Both Clinton and Trump have highlighted early voting statistics that suggest their campaigns are performing well relative to the 2012 campaigns of Obama and Romney. That said, new statistics presented by the New York Times on early voting in several states seem to reveal some devastating trends for team Hillary.
As background, early voting has grown substantially over the past 2 decades and now accounts for roughly one-third of all votes cast.
More states are offering early voting, Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said. “Once a state adopts early voting, more people vote early as a part of their election regimen,” he said.
The modern resurgence of early voting can be traced to 1980, when California lifted a requirement that voters must have an excuse to vote early. Other states in the West followed. In 1996, Southern states like Florida, Tennessee and Texas began to allow in-person early voting in special satellite polling locations.
Another landmark year in early voting was 2001, when a legal challenge was brought against Oregon’s early voting laws. The decision in that case, Voting Integrity Project v. Keisling, set a precedent mandating that early voting should be allowed, as long as votes were not officially counted before Election Day.
Meanwhile, most of the critical presidential "swing states" now allow early voting, with the exception of South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
While higher rates of early voting are generally a positive for the democratic candidate, a deeper dive into the demographic mix of early voters reveals some very troubling signs for the Clinton camp. First, early voting by millennials is down sharply in several swing states including North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio.
As we've pointed out before, this is obviously a troubling sign for Hillary since millennials voters skewed to Obama by 34 points in 2008 and 24 points in 2012. We guess there will be fewer Hillary posters on the basement walls of young millennials living at home with mom after the "Hope and Change" they were promised in 2008 and 2012 didn't pan out so well.
Perhaps even more troubling for the Clinton campaign are early voting statistics of black voters which show substantial declines in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. These stats are disastrous for Hillary as black voters have historically skewed towards democratic candidates by 80 points or more.
As we pointed out last month, President Obama enjoyed a huge surge in black voter participation in 2008 and 2012. After averaging around 50-55% for several decades, black voter participation surged to over 60% during Obama's races. A failure of the Clinton campaign to turnout black voters by the same margins could be disastrous for Clinton in states like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.
Meanwhile, the one silver lining for Hillary is that Hispanic early voting seems to have increased across the board. That said, Hispanic voters represent a much smaller overall percentage of the electorate and have historically not skewed as heavily toward the democratic candidate as black voters (though that could certainly change in this election cycle).
Just more evidence that pollsters, by using models tied to the 2008 and 2012 election cycles, may be way off in their assessment of how the 2016 election cycle will play out...we'll see in 8 days.