Early voting is now closed in a number of the states we have been talking about extensively over the past few weeks, starting with Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina. That allows us to take a final look at just who has already cast in a ballot heading into Tuesday’s vote.
Georgia: Early voting closed on Friday, and 1,994,990 votes have cast a ballot, accounting for 35,6% of registered voters and more than 60% of the total 2004 vote. 35,1% of the electorate is African-American, which means that black voters are greatly outpacing whites: 43% of registered blacks voters have cast a ballot versus only 34% of white voters. The electorate is also disproportionately female (56%).
North Carolina: Early voting closed on Saturday, after some counties kept it open 4 extra hours because of heavy turnout. And an incredible 2,661,110 voters cast a ballot early, accounting for 42% of all registered voters and more than 70% of the total 2004 vote. The final partisan breakdown is favorable to Democrats, though it tightened since the first week of early voting: Democrats make up 50,8% of early voters and Republicans make up 30,6% (the breakdown in the 2004 general election was 49% Democratic and 37% Republican). African-Americans make up 26,1% (19% of the 2004 electorate was black).
3,55 million votes were cast in 2004. This year, North Carolina’s election director estimates that 4,5 million votes will be cast. If the latter estimate proves correct, it would mean that 59% of voters have already gone to the polls. That means GOP voters have a lot of catching up to do to bring the share of Democratic voters and African-American voters down to their usual share of the electorate.
Nevada: In Clark County, by far the state’s largest county, 52,3% of all registered voters have cast their ballot, accounting for a staggering 71% of the total 2004 vote! 52% of them are registered Democrats, 30% are registered Republicans - a wider gap than the population at large. Put it another way, 58% of Democrats have already voted versus 54% of Republicans.
The same is also true in Washoe County, where 44% of registered voters cast an early ballot (the number of absentees has not been reported here) accounting for 66% of the total 2004 vote. This is a county where Republicans outnumbered Democrats in 2004 and where today the Democrats’ registration edge is only about 1,000 voters; yet, 47% of early voters were Democratic versus 35% who were Republican. These two counties account for nearly 90% of all Nevada voters, so McCain will need Republicans to significantly outnumber Democrats in Tuesday’s voting if he wants to stay in contact with the Illinois Senator.
Based on these numbers, the Nevada Secretary of State is now predicting that 1,1 million will vote, revising a prior prediction of 1 million. About 800,000 voted in 2004, meaning that the electorate would be vastly expanded - the surest sign yet that Gallup’s expanded likely voter model is a better predictor than the traditional model.
Iowa: Not only do Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans, but a Des Moines Register analysis offers one of the first signs we’ve had that Obama is being successful at turning out sporadic voters. 30% of Democrats who had requested absentee ballots had voted in zero or one of the past three general elections; the same was true of 23% of Republicans.
Colorado and Oregon, where most of the early voting is due to mail-in votes that will continue to pile up until Tuesday: As of Friday night, nearly half of Colorado’s registered voters had cast a ballot, accounting for a jaw-dropping 68% of the total 2004 vote. In Oregon, 48% of Oregon’s registered voters had returned their ballot, but here again Democrats are voting at a far higher pace: 55% of all Democratic voters have already cast their ballot versus 48% of Republicans.
As I explained on Wednesday, the surge in turnout (indicating that many voters will be first-time voters) and the partisan breakdowns put McCain in a lose-lose situation: If Election Day turnout goes through the roof, it would mean even more first time voters; if Election Day turnout remains at a normal level, it could mean that not enough voters have cast a ballot to dilute the Democrats’ advantage in early voting.
While all of this is good news for Democrats, the 10 hour lines in some Georgia precincts in the last week of early voting testifies to the fact that election officials do not appear to be ready for the massive surge in turnout we should expect on Tuesday. There are still millions of voters who will go to the polls in states like Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, so think about how swamped poll workers will be in states that did not allow any form of early voting (Pennsylvania, for instance).
Democrats are obviously far more worried about voting problems popping up, long lines leading some to leave or malfunctioning machines leading to problems and controversies. Most problems tend to accumulate in low-income or African-American counties, thus affecting Democratic precincts more than Republican ones. Furthermore, GOP poll-watchers will challenge hundreds of thousands of voters throughout the country, forcing Obama organizers to immediately go into overdrive to help challenged voters prove their identity and get their provisional ballot counted.
At the very least, Democrats can rest assured that the Obama campaign is aware of these challenges. From a reader in Durham, North Carolina:
There are so many Obama volunteers in Durham that I think they have to come up with ideas as to what to do with all of them. I don’t know what all these people are going to do when they wake up (late I’m sure) Wednesday morning.
So the latest, that I’ve heard about- the organization is recruiting volunteer entertainers for Tuesday to entertain people in line waiting to vote at every precinct, to help insure that people stay long enough to vote.
I found this out from a woman who will be belly-dancing at some precinct on Tuesday afternoon. Also lined up are a lot of musicians and at least one magician!
A full spectacle indeed! And if voting lines hit 10 to 12 hours again as they did last week in Georgia, all of this would surely be necessary. It is also likely that judges will rule that polls should be kept open beyond the scheduled time in a number of counties throughout the country, potentially preventing results from being reported for longer than expected and lengthening our Tuesday night.