Early-voting trends raise hopes of both Clinton, Trump campaigns

Associated Press


Hillary Clinton appears to be displaying strength in the crucial battleground states of North Carolina and Florida among voters casting ballots before Election Day, and may also be building an early vote advantage in Arizona and Colorado.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, appears to be holding ground in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. Those are important states for Trump, but not sufficient for him to win the presidency if he loses states like Florida or North Carolina.

“The Trump campaign should be concerned,” said Scott Tranter, co-founder of Optimus, a Republican data analytics firm. His firm’s analysis suggests a “strong final showing for the Clinton campaign” in early voting.

Early voting — by mail or at polling stations — is off to a fast start. More than 5.3 million votes have been cast already, far outpacing the rate for this period in 2012. Balloting is underway in 34 out of 37 early-voting states.

In all, more than 46 million people are expected to vote before Election Day — or as much as 40 percent of all votes cast.

Both parties are encouraging their supporters to vote early. The outcome of those ballots won’t be known until counting begins after polls close on Nov. 8, but some clues are available. Some states report the party affiliations of early voters, as well as breakdowns by race and gender.

The data that is available represents a small sample of the more than 120 million people who will cast ballots in the presidential election, but a notable one.

The Clinton campaign is looking to build an insurmountable lead in Florida and North Carolina during early voting. If she wins either of those states, she’ll probably be the next president.

While Democrats tend to do better in early voting, Republicans usually post an initial lead with mail-in ballots before Democrats surpass them during in-person early voting in mid to late October.

Early voting is surging in Arizona, another state Trump can’t afford to lose. Arizona has long been reliably Republican, but Clinton is targeting it.

Early vote data for now points to potential Trump strength in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia.

In Ohio, data compiled by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who runs the U.S. Elections Project, continue to show big declines in ballot requests in the heavily Democratic counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin.

The state does not break down ballots by party affiliation. By race, voter modeling by Catalist found the white share of Ohio ballot requests was up, to 91 percent from 88 percent. The black share declined from 10 percent to 7 percent.

In Georgia, which also does not report party affiliation, both ballot requests and returns from black voters also trailed 2012 levels.

And in Iowa, Democrats lead early requests, 43 percent to 36 percent. But that level is down significantly from 2012. Obama won the state that year based on a strong early vote in his favor.

In a statement, the Republican National Committee said it was focused on boosting turnout in 11 battleground states and predicted a strong Election Day performance.

“Democrats are not turning out new voters, just turning out people who would have voted on Election Day,” it said.