Saturday, October 23, 2010

By the Numbers - The First Four Days of the Early Vote

So all over the news these days is how Republicans are over-eager to get to the polls in this election cycle, and Democrats are lethargic. There is, they say, an “enthusiasm gap.”

Others are now saying that in view of the really nutty things coming out of the mouths of Teabagger candidates, Democrats are being shaken awake and are now paying attention to this election.

Democrats are, they say, becoming increasingly alarmed over what could possibly happen should they sit this one out.

Who is right? I really don’t know, but let’s look at the Texas Secretary of State’s early vote data for the 15 most populous counties in Texas and see if we can get some clues.

After the first 4 days of Early Voting, we see that 458,063 individuals have come to the polls to vote and that 92,876 have voted by mail. That makes a grand cumulative total of 550,939 early and absentee votes thus far. That’s 6.61% of registered voters in these 15 counties.

In 2008, where Texas voters came to the polls in droves, the first 4 days of early voting yielded 974,445 voters who came to the polls, and 138,001 absentee ballots received, for a grand cumulative total of 1,112,446 votes – or 13.15% of all registered voters in the 15 counties.

So roughly half of the voters who showed up in 2008 to vote in a presidential year showed up this year – pretty much what can be expected. Voting for governor, after all is not as sexy as voting for president.

So let’s compare apples to apples now. Let’s compare this year’s numbers with the last mid-term election in 2006.

After the first 4 days of early voting in 2006, a total of 246,500 voters had voted, and 40,672 absentee votes had been received. That’s a grand total to that point of 287,172 votes, or 3.53% of all registered voters.

So while one could say that this year’s vote turnout will be about half of what it was in 2008, if things continue along this trend, one can also say that voter turnout is roughly double what is was in 2006.

Now the question is, how are we to interpret this? Clearly there is greater voter interest in this mid-term election than in the last one when we had 4 people running for governor, and not one of them got a majority vote. Common wisdom would dictate that in a Red State higher voter participation favors a Republican over a Democrat. Based on these trends, we can expect roughly 4 million voters to vote statewide as opposed to 8 million in 2008. But compare that to the numbers that showed up in 2006: 4,399,116.

Clearly, that’s not half of the projected total based on current trends. Conclusion? One of two things is happening. It’s either that somewhere between 4 and 6 million voters will vote in this election, or that voter interest is higher in that more have shown up early in the early vote than in the past, but we’ll still see about 4 million votes this year.

My guess is that probably a combination of both things are happening.

Conclusion? It’s all going to come down to who gets the most of their base out to vote. Independents will muddle through, as usual, and vote in their usual manner of somehow knowing what is in their choice’s heart of hearts.

It will be all about getting out the base in this election.

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