The numbers are remarkable. As of today, 80.7 million people have cast their ballots during early voting. This accounts for 59% of total votes counted in the 2016 election. Voter enthusiasm to be part of the 2020 election and influence the outcome is astounding. So far, 35% of the total votes have been in-person whereas 65% are returned mail-in ballots. The increase in number of mail-in ballots could largely be contributed to COVID-19, as more people elect to vote from the safety of their home. In leu of the pandemic, many states have relaxed their rules for requesting absentee ballots. However, as election day approaches, in-person voting is expected to grow significantly.
To understand the significance of some of the early voting data being released by states, we compiled and analyzed the most recent four-day trends for the swing states. Only two of the swing states, Florida and North Carolina, share party affiliation data. In this blog we look at Florida.
In 2016, Floridians elected Trump by a 49% to 48% margin against Hillary. A total of 6.5 million registered voters cast early ballots; 40% Democrats, 38% Republican and 19% Independent. Generally, voter choice and party affiliation are synonymous. Just by looking at the early voting numbers, it might be misconstrued that Hillary would win. As we know, she lost in Florida. Early voting data does not take into account two consequential factors: more Republicans vote closer to election day than Democrats and sway of the large Independent voters. If every voter in Florida cast their ballot according to party lines, the winning card would be the Independent votes. In 2016, Trump was more successful at persuading the Independents to vote for him than Hillary.
So far in 2020, 7.4 million people have voted early. State records show that 41% of the ballots submitted are from Democrats, 38% Republican and 20% Independents. Despite the fact that more people have voted early in 2020, the party breakdowns are very similar to 2016. As is be expected in a swing state both parties are running neck-and-neck. While initially the Democrats seemed to have more momentum, data analyzed for the past 4 days indicates that the Republicans are catching up. More Republicans are voting at polling sites and returning their mail-in ballots. With the distribution of voter affiliation constant, we seem to be in the same predicament as in 2016. Whichever candidate is able to sway the Independents to their side will win Florida. It remains to be seen how four years of Trump politics and policies together with a pandemic will influence their decision.