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Early Voting Stampede

Mail balloting is fueling a Historic Early Voting in the 2020 Election

  • Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia have already received more early ballots than they did in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Election officials already talk about “Election Week” rather than “Election Day” and urge voters to see a lengthy count in close contests as normal. 
  • Virginia, one of the first states to open early in-person voting sites, topped 2016 levels for both categories of advance voting in the first week it reported numbers. More than 977,000 ballots have been cast in the state, with slightly more early in-person ballots being cast than mail-in votes.
  • In Florida, which has 29 Electoral College votes, about 1.7 million mail ballots have been cast, more than 60% of those received in 2016.
  • In North Carolina, 192,000 ballots were cast by mail  in 2016 compared with more than 483,000 so far. 
  • In Georgia, voters reported waiting in line for hours on the first day of early, in-person voting, when the secretary of state’s office said a record 126,876 people voted.
  • Michigan officials said 978,000 early votes have already been cast, about 76% of the total 2016 advance vote and more than three times the number cast through the same time four years ago.
  • In Pennsylvania, more early ballots have been cast than in either the 2016 or 2018 general elections. More than 385,000 mail-in ballots had been received by election officials out of more than 2.6 million that have been requested.
  • So far, at least 11 states have already reached or exceeded 50% of their total early vote in 2016. Four have surpassed those levels.

Spotlight Georgia

Problems in Four States

Ballot Counting

Michigan and Wisconsin do not start counting early voting until election day.

If those states are needed to declare a winner, there will not be a winner election evening.

Polling Impact

One of the biggest challenges for pollsters is estimating turnout. 

The most accurate surveys are of likely voters, not registered voters.

But someone who has already voted is a "sure thing".

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If a "likely" voter is 85% likely to vote, a "sure thing" is 100%. 

Pollsters should place more weight on "already voted" than likely, but none of them do. 

What About Uncounted Votes?

Trump has made it clear he is willing to do anything he can to disrupt mail-in votes. 

There will be court challenges and no one can say for sure how those challenges would stand up if the election is close. 

The surge in vote-by-mail will also lead to errors. Ballots whose signatures do not match official records will get tossed. 

No one can say what the error rate will be, but Democrats will have far more votes challenged than Republicans if for no other reason that more Democrats will vote by mail. 

What to Make of It?

Trump brags about the number of people at his rallies.

The silent majority waits in line 8 hours to vote for Biden.

I strongly suspect pollsters bending over backwards to prevent a 2016 error again will have underestimated support for Biden.