Who is voting? Who is winning? Early vote only offers clues


October 30, 2020

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – There are just four days left until the general election. On November 3, voters will decide who will lead the country for the next four years. In addition to the presidency, 35 U.S. Senate seats and all 435 U.S. House seats will be decided.

Early voting in Ohio continues through Nov. 2.

10:40 p.m. headlines:

(AP) — As early voting breaks records across the U.S., political analysts and campaigns are reviewing reams of data on the voters, looking for clues to key questions: Who is voting? And who is winning?

On one level, the answers can be simple. Registered Democrats are outpacing registered Republicans significantly — by 14 percentage points — in states that are reporting voters’ party affiliation, according to an Associated Press analysis of the early vote.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Many Americans’ choices don’t align with their party registration. Meanwhile, polls show Republicans have heeded President Donald Trump’s baseless warnings about mail voting, and large numbers intend to vote on Election Day. That means the early Democratic surge could give way to a Republican surge on Tuesday.

(FOX 8 photo)

The picture is further clouded by the unprecedented nature of how Americans are voting. While Democrats are hungry for signs that key parts of their coalition — young voters, Black voters, new voters — are engaged, comparisons to 2016 are difficult.

Here’s a closer look at what we know — and don’t know — about early voters:


As of Friday afternoon, 86.8 million people had voted in the presidential election. That’s 63% of the total who cast ballots in the 2016 race. Most election experts think the United States will see 150 million to 160 million ballots cast in 2020, which would mean that we are likely more than halfway through voting. In one state, Texas, more votes have already been cast than in all of 2016.

Democrats have a big lead in the early vote over the GOP — 47% to 33% — according to the AP analysis of data from the political data firm L2.

That doesn’t mean Democrats are going to win. But it does increase the pressure on Republicans to have a similar advantage — or higher — on Election Day.


The big turnout question in all elections is: Which side is bringing in new voters? The data shows Democrats are accomplishing that — but not necessarily as dramatically as some of the big overall numbers might suggest.

More than 1 out of 4 of all ballots — 27% — were cast either by new or infrequent voters, according to AP’s analysis. Those are voters who have never voted before or voted in fewer than half of the elections in which they were eligible. It sounds like a big number, but it’s not too much greater than past years. The Democratic data firm Catalist found that, in 2016, roughly one quarter of the electorate didn’t vote in the previous presidential election.

Still, the number may well grow, as new and infrequent voters tend to vote close to, or on, Election Day. And even small increases in the tight battlegrounds can make a difference.

A rise in that number appears to be good news for Democrats. Forty-three percent of the infrequent and new voters are registered Democrats, compared to a quarter who are Republicans. The remaining third are registered as independents or with a minor party — a group that tends to favor Democratic candidates.

The voters are clustered in the Sunbelt, particularly in states such as Florida, North Carolina and especially Texas that Democrats hope to win by mobilizing large chunks of the electorate that sit out most contests.

“Democrats are already expanding their electorate,” said Tom Bonier of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart. “That would certainly appear to be favorable for Biden — to be taken with the caveat we’ve heard a million times before, that we don’t know how many other voters will come out on Election Day.”


Biden’s fate may be tied to strong turnout among Black voters in the battleground states. So far, about 9% of the early vote has been cast by African-Americans, about on par with the 10% of the electorate Black voters made up in 2016, according to a Pew Research estimate of voters in that election.

Black voters are tracking closely with their share of the electorate in several battlegrounds. In North Carolina, they are 21% of both all early voters and all registered voters. In Georgia, they make up 30% of the early vote and 32% of registered voters.

A slight drop in Black voter turnout from the elevated numbers of 2008 and 2012 played a role in Democrats’ 2016 loss, and the party and its supporters are watching carefully to see what happens this time.

The data so far is ambiguous. There’s been a surge in the older African-American vote. Black voters 65 and older are already one of the most reliable voting demographics, but according to TargetSmart data they have already surpassed their numbers in six key battlegrounds — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.


Republicans argue that predicted record turnout won’t matter much in battleground states.

When all the votes are counted, the Trump campaign predicts that the turnout rate in battleground states in 2020 will be similar to in 2016.

“It is pretty predictable what they’ve brought into the electorate,” Nick Trainer, the Trump campaign’s director of battleground strategy said of Democrats. “We will bring our own new voters into the electorate ourselves, and it will all come out in the washing machine.”

That’s a sharp break from several election experts, who see signs in both the early vote numbers and polls of voter enthusiasm in battlegrounds.

John Couvillon, a Republican pollster who tracks the early vote, said the Trump campaign is being too dismissive. “I heard the same kind of attitude in 2008, when Republicans were in denial about the impressive early vote turnout Obama was generating,” Couvillon said.

McDonald notes there’s no way to know until Election Day.

However, he noted that, if turnout is low, that’s not necessarily good news for Trump given the big early vote lead that Democrats have banked. It would mean the president’s campaign would need to win Election Day by an even larger margin.

“They better hope they’re wrong,” McDonald said.

9:30 p.m. headlines:

(AP) — Joe Biden says he has learned from the mistakes that Hillary Clinton’s campaign made four years ago in the Midwest.

At an event Friday in Milwaukee, Biden recounted campaigning for Clinton in 2016 and added, “For a whole lot of reasons — not all of which were her fault — ended up not taking it as seriously. We thought it was different.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in a hanger at General Mitchell International Airport, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Clinton was criticized for not campaigning enough in Midwestern states like Wisconsin and Michigan. After her stunning loss to Donald Trump in 2016, many Democrats criticized her campaign as overconfident and too complacent.

In contrast, Biden often insists he’s taking no vote for granted and said Friday night in Wisconsin, “I’ve been here a lot.” The event marked his third visit to the state as the Democratic nominee.

Biden spoke to about two dozen supporters socially distanced outside in an airplane hangar at Milwaukee International Airport.

9 p.m. headlines:

(AP) — President Donald Trump capped a busy day of campaigning with an atypically short speech in Rochester, Minnesota, where he spent time fuming at two of the state’s top elected Democrats.

Trump didn’t mince words Friday about his anger that state officials capped attendance at 250 people for his appearance at Rochester International Airport. The move came as the Minnesota Department of Health has linked 28 coronavirus cases to other recent Trump campaign events in the state.

President Donald Trump waves to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Rochester, Minn. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Trump spoke briefly to a larger crowd that gathered outside the venue before giving a 40-minute speech on the tarmac to supporters who were allowed onsite.

Trump says, “Your far-left Democrat Attorney General Keith Ellison, and your Democrat governor tried to shut down our rally, silence the people of Minnesota, and take away your freedom and your rights.”

Trump praised the supporters who showed up as “patriots.”

7:30 p.m. headlines:

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In what would be a first in the U.S., possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other hard drugs could be decriminalized in Oregon under a ballot measure that voters are deciding on in Tuesday’s election.  

Oregon’s Measure 110 is one of the most watched referendums in the state because it would drastically change how the justice system treats people with amounts of the drugs for their personal use. Instead of going to trial and facing possible jail time, people caught with the drugs would have the option of paying $100 fines or attending new “addiction recovery centers.”

The centers would be funded by tax revenue from retail marijuana sales in the state that was the country’s first to decriminalize marijuana possession.

It may sound like a radical concept even in one of the most progressive U.S. states — but countries including Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs, according to the United Nations.

5:20 headlines:

CLEVELAND (WJW) – While unofficial election results should be available Election Night in Ohio, an official count that could sway tight races won’t be released for several weeks, according to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“If the people give a narrow win to one candidate or another, it may take days before we know,” LaRose told FOX 8 News. “If the people deliver a landslide to one candidate or the other, chances are we’ll all go to bed on election night knowing where things are heading.”

Ohio absentee ballots can be processed – envelopes opened and voter information verified – and scanned before Election Day and than are tabulated as soon as polls close. Combined with early voting numbers and results from local voting locations, that should provide early results quickly.

Other swing states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, cannot begin processing absentee ballots until Election Day.

But, Ohio absentee ballots —which must be postmarked by Monday — can arrive at boards of elections up to ten days after Election Day and still be counted. Along with provisional ballots, those additional votes could affect close races.

Boards of elections must attempt to contact anyone whose absentee ballot had an issue that excluded it from being counted, and those voters have up to one week after Election Day to resolve the issue.

An official canvas of votes at local boards of elections must be completed by Nov. 18, and official results will be announced after that.

3:30 headlines:

(AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t the nation’s only judicial battleground.

The high courts in a number of states are on the ballot Tuesday in races that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats have a majority, and the stakes are high for both sides. This year alone, state supreme courts have been thrust into the spotlight to decide politically charged cases over voting rights, race and governors’ coronavirus orders.

Ohio Statehouse

Next year, it could be abortion, health care and redistricting.

In Ohio, a 5-2 Republican majority is at stake on the state high court in two races that are attracting outside money.

Republican strategist Karl Rove has solicited donations to help GOP Justice Judith French in her race against Democratic challenger Jennifer Brunner, an appellate court judge. Rove’s group is citing concerns about the upcoming redistricting, even though Ohio voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment to decrease partisan influence in that process.

The Judicial Fairness Initiative, a group that advocates for conservative state justices, has been running attack ads against Brunner. It received at least $3 million from the Republican State Leadership Committee, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

1:00 p.m. headlines:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — When Joe Biden was last in Iowa, his presidential campaign was on the verge of collapse and he was soundly trounced in the caucuses. Biden returns Friday as the Democratic nominee, believing he’s just days away from becoming president-elect. Iowa is among the clutch of Republican-leaning states that Biden is trying to bring back into the Democratic column. Biden also will swing through Wisconsin on Friday while his running mate, Kamala Harris, courts voters in Texas. President Donald Trump is playing defense in Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump and Biden will both be in Minnesota, a longtime Democratic state that the Republican president is trying to flip.

11:45 a.m. headlines

  • (WJW) – JACK Casino in Cleveland will offer free parking for people who are voting at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. They’ll also provide free parking to poll workers. You’ll need an “I Voted” sticker to show the parking attendant when you exit.
  • (WJW) – Vice President Mike Pence will hold a rally in Arizona Friday.

10:45 a.m. headlines

  • (WJW) – 2,595,972 people in Ohio have cast their ballot with three days left of early voting, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project
  • (WJW) – 7,822,033 people in Florida have voted early

9:30 a.m. headlines

  • (WJW) – More than 80 million people have already voted in the general election
  • (WJW) – Texas has exceeded 2016 voting totals in its early voting. More than 9 million people have cast a ballot early.

8 a.m. headlines

  • (WJW) – President Trump has called off plans to have an election night party at the Trump International Hotel, according to the New York Times. He’s likely to watch returns at the White House.
  • (WJW) – The State of Minnesota has capped the president’s rally at 250 people due to the pandemic.
  • (WJW) – Donald Trump Jr. will hold a rally in Pennsylvania Friday.

6 a.m. headlines

(WJW) – In the final days of the 2020 election season, both candidates will be hitting battleground states to seal their path to 270.

Vice President Joe Biden has events planned in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Both Iowa and Wisconsin voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Iowa has 6 electoral votes. Wisconsin has 10.

Sen. Kamala Harris, Democratic vice presidential nominee, is scheduled to hold multiple events in Texas Friday.

Texas hasn’t voted Democratic since 1976, but experts say the state is in play this year.

More than 9 million people in the state have already cast a ballot.

Texas has 38 electoral votes.

President Donald Trump will travel to three states Friday.

He’s scheduled rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Minnesota voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2016 but not by much.

A Republican hasn’t won the state since 1972.

The president’s team believes the state is in play this year.

President Trump visited Minnesota twice last month.

The Trump campaign and Republican legislative candidates in the state have petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to separate all mailed ballots received after Election Day in case of legal challenges.

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