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Florida 2018 15 days out -- It is Early Voting Time!

To:       People who love democracy and dogs.

From:  Steve Schale

Re:       15 Days out and the Jags suck again.

By the time you read this memo, early voting will have begun in Florida, as the polls open as Americans come to grips with one simple fact:  The Jaguars are terrible again.  There is a decent chance that by the time we get to week two of early voting, the Jaguars will be holding open tryouts at early voting sites. 

As we enter early voting, there have been 930.657 vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 408,696 (43.9%)

Democratic ballots: 357,165 (38.4%)

NPA ballots: 164,796 (17.7%)

Total GOP advantage:  51.531 (5.54%)

Last week we saw steady days of 100,000 or more ballots processed daily, with Republicans increasing their advantage by a few thousand ballots every day. 

Saturday morning GOP advantage: 50,399 (+5.75%)

And for comparison purposes, 15 days out in 2014, the election looked like this:

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,472,104

Total Republican advantage:  138,385 (+11.5%)

For a 2016 comparison, Democrats trailed by about 20,000 ballots going into the first day of early voting.

Assuming turnout at 7,000,000 voters, roughly 13.3 % of the potential total turnout is in

To give some comparison: nearly 20% of the total final turnout had voted in 2014 before early voting started.   In 2016, it was closer to 13%. 

Just to stress one point – this time just for my Democratic friends:  There are 115,880 more Democratic ballots sitting on kitchen tables or in piles by the front door than there are Republican ballots.   

In total, 28.69% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 32.59 % of their ballots, Democrats 27.09%, and NPA returning 24.55%

I also had a chance yesterday to take my first look at the electorate, and it looks like the earliest vote by mail universes tend to look:  Republican, white, and heavily Tampa/Fort Myers.

White voters make up about 78% of all the vote by mail ballots returned so far.  About 80% of all ballot returners voted in 2014.  The new voters – or those who didn’t vote in 2014 are basically a wash.  In other words, among the early ballot returners, there isn’t a surge of unlikely voters on either side.

Based on return rates, I’d argue this is decent news for Democrats – and here is why:  the highest returning counties for Republicans are in some of the places Trump surged.  If those returns were being driven by the new Trump Republicans who showed up in 2016, we’d see a bigger chunk of non-2014 voters showing up in those returns – but there is nothing abnormal.  As I told a buddy of mine Sunday night, the people you’d expect to vote are the ones who are voting. 

Not that this is an excuse for you 115K or so more Democrats who have a ballot somewhere in the pile under a bunch of catalogs you have no clue why you get.

The other thing that is interesting – the one group that is voting:  women, specifically, Democratic women.  In fact, the single largest gender subgroup who has voted are Democratic women.  Women are about 54.5% of all voters so far.  Democratic women alone are over 23% of all voters so far.   Again, it is important to remember that we are only talking about 13% of the total likely electorate, but it is nonetheless, interesting.

But while I think these are good signs for my side, there are warning signs entering early voting:  namely, in the places where DeSantis and Scott need to grow from their 2014 margins, people are generally voting, though worth noting, they are voting across party lines.  Take Hernando County, a place where Trump’s vote share was 15 points higher than Scott in 2014, a full 44.2% of Republicans who have requested a ballot have returned their ballot – though among Democrats, the number is 40.9%, still well above the Democratic average.

On flipside, places we need people to vote to grow from our 2014 margins, voting has been sluggish.  Just 17.4% of Democratic ballot requesters in Dade, and 25.75% in Orange have returned their ballots, both below the party’s state average. 

Now these things could all change after a week of early voting, but if someone asked me what I am most worried about today as a Democrat, that is what I am most worried about.   Keep in mind, I am a worrier, and I am not overly concerned – but I would like to see some correction over the next week.

33% of early absentee returners are in the Tampa media market, and another 13% are in Fort Myers.  Optimistically, these two markets will top out around 32% combined after all ballots are cast through election day.

On the flipside, southeast Florida is behind what it will look like after election day.  The Miami and Palm Beach markets, which should end up somewhere around 28% of the statewide vote, currently make up about 22% of early vote by mail returns. 

Orlando is about where it should be, and North Florida is well below where it will be by election day, in part because this market tends to be a little more Election Day and in-person early focused, and because Hurricane Michael has disrupted return rates in a handful of counties in the Tallahassee and Panama City media markets.

Going forward, voting will be fast and furious.  We should easily see 2.5-3 million Floridians vote in the next two weeks, so the electorate will begin to mold into shape.  The electorate will get more diverse, it will balance out from a partisan standpoint, and it will start to look more normal in terms of geographic distribution.  There isn’t a whole lot so far that leads me to think we are headed to anything other than a pretty close election, but let’s see how the week goes.

We will see who ends up starting next week for the Jaguars, who thankfully go to London to play Paul Kane’s Eagles, a team that has looked equally disappointing.  But at least if that game is going to suck, there will be a week’s worth of early voting to analyze instead – that and trying to figure out how to get from second to first in my fantasy NASCAR league.  Priorities people. Priorities.

Until tomorrow.

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