Decision 2020: JMC’s “Election Soundbites” (September 10 edition)

While Election Day is just under two months away, election season isn’t just underway, but it’s already proceeding at an accelerated pace. Given that accelerated pace, JMC will in this article discuss the atmospherics of this election cycle using existing, publicly available data. More specifically, both partisan voter registration and partisan primary participation.

Discussion Point #1: Data Matters

JMC has since 2008 been of the opinion that external data points like (changes in) partisan voter registration and partisan primary turnout provide important clues as to the November outcome. That is how he foresaw months in advance (to use three examples) the Republican landslides in 2010 and 2014, as well as the eventual Democratic landslide in 2018.

In this election cycle, both primary turnout and voter registration changes (which JMC likes to use in addition to applicable polling) favor the Democrats. Thus far, 48 states have conducted their primaries (only Delaware and Louisiana remain), and according to data compiled so far, the partisan vote in those states during the 2016 primary season was 50.5-49.5% Republican. In those same states this year, that partisan primary vote is 59% Democratic, or a 17 point partisan shift. Of particular concern to Republicans (to use three examples) are substantial drops in their vote share in southern swing states like Georgia (from 63 to 46%), North Carolina (from 50 to 38%), and Texas (from 66 to 49%).

Democrats are also seeing an advantage when examining changes in partisan voter registration since January 1: in 29 states with partisan voter registration whose statistics are posted online, Democrats have seen their count of registered voters increase 1.67 million, while there are 1.14 million more Republican voters, and 145 thousand LESS 3rd party voters (for proper context, in these 29 states, the registered voter count is 116.6 million). Furthermore, these changes in voter registration understate the total change in registered voters, because California and New York infrequently update their numbers (we’re dealing with 2 month old data in California and 8 month old data in New York), and that means the Democratic advantage is likely understated.

Discussion Point #2: Not “Election DAY”, but “Two months of Election Days”

The coronavirus pandemic has been a disruptive event in many ways, and one of those ways has been with how states conduct their elections. Given concerns over the spread of the virus in crowd settings, there was a surge in mail in voting as the pandemic reached critical mass in March in America, and this surge was initiated not only by government mandate in several states, but in states like Louisiana and Georgia (to use two very salient examples), voters on their own initiative decided to vote by mail. In Georgia, mail ins between 2016 and 2020 increased from 2 to 47% of the total primary electorate, while in Louisiana, what was typically 3% of the electorate surged to 19% in the July primary and 24% in the August runoff.

In other words, these two specific examples show that a critical mass of voters (1) are concerned about the risk of virus exposure from voting in person, (2) want to vote NOW to avoid any risk of their ballot not being counted, and arguably (3) are ready for the Presidential election to be over and are voting now rather than waiting until November. Incidentally, a similar action occurred during the 2016 Presidential election when in person and mail in voting in Louisiana set an all time record that has not yet been broken.

In fact, even with Election Day just under two months away, the sheer volume of those wanting to vote early by mail should be of concern to Republicans, because it’s by and large Democrats who are voting now. As this article is being written, 4,390 people in three states (Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina) have already voted. And considering that North Carolina (where the bulk of this number is coming from) sent out ballots just several days ago, that amount of voting so soon after the ballots were sent is astounding, and in the opinion of the author is expected to rise exponentially with each passing day (that figure has already quadrupled since yesterday).

The bigger issue, however, for Election Day is the coming tsunami of mail in votes. As this article is being written, JMC has determined that there are a MINIMUM of 57 million mail in voting requests that will be coming, and a large portion of those requests will almost certainly become actual mail in votes. To put this 57 million vote number in its proper context, nearly 137 million voters participated in the 2016 Presidential election. And even here in Louisiana, a mail in vote of 63K four years ago will almost certainly be exceeded this year – the Secretary of State’s office stated yesterday that 156K have already REQUESTED mail in ballots.

In addition to the sheer volume represented by 57 million mail in voting requests, that number only represents the tip of the iceberg, as this only includes 19 states where the vote by mail requests are currently quantifiable – several larger states (Arizona, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Virginia) aren’t yet included in this 57 million voter number.

In addition to the coming (and expected) deluge of mail in voting, in person voting starts in just over a week in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Virginia. Even though mail in voting will undoubtedly cannibalize some of this (in person voting) constituency, there will still be people who will take advantage of this means of voting.

In conclusion, voting for the 2020 Presidential election is upon us, and JMC will track these numbers throughout Election Season. Any applicable polling will be covered as well.