Q&A of the Day – Will Florida set turnout records this election cycle?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Isn’t It right to assume that since the Democrats switched on voting by mail over early voting that their numbers on Election Day should be that much lower?
Bottom Line: I’ll preference this conversation by saying even the best analysis I can provide will be a bit of an oversimplification. In theory, yes – what you’re saying has merit but first we need to account for the knowns and the variables. Here are the knowns in this election cycle:
- There are 1.1 million more registered voters than four years ago in Florida
- That includes 445k more Republicans and 298k more Democrats
- 3.2 million registered voters in 2016 – didn't vote
Without going any deeper into the weeds, there’s the potential for up to 4.3 million more voters statewide if all eligible voters were to vote this election cycle. That’s the view of the possible and were anything close to that reality to play out you’d see more Democrats voting by mail and in-person on Election Day (along with everyone else). It all comes down to turnout and we won’t know what the final turnout will be until we get there (though we are pacing record voting by mail and early voting turnout).
Florida’s historical average turnout for Presidential elections is 74.5%. In 2016, Florida’s turnout was 75% - which in addition to being slightly above average – was the highest since 1992’s election in which turnout reached a record 83%. Here’s what we do know so far regarding turnout:
- Record numbers of Democrats have voted by mail and record numbers of Republicans have voted early
- Typically, Republicans lead in voting by mail in Florida while Democrats lead in early voting – thus traditional voting patterns have shifted
- Polling has showed Democrats are least likely to vote in person, while Republicans are most likely to vote in person this cycle
So, what do we make of all of this? Cleary the pandemic has changed the voting norms among partisans so operating on assumptions based on past cycles could prove incorrect. However, there is a partisan trend I think holds merit as it pertains to early voting. Since the onset of early voting in Florida, it’s been the preferred voting method by Democrats. Republicans have been most likely to vote on Election Day. Given the surveying of Democrats which has shown they’re most likely to vote by mail and generally more reluctant to vote in person – it seems unlikely Democrats would suddenly show up in mass on Election Day – which traditionally has been the least desired of the three methods by Democrats. That’s why I’m watching the number 209,450 entering Election Day. Based upon trends in this cycle compared to historical trends – if Republicans are within 209,450 ballots cast by Election Day – it'll likely be a good day in Florida for Republicans up and down the ballot. If Democrats lead by a number larger than that margin – the opposite would likely be true. That’s about the extent of the speculating I'm comfortable with at this point. Actually, I’ll give you one more. While turnout has set records with ballots cast to-date – I don’t see Florida breaking the 1992 record of 83% turnout. While pacing is record setting with registered partisans, the same isn’t true with NPA’s and minor affiliated voters. They’re under voting registered Democrats and Republicans considerably and at levels that don’t suggest we’re headed towards 90% turnout.