Early Voting Seems To Favor Democrats

Early voting is favoring Democrats in a wide variety of swing states.


While the political world continues to try to absorb the meaning and impact of the revelation on Friday of additional emails found during the course of the investigation of Anthony Weiner that may be relevant to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Democrats appear to be racking up significant advantages in early voting:

Hillary Clinton has established a slim edge over Donald J. Trump in early-voter turnout in several vital swing states, pressing her longstanding advantages in state-level organization and potentially mitigating the fallout from her campaign’s latest scrap with the F.B.I.

Even as Democrats continued to reel from revived questions about Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state — a jolt delivered 11 days before the election in an abstruse letter from the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey — turnout tallies and interviews with dozens of early voters suggest that even a vintage “October surprise” may pack less of a punch than it once did.

In a race between two deeply polarizing candidates, opinions appear to have been cemented weeks if not months ago for most voters. And the contest is well underway in some of the most important battlegrounds.

At least 21 million people have voted so far across the country. In the states that are most likely to decide the election — among them Florida, Colorado and Nevada — close to a quarter of the electorate has already cast ballots. While their votes will not be counted until Election Day, registered Democrats are outperforming Republicans in key demographics and urban areas there and in North Carolina, where extensive in-person voting began late last week and which has emerged as one of the most closely contested battlegrounds for the White House and control of the Senate.

Now, the salient question appears to be whether an unforeseen plot twist in the campaign’s final days can still upend an election that is already over for millions of voters.

Though Democrats can take solace from the fact that their large organizational advantage has supplied a cushion when they need it most, the race is still exceedingly close. And the latest eruption in the email affair still threatens to turn many voters against Mrs. Clinton — and put Democrats in lower-level contests on the defensive — just when it appeared Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates were falling out of contention.

“We cannot get distracted by all the noise in the political environment,” Mrs. Clinton urged voters on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. reminding them that three million Floridians had already voted. “We’ve got to stay focused.”

While the early-voting numbers appear strong for Mrs. Clinton, there were signs of weakness over the weekend, especially among African-Americans in North Carolina, where the turnout as of Saturday night showed that they had not voted at their 2012 levels so far.

Among both supporters and critics of Mrs. Clinton, early returns suggest the latest uproar has changed few minds, despite seeming to break through the campaign din. In interviews with more than three dozen voters in three early-voting states — Colorado, Florida and North Carolina — most had at least a passing familiarity with the email developments but said the news had no bearing on their decisions at the ballot box.


Because of a large advantage in mail-in ballots, registered Republicans in Florida have the thinnest of edges over registered Democrats in votes cast so far — less than a percentage point. But that advantage has diminished as in-person voting has begun and is smaller than the lead Republicans had at this point four years ago. The Democratic gains owe in large part to high turnout among Hispanics, who have typically waited until much later to vote.

“Hispanics are outperforming,” said Daniel A. Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida who has been analyzing demographic data about early turnout that the state is required to collect. “They are more engaged in this election cycle, and more are voting earlier than we saw in 2012.”

“They keep eating that deficit away,” said J. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College.

Mr. Bitzer said there are other warning signs for Mr. Trump: Women have cast 56 percent of the votes in North Carolina so far, and rural voters are slightly behind their 2012 participation rates.

The nagging question for Mrs. Clinton is whether Democrats can bolster black turnout, which is down 17 percent so far, Mr. Bitzer said. “That’s the biggest concern for her,” he added.

Democrats are also beating Republicans so far in Colorado and Nevada, where Mr. Trump held rallies over the weekend and continued to question the integrity of the voting process, even as he implored his supporters to send in their ballots

According to some estimates, there have been some twenty million early votes cast across the nations in the states that allow the practice, and in most of those states that early voting will continue until at least the end of this week. After that, most states shut down early voting so that officials can get ready for Election Day. Even in states that don’t allow early voting, there is still an opportunity to cast ones ballot, such as here in Virginia where one can cast an in-person absentee vote for any reason by appearing at the local registrars office. According to information that includes numbers through last week, those numbers are up 20% statewide and, most significantly for Democrats, up more than 60% in Northern Virginia. The advantage of early voting, of course, is that it builds a firewall of voters that will counteract whatever may happen on Election Day. It also gives us an indication of just how well organized a campaign is since at least part of running a winning campaign is getting people to the polls, and that includes on early voting days whenever that may be.

So far at least, it seems the Clinton campaign has the far better organization:

Mrs. Clinton and her allies are directing their campaign visits almost exclusively to early-voting states: On Saturday, Mrs. Clinton appeared with Jennifer Lopez at a concert in Miami. Former President Bill Clinton appeared on Sunday in North Carolina, and Mrs. Clinton was to campaign on Monday in Ohio. Her goal, aides said, is to build an advantage Mr. Trump cannot overcome even if he wins the majority of votes cast on Election Day.

By contrast, Mr. Trump’s minimal organizing has essentially left voter mobilization efforts to the Republican National Committee. Officials there expressed confidence despite having a far larger role than they had anticipated.

“We’re seeing some very positive metrics,” said Chris Carr, the committee’s political director. “I would say we’re running at parity or ahead of the Clinton campaign.”

This superior organization appears to be a mirror of on the ground operations across the country, and it suggests that Clinton’s organizational advantages are far larger than we thought they might be. However the race proceeds over the next week, this is likely to go a long way toward helping her on Election Day.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Scott says:

    Here in Bexar County (San Antonio, TX), early voting has been going on since last Monday. About 24-25% of all registered voters have already cast. Given that total voting is about 60% of all eligible voters, we are at 40% of total votes to be cast with another week of early voting.to go. Pretty remarkable.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have no idea who is voting for whom. There are no yard signs and very little bumper stickers. No front yard talk either.

    Just drove 300 miles to West Texas and back over the weekend and saw exactly 1 Trump sign.

    Very strange.

  2. CSK says:


    It’s the same here in Mass. No Trump signs–but no Clinton signs, either. It may be different elsewhere in the state, but in my corner, there’s practically nothing. On the other hand, early voting seems to be quite brisk.

    I can’t imagine the state not going for Clinton, but the level of enthusiasm for her seems to be very low.

  3. PogueMahone says:

    Here in Harris County, no Trump signs or talk or anything. One of my colleagues never shies away from a decent wager – he refused to take my wager that Texas would go blue this year… and I gave him even odds.

    And last night, during the Dallas Cowboy game, there was a Trump ad.
    If a Republican candidate can’t bank on your average Cowboy fan, then you’re in trouble in the Lone Star state.

    And I find it hilarious.


  4. dxq says:

    Trump is finishing the GOP transition.

  5. MBunge says:

    An early voting “firewall” only matters if the people voting early are ones who either weren’t going to vote at all or would have changed their minds on election day.

    There doesn’t appear to be much evidence that early voting leads to higher turnout, which means all it may be doing is taking regular voters and getting them to vote early instead of at the polls.


    As far as changing minds, early voting and the activity around it would appear to be heavily if not exclusively focused on partisans who aren’t going to change their minds short of the proverbial dead girl or live boy.

    There’s obviously an advantage to banking your expected vote early in that it allows you to focus your efforts on still undecided voters closer to election day, but I’m not sure how big of an advantage that would be.

    And should anyone be really thrilled if a candidate who should have lost because of scandal wins because too many people voted before the scandal broke? What if the Billy Bush bomb had been set off today and it was Trump in the lead for early voting?


  6. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t put much stock in this data. It’s suggestive, but barely even that. As @MBunge points out, this may just be moving voter X from V-Day to V-Day -5, with no net advantage.

    That said, the utility of early voting (beyond the obvious service to democracy) is to bank ’em before some shitstorm blows up.

    I’ve thought for a while that if the polls are roughly correct, Hillary’s ground game will carry any state within a point of going Blue. A point is a lot in this race.

    That said, a big part of the reason why this race is still open is that while Team Hillary has done a good job with the stick (Trump) they’ve done a poor job with the carrot (an agenda.) We have no clear notion of what Hillary’s First 100 days will be like. We know more than we do about Trump (who may not even move into the White House but rather stay in Trump Tower,) but “tax increases for rich people and maybe something about daycare,” is not much of a rallying cry.

    It’s pretty basic, really: yes, a villain is important, but the hero needs a positive goal beyond defeating the bad guy. It’s the carrot that keeps voters loyal, especially when the hero is not instantly likable.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    The Republican controlled states seem intent on insuring that election day will see long lines and confusion in parts of their states that tend to vote Democratic. It’s not just the vote fraud nonsense that Repubs push, it’s the selective closing of polling places and cutting down on early voting hours. (Maybe someone can help me remember which state it was where the Republican official put it in writing that she didn’t want to open a polling place in a college town because it would benefit Democratic leaning voters).

    The early voting is meant to counteract that. Since we know the Republicans will do everything they can to stop Democrats from voting, it only makes sense for them to get theirvote cast as early as possible rather than show up to a congested mess on election day and have to leave because they can’t wait 3-4 hours in line.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Apparently Trump refuses to pay his pollster $767,000.
    I guess one of the things that is going to Make America is Great Again is being able to stiff people out of money you owe them.

  9. Jen says:

    I think one other possible advantage to early voting, if it is executed in a smart fashion by GOTV efforts, is to take election-day voting pressure off of known “problem” polling places. The last thing you want in a high-stakes, high-turnout election is to have your voters walk up to a polling place and see a mile-long line, decide they can’t be late for work, and then not come back.

    There were huge, ridiculous lines at a number of polling places during the last two general elections, IIRC, and one town here in NH had a horrible mess of traffic problems during the primary. My little town has decided to hold voting in a bigger facility, with more parking and so on, so lines shouldn’t be too bad, but how many jurisdictions have that kind of flexibility? If early voting was an option here, I definitely would have voted by now.

  10. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Here is my report from Northeast Ohio:
    Standard yard signs: Trump outnumbers Clinton about 5 to 1.

    On a 3 mile drive yesterday there were 27 yard signs for Trump and 5 for Clinton.

    Also saw several homemade (hand painted) 4′ by 6′ signs for Trump.

    Door to door canvassing for Trump appears to be non-existent. Clinton canvassers are seen daily.
    Phone calling for Trump seems to be solely Ivanka robocalls. While my friends tell me that they regularly get personal calls from Clinton volunteers to either make sure people know where their polling place is and/or how to early vote and deadlines from mailing absentee ballots.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We have no clear notion of what Hillary’s First 100 days will be like.

    C’mon Michael, Hillary Clinton has an a** deep pile of detailed plans on her website. They are consistent with what she worked on as Senator and, insofar as some concern foreign policy, also consistent with her time as SOS. The only mystery is what she will put at the top of the agenda and what will have to wait longer, but there’s no doubt about what she intends her administration to work on.

  12. JKB says:

    It might be worth noting that Democrats, having made common cause with their Wisconsin fellow travelers, are known to not accept the outcome of even elections without a hint of impropriety and protest to demand a recall election.

    So you might wish to contemplate what may happen if all these early voting Democrats come to regret their votes in light of this late information.

    I will note that if this turns out to be a conventional election where party registration remains relevant, Hillary’s money, ground game, organization, endorsements and establishment support, along with the support of many alleged principled Conservatives and near lock on media support give her a great advantage. Well, perhaps not that great since she’s only running a couple points ahead. Victor Davis Hanson has a good assessment of the Republican, Democrat and media DC establishments and their tripartisan effort to install Hillary.

  13. Han says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We have no clear notion of what Hillary’s First 100 days will be like.

    I beg to differ. Given the recent spate of Republican congresspeople shooting their mouths off, we know exactly what the first 100 days are going to be like.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB: Thank you for bolding “Victor Davis Hanson” so that we all know not to waste time reading your comment.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We have no clear notion of what Hillary’s First 100 days will be like.

    Jason Chaffetz, assuming that Republicans keep control of the House, would probably like to initiate more investigations of Hillary.

  16. Blue Galangal says:


    I can’t imagine the state not going for Clinton, but the level of enthusiasm for her seems to be very low.

    You know why I don’t have a HRC sign out? Because Trump people are crazy and there are two on my street. I am enthusiastic as hell about HRC, I’m phone banking, volunteering, and donating. But I’m not painting a big red target on my house/life.

  17. Mikey says:


    (Maybe someone can help me remember which state it was where the Republican official put it in writing that she didn’t want to open a polling place in a college town because it would benefit Democratic leaning voters).

    It was in Wisconsin, she didn’t want to put an early polling place near UW-Green Bay. Her official pretext was going to be “budget issues,” but she let the cat out of the bag in an e-mail that it was really about her fear it would encourage the student body, which she assumes is majority Democrat, to get out and vote.

    She’s a BFF of Scott Walker, by the way. Of course.

  18. Jen says:

    @Blue Galangal: Exactly. Same here–doing everything I can, but no way would I put a sign up. I’ve never been one to put on bumper stickers or put yard signs up, because even in “normal” years people can be awful and I don’t want my car keyed or my house egged. Not one of our neighbors has a yard sign up. A few are Trump supporters, and a couple I suspect are Clinton supporters. New England MYOB/stoicism seems to be winning out in our little cul-de-sac, and I am more than fine with that.

  19. MBunge says:

    Holy bleep. Fivethirtyeight now has Hillary with a lead of 1.5% or less in Florida, North Carolina and Nevada. If Trump wins those and all the states where he now has the lead, he gets to 270 without winning Pennsylvania.

    Isn’t there a man somewhere who could come out and accuse Trump of grabbing his junk?


  20. al-Ameda says:

    I’ve noticed virtually no signs for either Trump or Clinton. I live in an area where Trump can be expected to get 20%-25 % of the vote, and Hillary Clinton is largely viewed as a DINO. Hillary will win our area easily. Trump evokes very strong negative feelings, while Hillary gets generally (though less intense) negative feelings.

    Most of the signs in my area have to do with the race for Supervisor in our County District. The spectrum around here is center-left to Green-left. The newcomer candidate is a liberal who’s involved in organic agriculture, independent farming, and coastal land use policies. Yet the older, very stale liberal candidate’s supporters continue to depict the newcomer as a pawn of of big business and big Ag.

  21. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I did early voting on Saturday. I ran into no problems, myself, and I was in and out within 10 minutes.

    However, the poll worker who was screening people before they got into the voting room to check in was telling everyone that they must have a photo ID to vote. As of mid-October, this is not true in Texas (people may file an affidavit on site and receive a regular ballot, provided they have some sort of non-photo proof of residence), and guidance has been issued by the Secretary of State’s Office providing a script that has been distributed to every county’s elections office.

    After I voted, I contacted Election Protection to let them know about the incorrect instructions being given out at the polling place.

    I’ve been encouraging everyone I know to go out and do early voting precisely for this sort of reason. On Election Day, the election officials are going to be overwhelmed. If you are a problem case for any reason, you’re probably going to end up filing a provisional ballot. By early voting, you have the opportunity to deal with any weirdness in a lower stress environment, and you have given yourself the time to clear up any discrepancies prior to election day.

    I have no idea if the poll worker even realized that he was giving out incorrect information. Election Protection said that they would notify the county elections office of the infraction. My hope is that the correct information will be disseminated this week to the county’s poll workers so that the people voting this week and next Tuesday will not get turned away erroneously.

  22. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: NC and NV look a lot better in polls-plus than FL.

    It’s gonna come down to ground game and GOTV, both of which she has and he doesn’t.

  23. James Pearce says:


    Victor Davis Hanson has a good assessment

    Nah, it’s just an assessment. VDH’s “good” work is set in antiquity.


    Fivethirtyeight now has Hillary with a lead of 1.5% or less in Florida, North Carolina and Nevada.

    I saw that RCP had moved Colorado from “Leans Clinton” to “Toss-up.” Trump’s been here 3 times I think in the last few weeks, confusing the pundits and bucking up his supporters.

    He’s still probably going to lose the election, though.

  24. Jen says:

    @James Pearce: I’m never quite sure what to make of RCP’s EC map. Last week when I checked, they had PA as a toss-up state when the latest polling had her winning it quite handily. Today, it’s in the “lean Clinton” camp.

    I’m getting close to instituting my own media blackout for the next week. There’s nothing more to be done at this point other than vote, and this flood of information is making me dyspeptic.

  25. Scott says:


    I’m getting close to instituting my own media blackout for the next week

    That’s why I voted early. The entire family did. What’s done is done. Now I’m trying not to be obsessive over 538 or RCP. Fortunately, tonight I get to hand out candy and drink beer. Life can be good.

  26. gVOR08 says:


    Fortunately, tonight I get to hand out candy and drink beer.

    Take care. You can get in a lot of trouble if you get that backwards.

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    @MBunge:..Isn’t there a man somewhere who could come out and accuse Trump of grabbing his junk?

    Check out JKB and bill. I think Trump has them.

    When you’ve got ’em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.
    Attributed to Nixon henchman Charles Colson in “All the President’s Men”

  28. C. Clavin says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Isn’t there a man somewhere who could come out and accuse Trump of grabbing his junk?

    Jenos and JKB dream of grabbing Trumps junk.

  29. Bob@Youngstown says:


    regret their votes in light of this late information

    Late information ? Aren’t you confused between information and innuendo ?

  30. An Interested Party says:

    @MBunge: Do be sure to show up here on election night and bring a couple of crows with you to nibble on…

  31. CSK says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Oh, I get not wanting to make yourself a target, and I fully sympathize, but do you live in a red state, swing state, or red-inclining state where being a target might constitute a real threat? My state is very blue, and there probably isn’t much chance of having a Clinton sign trashed. I don’t think people are not putting up Clinton signs here

    @Jen: for fear of vandalism.

    Thank God for New England/MYOB stoicism.

  32. JohnMcC says:

    My little contribution to the compilation of lawn-sign-stories: Live on the ‘cap’ of a ‘T-intersection’ in a middle-aged FL subdivision of middle-sized cinder block ‘bungalows’. Quite a few yard signs for both candidates, probably more Trump signs than Clinton. I have three Clinton signs, one each facing left, right and center. They’ve been run over twice. Have quite the collection of tire tracks.

  33. Pch101 says:


    “Victor Davis Hanson has a good assessment” is an oxymoron. Ain’t never gonna happen.

  34. Pch101 says:

    During my poli sci undergrad days, it was well known that high turnout favored Democrats (which is why Democrats supported Motor Voter, while the GOP opposed it as it prayed for rain on election day), but that absentee ballots favored the Republicans because their voters tended to be more committed.

    It’s interesting to see that the former still seems to be true, but that the latter may not be. The mere act of opening polling places on more than one day seems to have an effect. Making voting mandatory as it is in Australia is sounding like a better idea…

  35. t says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    House around the corner from mine has had trump/pence signs in his yard since the start of summer. Owner put them extremely close to the road (because whats the use of being a trump supporter if people dont know it) and every time I drove by, I had the slight urge to run them over.

    Well a few weeks ago someone did. And the owner put them back up all bent and wrinkled. Looks like someones laundry that was left in the dryer.

    I had a good chuckle about it. I live in alabama btw.

  36. michael reynolds says:

    Here in Marin our homes tend not to have visible yards. If we had room for yards we’d have room to build tiny homes and house some pizza delivery people. Seriously, it’s getting scary. I had very bad pizza tonight and it took an hour twenty. This must not stand.

  37. They Saved Nixon's Brain says:

    Bad Pizza!
    It’s a tough life. I feel for you.
    Happy Halloween!

  38. JKB says:

    @Mister Bluster: Check out JKB and bill. I think Trump has them.

    Trump has me because of one inalienable attribute. He is not Hillary Clinton and is the only person who can stop her.

  39. JKB says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: Late information ? Aren’t you confused between information and innuendo ?

    No, it is information, perhaps a bit of a reality check. Namely, the cases aren’t closed until there is a conviction or the statute of limitations runs out. Until then, they just go dormant until new pertinent information is discovered.

  40. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @JKB: @JKB: Comey’s letter to Congressional leaders ….. are you saying that is the “late Information”?

    Your candidate is claiming that the classified documents on Weiner’s computer has compromised US security. Is that in Comey’s letter?

  41. Blue Galangal says:

    @CSK: I’m in southwest Ohio – ground zero! – and I live in a small highly Catholic blue-collar city that’s been run by what we’d now call RINOs for about 60 years. (I call them moderate Republicans. They propose school levies and fix the roads and buy snowplows and even take money from the federal government to build new schools. They worry about attracting new business to the city and about the dry cleaner that left several months ago. They dream about attracting a Trader Joe’s.)

    Don’t get me wrong, there are several HRC signs up in this town (4 that I have seen). But it’s at least 70% Republican at a guess. And I have the aforementioned two Trump supporters on my street. Nope.

  42. gVOR08 says:

    I live in an upscale neighborhood in @Blue Galangal:’s city, Cincinnati. (Blue, on the edge of HP, by the railroad tracks and Oakley) Four years ago and eight it was flooded with yard signs. D and R more or less equally. This year on my 1-1/2 mile drive to the freeway there are like three TRUMP and two HILLARY signs. I don’t think it’s fear of vandalism so much as not knowing how, and how extremely, polarized one’s neighbors may be.

    When you say “Catholic” you should clarify “German Catholic”. They’re different.

    That said, even four or eight years ago an Obama sticker on my car would have been very ill advised at work.

  43. DrDaveT says:


    Trump has me because of one inalienable attribute. He is not Hillary Clinton

    I note that, months after my initial challenge, NONE of the Trump supporters have stepped up to the plate.

    Last time:

    1. List all of the things you hate about Hillary
    2. Score Trump on all of those specific aspects, on the same scale
    3. Find even one aspect in which Trump is actually preferable to Hillary

    Still waiting…

  44. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Here in Marin our homes tend not to have visible yards. If we had room for yards we’d have room to build tiny homes and house some pizza delivery people. Seriously, it’s getting scary. I had very bad pizza tonight and it took an hour twenty. This must not stand.

    Was it a non-GMO kale-tofu combination pizza? Those are still problematic.
    Finally, San Anselmo uber alles.