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Three-fourths of Biden votes will be cast before Election Day

October 11th, 2020, 9:53am by Sam Wang

A recent (October 6-9) ABC/Washington Post poll (see story) captures a disconnect between Election Day and pre-Election Day voting.

Whether voting by mail, by dropping off a ballot or by in person, the numbers above indicate that 0.58*0.70/(0.58*0.70+0.40*0.32)=76% of Biden voters will vote before Election Day. Those voters are committed for Democrats in advance no matter what happens between now and November 3 – assuming that ballots arrive on time and are accepted. And some will be counted by Election Night.

About one-third of votes will be cast by dropping off or mailing a ballot. Based on a recent estimate, that would suggest about 700,000 rejected ballots nationwide, including 90,000 in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Although this currently doesn’t seem to be enough to affect the Presidential race, it could affect key questions of state legislative control in Pennsylvania, and both legislative control and redistricting in North Carolina and Florida. Voter education in those states would seem to be a high priority.

Conversely, 63% of Trump voters will wait until Election Day to vote. If there are any logistical difficulties such as long waiting lines, they will be affected. There, the priority is to have fully staffed polling stations.

Tags: 2020 Election · President

27 Comments so far ↓

  • 538_Refugee

    The Ohio ballot is a two envelope system. The inner is sort of the stand in for the same type of verification that you would do at the polls. Instructions are pretty clear and the inner envelope asks for enough things that it is pretty hard to ignore.

  • A New Jersey Farmer

    Interesting results, and it would probably lead to the president declaring himself reelected.

    It also makes the ground game that much more important, given that Democrats need to make sure that people fill out their ballots correctly and Republicans get people to the polls and hope for nice weather.

  • John

    Of those votes, how many will be reported/reportable on Election Night ? Between early-in-person-votes, and mail-votes in States that process them at least partially before Election Day, one would hope that the live poll-closing reporting wouldn’t be as skewed as that. (In other words, how strong will be the “Red Mirage” ?)

    • Barry Rush

      In Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, PA and suburbs), the County board of Elections is bringing in 200 folks to count all the mail-in votes received by Election Day ON Election Day.

      If they do something similar in Philadelphia County and the two or three closest counties to Philly, PA should NOT be a mystery by Nov 4 for sure, hopefully by midnight on Election day.

      Reports are that FL should be counted by later on Election Day. If it goes blue, it’s over.

    • James Raymond

      Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona process and count mail ballots well in advance of Election Day. We will most likely know their results the night of Nov. 3.

      A Biden victory in Florida would make a Trump win vanishingly unlikely, and render any premature claim of a victory not credible. Biden winning either of the other two would cast serious doubt on any premature Trump claims even without Florida.

      Biden winning all three would put him over the top with the states that are not really in doubt.

  • Matthew J. McIrvin

    Republican voters mostly live in places where logistical Election Day problems are not a big deal. That’s part of the reason why Democrats pushed mail voting so heavily in the first place.

  • Matthew J. McIrvin

    (I have already voted. However, this is Massachusetts where most of the results are a foregone conclusion, except for the two ballot questions.)

  • 538_Refugee

    I wondered if the polls pick up enough early voters if they could get pretty accurate in the lead up to the election.

    Then it occurred to me that reports of heavy early Democratic turn out and large polling margins could potentially weaken Republican turnout on election day for those already ambivalent about supporting the ticket thus skewing the polls.

  • Matthew J. McIrvin

    These surveys certainly imply that we mustn’t read very much into reports of massive Democratic advantages in early voting. In fact, those numbers might even be good for Trump if the disparities are not as extreme as this survey implies.

  • Dave Kliman

    There is so much skullduggery going on, such as fake ballot drop off boxes in CA, rejecting naked ballots in PA, limiting drop off boxes and restricting drop off locations and requirements, rejecting ballots in GA, if people didn’t fill out the small print on the bottom of their required “intent to vote” form with the date of the election they’d like to vote on. In GA alone, this article demonstrates what kind of extra hoops the GOP would like to impose, knowing every extra unnecessary step will eliminate a certain number of additional voters..

    Honestly, this renegade criminal political party ought to just be banned.

  • Ebenezer Scrooge

    In elections past, bad weather favored Republicans, who were viewed as more committed voters. In this election, bad weather would appear to favor Democrats. Let’s see what happens!

  • ArcticStones

    I would like to add an observation: Played correctly, the scenario that Professor Wang describes should be massively beneficial to Democratic GOTV efforts!

    We are already seeing decreased enthusiasm amongst non-Trumpist Republicans, as well as vote-flipping. (My wife is phone-banking for the Democrats in our state. She is encountering surprisingly many Republicans who say they do not intend to vote this year.)

    Back to GOTV. Those efforts can obviously be concentrated on the far-fewer Democrats (and Independents) who have not already voted. That naturally means more bang for the buck/effort.

    This, in turn may well create an even greater disparity between Democratic and Republican voters.

    I have not seen anyone systematically address that scenario. And so I am tempted to ask:

    What are the likely results for Biden-Trump, the Senate and House, state legislatures and other down-ticket races, if Republicans vote at or below 2016 levels, but Democrats achieve a Scandinavian-level turnout: 80 %?

    • ArcticStones

      Imagine also – (if the ratio is 3:1, as this article implies) – that a cornerstone of those GOTV efforts was recruiting every Democrat who voted early to inspire/enable/transport people who have not already voted?

  • 538_Refugee

    The worst thing about 2008 was 2010. Things hadn’t turned around quickly enough for some. Nice to speculate but if this happens let’s not forget that lesson.

  • Amitabh Lath

    Here in NJ, we can track our ballots. It takes a few clicks but I can see that my ballot was issued 09/23/2020, received 9/30/2020, and the flag Ballot Status = Received.

    This might be a useful thing for voters in more contentious municipalities to learn how to do.

    • alurin

      … which is probably why voters in more contentious municipalities are not allowed to do that.

    • Amitabh Lath

      I was able to google the PA, VA, FL, NC ballot tracking sites. How well they work is a 2nd order question but at least they exist.

  • Brent

    Given the apparent heavy early voting…do you expect to see much exit polling done? If so, will it be of much value?

  • A New Jersey Farmer

    I was just looking at fivethirtyeight. Why are some pollsters using Adults and RV at this point in the race? Don’t those polls muddy the water?

    • 538_Refugee

      The goal is probably a certain number of LV’s. The other two accumulate on the way to that. They are probably just releasing the data they collect and let others use it as they may.

  • Valerie

    Thomas Edsall’s column today indicating a surge of voter registration among Republicans could also lead to unexpected outcomes.

  • David

    Hi Sam-I know you are not a pollster, but I have a question that maybe you have thought about. Various website tabulate the state of early voting. Overall early voting is favoring Democrats, but, surprisingly to me, in WI and MI the numbers so far are an equal split between D/R. On the other hand polls taken in these states over the same timeframe (see, e.g., the cross tabs of the recent Siena/NY Times MI poll) have respondents 3:1 D/R. This seems problematic to me with respect to a proper accounting of the electorate. Thoughts?

    • Matthew J. McIrvin

      I’ve been seeing that claim about WI and MI being passed around online by Republicans and can’t figure out what the primary source is.

    • Matthew J. McIrvin

      I’ve learned the actual source of this story. The WI and MI numbers are not real party registration data, because those states aren’t reporting that. They’re extrapolations from a model used by TargetSmart, a Democratic data-aggregating organization. What WI and MI actually do report is geographic data, and I suspect TargetSmart’s model is trying to get party numbers out of the geographic distributions of votes from past election cycles. You can see the problem–they wouldn’t reflect anything big that happened in the past few years to alter those geographic distributions.

      If you look at TargetSmart’s numbers for different states, you can see that the modeled party distributions for states where they don’t have real data run much less Democratic than the states where they do have real data.

  • Pechmerle

    On court packing, it turns out that Republicans are mostly fine with it – at the state supreme courts level and when they are in control of the appointments.

    See this fascinating run down of these efforts in 11 [sic!] states from 2007-2017 (with an outlier going back to 1995!)
    GOP hypocrisy truly knows no bounds. This history should be pointed to, prominently, when Dems introduce a bill to expand the Supreme Court after a Biden and Senate win.

  • Marc

    Sorry to be off-topic, but the graph for the generic House vote seems to have stopped updating…

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