga skinny, Ed? Not good.

  • Abi on October 15, 2012 11:25 PM:

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  • emma on October 16, 2012 7:17 AM:

    I live in south-eastern NC and share a house with a Republican. He received a mailing from the North Carolina Republican Party that requests he vote by mail which includes the card and directions for filling it out to request an absentee ballot.

    What did I, a Democrat, receive? A letter stating that if I don't verify my address that I will be removed from the voting rolls. This despite the fact that I have voted in every election for the past twenty years while living at this address.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 16, 2012 1:17 PM:

    I cast my NC absentee ballot before the 1st debate (straight Democratic Party votes, though). I'm registered as an independent but that didn't stop at least one "conservative" from sending me some rinky dink post card.