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4 Days Out - Florida Man is Crushing This Voting Thing

To:       Fans of Fridays and Dogs

From:   Steve Schale

Date:    Nov 2, 2018

We are on the verge of one of the most exciting weekends each fall:  the bye week – the week where the Jaguars are guaranteed not to lose. 

This year, that occasion coincides with the final weekend of early voting, if there is anyone left to vote.  Florida Man and Florida Woman are crushing this voting thing like it was a Natty Light can run over by a monster truck at the county fair. 

Eclipsing the 4 million vote number, yesterday was the second biggest day in terms of total votes coming in the door, and the biggest day of in-person early voting.  Democrats narrowly won both, leading to about a +5,000-voter day.

Total votes: 4,068,596

Republicans: 1,689,457

Democrats: 1,630,927

NPA/Minor: 749,212

Republican edge is 58,530 (+1.4%)

Yesterday we were at 3.724m votes, with GOP edge of 63,537 (+1.7%)

On Monday it was 2,726,392 (+2.2%) with the GOP holding an edge of 59,048.  So yes, people are voting – but all people are voting.  In other words, about 1.4 million voters have voted, just this week.   This week, the most dangerous place in America is between Florida Man and a voting booth. 

Roughly 1.1 million more voters than this day in 2014 have cast a ballot.  For comparison, in 2014, right at 2.96 million voters had voted, Republicans had about a 125K -ballot lead at this point – and led by around 4.2%.   

Statewide turnout is now 30.6%.  Among Republicans, it is 36.1%, among Democrats, it is 33%, and among NPA, it’s up to 20.5%.

The latter data point is very important – as we saw in 2016, NPA voters are picking up late, and this is important for one big reason:  The bigger the NPA share of the electorate, the less of Democrats need to win them by (as a percentage), because their vote weight becomes bigger.  For example, if there are 7.25 million voters, and Gillum wins NPA by 8.  If NPA equals 18% of all Florida voters, his margin from NPA is about 100,000.  At 21% of all Florida voters, it goes up to roughly 125,000.   Today it is at 18.4, but that has grown from 17.7% on Monday. 

Republicans have now returned 64.3% of all their requested ballots, Democrats 57.2%, and NPA’s 52%.  Statewide, the return rate is 58.9%. 

And therefore, Republicans have a turnout lead.

53% of the electorate to date is vote by mail, and the GOP has a 65,927-voter lead).  Of the 47% of all ballots in that were cast in-person early, Democrats hold a 7,397-ballot lead.

In total, just over 3.48 million ballots have been requested – again far more than 2014, and more than 2016. 

Here is what is remaining:

Democratic unreturned ballots: 554,058

Republican unreturned ballots: 438,996

NPA unreturned ballots: 328,226

115K more of you Democrats need to #BringItToThePolls – because we are getting into the window where the mail starts getting dicey.  You can probably mail it today, but since the future of the state kind of depends on it, you might want to drop that bad boy off in person.

Black turnout continues to drive the shifting demographic make-up of the electorate.  Black share of the electorate is now about 12.2%, well above 2014 and 2016 at this point, and nearly at where 2016 was going into Election Day.  Hispanic share has remained flat all week, at about 12%, and right now, there are more Black voters than Hispanic voters.  What is interesting, Hispanics are disproportionally newer voters:  about 44% of Hispanics to date did not vote in the 2014 election, compared to about 30% among all voters so far.  I do think this will change into the weekend.  White is still just over 70%, though I still think it lands in the 67-68% range.  Overall, turnout among Black voters is 27.6%, and among Hispanics, it is 22.2%.  

One thing on Hispanics – turnout among possible Maria migrants is fairly low.  I was always skeptical of the fallout from the storm really changing the math.  That being said, Hispanic, and specifically Puerto Rican turnout over the next four days could very much impact this race.

Democrats should win the remaining days – though Republicans did have a good Friday last week.  I think this deal gets close to parity – but not quite at parity by Election Day, but reminder, there are a lot of more Republican 2014 voters left to vote on Election Day.

That being said, both sides are cannibalizing their own Election Day vote.  To date, there are slightly more Republican 2014 Election Day voters than Democratic 2014 Election Day voters who have voted, but the bigger story is the scale of things, roughly 17% of early voters this year voted on Election Day in 2014.  This is one reason why I think turnout is going to be record in number, and certainly higher in percentage than 2014, but  not crazy high – as a lot of our growth has come from people just voting earlier.  Minus those voters, Florida is more like 3.4-3.5 million voters to date, which is still forward leaning, but not as much as what the topline number suggests.

I don’t think we add another million voters over the closing few days, but we probably get to 5,000,000 votes going into Election Day.  By comparison, just over 6 million voted in 2014. I still think turnout is around 7.25 million – and maybe a bit more, but honestly, I haven’t had as much time to really dig into that question this week.  That is today/tomorrow’s project.

What is interesting, there aren’t a lot of red flags for either side in the data.  Turnout rates SW Florida are very strong for Republicans, as they are in some of the counties around Tampa and Orlando where Trump really ran up the score. They are arguably a little down in the Panhandle – and not just the Michael counties, but that is normal, as a lot of those smaller counties have more Election Day voting.

For Democrats, turnout in the bigger counties looks very good, though I’d like to see more in Dade from Democratic voters. Broward is closing in on 30% turnout, but only hit 44 in 2014.   Also, Democratic turnout in some of the Republican counties with higher populations of college educated voters is also strong – Dem turnout is higher than Republican turnout in St. Johns, and Sarasota, and close to parity in Seminole. 

So lastly, the question I get on twitter all the time how does Gillum or Nelson win if more Republicans vote than Democrats?

Right now, I think a turnout model where the electorate is 2% more GOP than Democrat is a pretty fair place to peg it, given the number of GOP super voters left to vote.  If we have 7.25 million votes, that is 150,000 more Republicans than Democrats casting a ballot.

So, if you believe the polling, Gillum is winning a few more points of Republicans than Democrats, and winning NPAs.

Let’s assume the final electorate is 41 R – 39 D – 20 NPA (it may be higher than this), and Gillum wins just 2% more Republicans than DeSantis wins Democrats – and he wins the NPAs by 8.  I think both of these assumptions are conservative, and realistic.

What happens:  Gillum wins by about 1.5%. 

There is a long way to go, but if the polling is right, the electorate is molding into shape for Gillum to bring it home.

Now if he, or frankly anyone, could just play quarterback for the Jaguars.


5 Days Out

To:       The Blake Bortles Fan Club

From:   Steve Schale

Date:    November 1, 2018

We have reached Blake Bortles Day, the day where we are his jersey number days out until Election Day.  The question – which side will see Playoff Blake drive them to victory, and which side will get Everyday Blake, and turnover any chance of hope and victory.

To this end, a reminder of the data point that I mentioned in my first memo:  The last time that a non-incumbent won Florida, Barack Obama, it happened after the Jacksonville Jaguars made the playoffs and beat Pittsburgh on the road in the playoffs.  Well, last season, the Jaguars made the playoffs, then went on the road and beat the Steelers up there.  So, when Andrew Gillum raises his right hand in January and takes the oath of office, remember to thank the Jaguars.

Yesterday was the third day that total voting topped 300,000 ballots, was the third biggest day for in-person voting, and the second biggest day overall. 

48 counties have now passed their entire 2014 early voting totals.  Miami Dade today will likely end the day 100,000 votes ahead of their entire 2014 total.  People are voting.  Statewide turnout rate is now 28%, and both parties are over 30% among their own partisans.  We are cranking.

Total votes: 3,724,251

Republicans: 1,555,374

Democrats: 1,491.837

NPA/Minor: 677,040

Republican edge is 63,537 (+1.7%)

On Monday it was 2,726,392 (+2.2%) with the GOP holding an edge of 59,048.  So yes, people are voting – but all people are voting.

Nearly 1 million more voters have voted at this point compared to 2014.  For comparison, in 2014, right at 2.77 million voters had voted, Republicans had about a 132,346-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 4.77%. 

In total, 30% of all Democrats have voted, and 33% of all Republicans.  Turnout among NPA is 18.5%, but if history is a guide, this will pick up as we get closer to the election.

Republicans have now returned 64.3% of all their requested ballots, Democrats 57.2%, and NPA’s 52%.  Statewide, the return rate is 58.9%. 

And therefore, Republicans have a turnout lead.

55% of the electorate to date is vote by mail, and the GOP has a 66,170-voter lead (42.3% - 39.1%).  Of the 45% of all ballots in that were cast in-person early, Democrats hold a 3,173-ballot lead.

In total, just under 3.48 million ballots have been requested – again far more than 2014, and more than 2016. 

Here is what is remaining:

Democratic unreturned ballots: 597,745

Republican unreturned ballots: 481,505

NPA unreturned ballots: 351,945

And to the twitter followers who keep asking if some of this delta comes from voters who requested ballots, but voted in-person early, yes, it is.  But the difference isn’t significant between the parties.  Both parties are doing that.  Both parties are cannibalizing their Election Day ballots.  Both parties are turning out record early voting.   So please just tell your friends that to help Mayor Gillum #BringItHome, they need to #BringItToThePostOffice

As usually happens around this time, the electorate starts to look like Florida. Regional distribution is close to typical margins – Panama City and Tallahassee are a little down, some of which can be tied to the Hurricane.  Miami remains very robust, as does Fort Myers.  But it is balancing out. 

It is also starting to round into shape from a demographic perspective.  Black voters now make up 11.5% of all voters and growing daily.  Hispanic is still around 12.  White is now just over 70.  I think it is quite possible the Black share of the vote will reach the Black share of registered voters, which is 13.2%.  Not willing to say it will get beyond it yet, but that will be something to watch this weekend.   35% of non-2014 voters are people of color, and more Hispanic than the electorate at large.  This is all good news for my team.  On the flipside, there remain over 200,000 more Republicans who voted in 2014 than Democrats who voted in 2014 left to vote.   About 2/3rds of the 2014 voters who have not voted yet were Election Day voters in 2014. 

I expect today to look like yesterday, and the weekend to look more Democratic.  Will it be parity going into Election Day?  Probably not.  Will it be close?  Yes.

So, let me close on this one with some bigger thoughts.

This data is just what it is, data.  It means nothing more, or nothing less than it is.  What we learn from this data is who is voting, and for guys like me, it is a chance to measure where things are versus how we saw the election playing itself out.  I for one have never thought there would be more Democrats voting in Florida than Republicans this cycle.  So, to the people who ask me on twitter if I am freaking out?  The answer is no.  This looks like a Florida election, with just more volume than we normally see. 

What does all this mean?  Well, it is a little like asking if Blake Bortles is going to look decent on Sunday or not.  We won’t know until game time, or in this case, until the votes are counted. That doesn’t mean there is no value in this – what the model looks like determines what a winning calculator looks like.  If Republicans have a four-point advantage in turnout share, the percentage of NPA required to win gets high.  If it is 1 or 2, it is modest. If NPA voters grow as a share, the number Dems must win them by also decreases, because their voting power will increase.  This is what we are looking for now – where does this plane look like it might land, and what is required of either to win.

Go back to 2016 – I think I described, based on the model, Donald Trump’s challenge in Florida on election day as akin to hitting a 3 wood over water to a par 5 – not a high percentage or even likely shot, but also not an impossible shot.  In the end, Trump won NPAs in Florida by six, saw a surge of voters, and had more certain voters left to go, and that is how he won EDay by 13 points.  Take away any one of those, and he probably didn’t make up her 240K vote lead.

The latter point is another that goes to how hard it is to predict.  In 2016, Democrats went into Election Day with a 1.5% edge in turnout, and I had her modeled up about 3-4%. Turns out she was up 4, so she in the pre-election day vote, she clearly won a larger share of NPAs, and based on where she was strong, she was likely winning more pre-Election Day Republicans than the other way around.

I think the odds are quite high that the same thing exists now, that both Gillum and Nelson are doing well with NPAs and doing better with Republicans than Scott/DeSantis are with Democrats.  How much better?  It is hard to tell – there are some indicators, and I’ll get to that in a second.  It is also important to remember, as virtually every good pollster will tell you, to poll people who have already voted.  People who have voted are harder to get to take polls, and just like every other universe, pollsters are trying to model what percentage has already voted, versus who hasn’t. 

When I’ve been asked about the “wave” – a term I hate with a burning passion, I think about it this way.  Florida isn’t a monolithic place, and just like trends aren't universal around the country, they aren’t here either.  But there are places in the country that have a seen more of a surge than others – and where those people live in Florida, are likely where will see the same.  What often happens in these moments is three things:  one party gets a bit more jazzed up, one gets a little more depressed, and NPA voters pick up and slide a direction. But these aren’t huge movements.  And down the ballot, in Congressional and Legislative races, the “wave” often means just a couple point shift – the kind of shift that gets you from losing by 2 to winning by 1.   The issue I have with “Wave” is it makes it seem like you should win a bunch of races by a lot, but that’s not what happens.  Wave means a tie goes to your side.

So, what are we seeing?  Both parties are pretty jazzed up, though in fairness, if we compare to 2014, Democrats are more jazzed by comparison than Republicans, hence why the voter turnout difference is closer.  At the same time, the comparison day to day is tricky, because we are a million votes into the election than we were at this day in 2014.   And NPAs and the new electorate?  From NPAs, we have polling, and among the non-2014 voters, we know they are marginally more Democratic and diverse than the 2018 electorate so far.    BUT, we also know more Republican Election Day voters exist.  We also know in Florida, not all swing voters are equal, but that is a longer piece.

There are some interesting things out there.  When I look for things suggesting movement the direction of my team, there are data points out there.  Seminole, and Sarasota both look pretty good.  Both are places that popped up for us in 08, and both have higher percentages of college-educated whites.   I thought when Margaret Good won her State House special election this spring, winning by 3,000 votes, even though 3,000 more Republicans voted in the race – meaning she won both NPAs and crossover voters, it might be the biggest warning flare of the cycle.  We saw a 'turn left' in 2008 as well – in that same county.

Pinellas looks better than 14, but one warning there, Crist really out-performed there, due to his history in the community, so even better in Pinellas may not translate to 2014 totals.  But that is a unique situation there.  The big Dem counties are all up.  Duval looks good.  Alachua is crushing it.   At same time, some of the “Trump surge” counties – Pasco, Marion, Hernando, Citrus, look on paper to be a bit more Republican than last time – though not at the same levels as the trends in the places looking better for Democrats.

If 90% of the 2014 voters who haven’t voted show up, we are looking at another 2.5 million votes.  On the pace we’ve seen with non-2014 voters, that number is probably around 750K, and always land north of it.  But pretty good chance we are more than halfway done.  There is nothing about this data that scares me for Nelson or Gillum winning, and in fact, I believe if we added them up right now, both are.  Both could win by 1 or 2, both could win by 5 or 6, they could split – all are options.  I believe now, as I did after right after the primary, that Gillum will win.  I believe now, as I have for a year, that Nelson will be tight, but that the race would come down to where the country was going late.  If the NPA numbers in public polling are to be believed, he should win. 

That being said, I don’t hold out much hope for my Jaguars going to the playoffs – but that’s OK – they also missed the playoffs after Obama won in 2008.


6 Days Out Florida

To:       Fellow Data Nerds

From:   Steve Schale

*5 Days of early voting (including today)

*6 days until Election Day

*54 days left in the Christmas shopping season

*460 days until the Iowa Caucuses

*712 days until my first 2020 General Election memo

*734 days until the 2020 General Election

The Jacksonville Jaguars traded Dante Fowler to the Rams for a 2019 and 2020 mid-round draft pick, and yesterday, we saw our biggest day of early voting – more than 350,000 total ballots cast, with more than 220,000 coming from in-person early voting.  The day was a virtual tie, with Republicans winning the day by about 2,000 voters.  As I said in a few tweets yesterday, I think this is the likely trend during the middle part of this week.

In fact, voting was so robust yesterday that the voters have surpassed the entire 2014 in-person early voting total, as well as the entire pre-election day total. 

Total Votes: 3,414,365

Republicans: 1,431,655

Democrats: 1,368,718

NPA/Minor: 613,992

Republican edge is 62,937 (+1.8%)

Tuesday it was 3,063,662 (+2.0%) with GOP holding an edge of 60,705

Monday it was 2,726,392 (+2.2%) with the GOP holding an edge of 59,048

Sunday, we were at 2,580,347, with the GOP holding an edge of 70,415 votes (+2.7%).

On Saturday, it was 2,316,413, with the GOP edge at 74,334 (+2.2)

For comparison, in 2014, right at 2.6 million voters had voted, Republicans had about a 133,000-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 5.2%.  In 2018, the GOP lead was about 20K votes at this point out of just under 4.5 million votes.

Republicans have now returned 61.1% of all their requested ballots, Democrats 52.4%, and NPA’s 48.9.  Statewide, the return rate is 55.8%. 

In total, just over 3.46 million ballots have been requested – again far more than 2014, and more than 2016. 

Here is what is remaining:

Democratic unreturned ballots: 636,840

Republican unreturned ballots: 522,086

NPA unreturned ballots: 372,470

There are nearly 115,000 more Democratic unreturned ballots than Republican ones.  Dear Democrats - if you want to help Andrew Gillum #BringItHome, please #BringItToThePostOffice.

The weekend really helped to bring the electorate more in line with how it should look.  Through Monday’s vote (I won’t get to look at through Tuesday until later today), the electorate is 71.8% white, and 11.3% Black (African American and Caribbean).  The drop of the former is mostly driven by a rise in the latter, as Black participation is now above 2014 and 2016 levels at this point.  Hispanic is around 12%, though this number may be deceptively low, as 41% of the Hispanic vote is from voters who did not participate in 2014 (compared to 26% of the white vote, and 29% of the Black vote).  I will be watching this number through the weekend and wouldn’t be surprised to see it jump to 13-14 quickly.  Worth noting – over 20% of the voters on Sunday were Black.

As I said on Monday, when looking at the ethnicity of who is left to vote, if just the people who voted in 2014 show up to vote between now and Election Day, the Black (reminder, Black voters in Florida include African American, Caribbean, and some Hispanic) vote will land north of 12%.  And again, that is if no one new shows up.  I suspect the Black share will end up right around the Black share of total voter registration, which is just over 13.  I think when all said and done, the white share of the electorate probably lands around 67 or 68, which is a pretty good place for Gillum, and Nelson.

Dems lead Republicans with non-2014 voters by about 40,000, which is good news for the home team. On the flipside, and just to stress this for my Democratic friends – there is real work to be done, as there are well over 200,000 more 2014 Republicans than 2014 Democrats left to vote.  My side needs more infrequent turnout to keep the turnout model in a healthy place.

Turnout has been, in a word, nuts.  There are 37 counties who have already exceeded their entre pre-2014 Election Day vote totals, and 35 who have seen more in-person early voting than in all of 2014.

Statewide, already 25.7% of all registered voters have voted. In 2014, turnout was about 49%.  30.6% of Republicans, 27.7% of Democrats and 16.8% of NPAs have voted.

Turnout is highest in The Villages, where 48% of voters have already cast a ballot.  In total, 8 counties have total turnout over 30% of registered voters.    Just as Republican turnout is outpacing Democratic turnout statewide, it is in most counties, though the Democratic turnout rate is higher in some interesting places, namely Sarasota and St. Johns County, two Republican counties with a higher than average population of college education voters.  St. Johns, one of the most Republican counties in Florida (Northeast Florida, just south of Jacksonville), is an interesting place where Trump did worse than Romney four years earlier.  It isn’t a place that will be close, but like all of Florida, it is a battle over margins.

The places where Republicans are most over-performing tend to be small, with one exception:  Miami-Dade.  Republican turnout is running 6.5% higher than Democratic turnout.  There are reasons for this, namely local Republicans have long had a very effective vote by mail program, specifically in older Cuban communities.  There are also several very competitive down ballot races, where the GOP is running field programs.  For Democrats, you should be very happy that President Obama is making a trip there.  There are roughly 120,000 African American and Caribbean voters, and 150,000 Hispanic voters who voted in 2016 and not 2014 in the Miami media market alone, and that is a universe the former boss is pretty good with.   In 2016, we did see a real “Obama bump” in the markets he visited, and I suspect we will again in Miami over the weekend.

I also want to point out Duval County.  As Democrats there have given up hope with the Jaguars, they have poured their energy into turning out the vote.  Six days out, Democrats hold a 2,500-voter lead in Duval, and it growing a bit daily.   The Republican statewide math is easier if Duval is heavily Republican.  Gillum is aggressively contesting the county, which is very smart.

On the flipside, southwest Florida continues to be on a roll for Republicans.  The market should be about 7% of the statewide vote, but right now it is close to 10%.  Republicans in all three major counties in the Fort Myers media market have turnout north of 40%, some 9-13% higher than the GOP statewide average.  Lee County alone will likely hit 50% total Republican turnout sometime tomorrow.  Honestly, I don’t know why President Trump is visiting here, given that turnout is also juiced.

One last thing.  On Sunday, I had a chance to visit Panama City.  If you have not personally seen the damage from Hurricane Michael, it is hard to put it into words.  The counties most effected by the hurricane make up about 2% of the statewide vote, and as one can expect, turnout there was sluggish at first, but it is coming back to life.  In the most affected counties, about 54,000 voters cast a ballot before election day in 2014.  Today it is about 36,000.  But there are 5 days left, and it is catching up. Bay County, for example, has now seen nearly 14,000 in person early voters, compared to roughly 17,000 in all of 2014.   It is almost a sure thing that despite the storm, more people in Bay County will in-person early vote than they did in the last Governor's race.   This may not be great for my home team, but it is good news, and a testament to the resiliency of the community.

Tomorrow I will take a deeper look at some of the demographics driving the NPAs who are voting, as well as the question of youth voters.   Until then, thank you for reading.


8 Days Out -- Florida Memo

To:       People who can’t stand Mondays.  Everyone else stop reading.

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       8 days out

It finally cooled off in Florida, but the voting got hot.  As of this morning: 2,726,392

This breaks down:

Republicans: 1,151,593 (42.3)

Democrats: 1,092,547 (40.1)

NPA/Minor: 482,252 (17.7)

Republican edge is 59,046 (+2.2%)


Yesterday, we were at 2,580,347, with the GOP holding an edge of 70,415 votes (+2.7%).

On Saturday, it was 2,316,413, with the GOP edge at 74,334 (+2.2)

 Democrats made up all the ground they lost late last weekend, winning the weekend vote by roughly 15,500, or just under 4%.  Most of that came yesterday, when Democrats won the day by 11K votes. My home team had a very good weekend.

 Before my Democratic friends on twitter get too excited, there wasn’t much in the way of vote by vote by mail ballots, so unless the 118K or so more Democrats than Republicans who hold an absentee ballot #BringItToThePostOffice, the GOP lead will likely bounce back a bit tomorrow morning when the weekend absentees get added into the mix. 

For comparison, in 2014, right at 2.2 million voters had voted, Republicans had about a 140,000-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 6.4%.  In 2018, the GOP lead was about 9K votes at this point out of 4 million votes.  It was basically tied.

Republicans lead for one reason, and one reason only: Democratic return rates for vote by mail are lagging Republican rates – by seven points in terms of the rate of return. Right now, statewide the return rate is about 49% -- though given what is currently sitting in the mailboxes at Supervisors offices, there is no question more than 50% of Floridians who requested a ballot have mailed it back.  Again, those numbers update in the morning.

Republicans have now returned 54.4% of all their requested ballots, Democrats 47.6%, and NPA’s 42.5.  Statewide, the return rate is 36%. 

In total, just over 3.42 million ballots have been requested – again far more than 2014, and more than 2016. 

Here is what is remaining:

Democratic unreturned ballots: 722,498

Republican unreturned ballots: 604,885

NPA unreturned ballots: 412,736

The electorate is continuing to trend more diverse.  Not including Sunday’s data, which will make these numbers even more diverse, the electorate looks like this (again thru Saturday):  73% White, 10.5% Black, 11.7% Hispanic.  Compare this to Thursday last week, when the electorate was 75% White, 11.5% Hispanic, and 8.5% Black, though as in-person early voting, the electorate is trending more diverse.  Keep in mind, vote-by-mail in Florida tends to be far more white than the final electorate. 

That being said, when looking at the ethnicity of who is left to vote, it is clear that Black turnout is rounding into shape – if just the people who voted in 2014 show up to vote between now and Election Day, the Black (reminder, Black voters in Florida include African American, Caribbean, and some Hispanic) vote will land at about 12.5%.  And again, that is if no one new shows up.  I suspect the Black share will end up right around the Black share of total voter registration, which is just over 13.

If there is a concern I have about turnout from my party perspective – where as the Black share of the electorate has been trending up, Hispanic has been pretty flat.  Outside of Cuban Republicans, Hispanics tend to vote later, and more on Election Day, but this is something to watch this week and into next weekend.

Looking at the electorate that has voted, and the electorate left to vote, there is good news and bad news for my home team.

In terms of non-2014 votes, slightly more than 30% of the electorate did not vote in 2014.   Those voters are younger (30% under 50 – and 17% under 35 compared to 22% under 50 and 8% under 35 for all early voters), more Democratic (Dems are +4%), and more diverse – particularly more Hispanic. 

In terms of people who 2014 voters who have not voted, there are about 200,000 more Republicans. Dems make some of that up if the trends with lower propensity voters keep up, but not all of it.  In other words, after you read this memo, if you are for Nelson and Gillum, go turn out some voters.

In terms of the vote by media market, it is starting to look like Florida.  The two markets most impacted by the storm: Panama City and Tallahassee, are still down.  Miami, as a share of the electorate, continues to grow – and while this will likely flatline or drop a bit as some other areas even out, it is well ahead of where it was at this point in 2014 and 2016.   Orlando, arguably the most important market this cycle, continues to be very competitive – and robust in terms of turn out.  Fort Myers, after blowing up in early vote by mail, is coming back to earth.  Tampa looks like Tampa.

I looked at 2018 versus 2014 by county margins, there are a lot of high points for my home team:

This data reads this way 2014 margin -- 2018 margin; (2014 share -- 2018 share)

Broward: 36,893 -- 74,654 (57-27 -- 58-24)

Dade: -31 -- 22,153 (41-41 -- 44-35)

Orange: 4,611 -- 23,619 (43-39 -- 49-33)

Hillsborough: -1,584 -- 9,556 (40-42 -- 44-39)

DUUUVAL: -8,310 -- 472 (38-50 -- 44-43)

Alachua (UF): 3,989 -- 11,255 (53-33 -- 58-28)


And in the swing counties:

Seminole: -9,032 -- -3,728 (32-50 -- 37-43)

Pinellas: -7,921 -- -1,855 (37-43 -- 40-41)

St. Lucie: 748 -- 2,853 (41-39 -- 44-38)

What is interesting, and again is good news – even in many of the bigger GOP counties where they have a higher margin today than four years ago, Democratic turnout is keeping it in check.  For example:

In Lee (Fort Myers), Sumter (Villages), Collier (Naples), St. Johns, Clay (near Jax), while the GOP margin is higher than it was four years ago, the partisan share of vote difference is closer for the Democrats.  Take the aforementioned St. Johns County, one of the most Republican counties in the state.  Republicans have a 3,758 bigger vote margin, but the model has gone from 63-23 R in 2014 to 58-28 in 2018.   Winning Florida for my side is all about those little shifts.

One last little data point, then off to work.  Right now, statewide turnout is about 20.5%.  Among Republicans, it is 24.6%, and among Democrats its 22.1% (NPA is at 13%).  Republican turnout rates are higher in 61 of 67 counties.  I point this out because while I do believe that there is a lot of data from the weekend that looks good, Democrats keep in mind that Republicans are blowing out turnout as well.  More people are voting overall – and there are probably at least 4.5 million more people to vote – and if only the most certain show up, which they will, the GOP will have a solid advantage in turnout. 

I feel better about where my side is today than I did last week, but I don’t feel great.  This still feels closer than the polls, and while I absolutely believe NPA voters will decide it – as they typically do in Florida, how close things are from a partisan perspective dictates by how much our side has to win the NPA vote. 

And while it may be a bye week for my hapless Jaguars, it is far from a bye week for those of you all who want to bring it home.

One last note:  Last week, my side lost one of its brightest rising stars.  Tyrone Gayle was a kid from Jacksonville – we went to the same high school (though he was much younger) and took his charge to be a change agent seriously.  In his short 30 years on this planet, he touched more people than most of us could in a lifetime.   He battled stage 4 cancer for more than two years, and while most of us bitch about having a cold, Tyrone went through treatment while still during a Presidential campaign, never losing his spirit.    A colleague of him said: “Tyrone could fly, but that was never enough for him – he wanted us all to fly with him, so he elevated every person he touched, lifted each and every one of us.  His body failed him last night, but his spirit soars on, flying above us, forever lifting us up.”

While I can’t say we were all that close, he was my friend & fellow hopelessly optimistic Jaguars fan -- and more importantly, I was just an admirer and fan of his, a fellow EHS and Duval kid who did good, and one whose limitless potential was sadly cut short.  F Cancer.  #GayleNation


11 more days Florida. We got this.

To:       The Blake Bortles Fan Club

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       11 days out

Tonight is the opening exhibition game for FSU basketball, so yes, we are closing in on the November 6th opening game against Florida, which means the election is almost here. 

As of this morning,  2,037,805 Floridians have voted, which is about 1.2 million fewer than the number of times Blake Bortles has turned the ball over in 2018.

Yesterday, the GOP won both the VBM returns, as well as the in-person early vote, carrying about an 8,000-ballot advantage out of the day. In total, 286,330 people voted yesterday, which makes up 2.2% of all Florida registered voters.  That is pretty astounding for a midterm. 

This breaks down:

Republicans:  869,745 (42.68%)

Democrats:  808,288 (39.7%)

NPA/Minor: 359,772 (17.6%)

Total GOP edge: 61,457 (+3.02%)

Yesterday, we were at 1,751,475, with the GOP holding an edge of 53,168 votes (+3.03%)

Yesterday, we were at 1,448.251, with the GOP holding an edge of 52,850 votes (+3.65%).

Relative to 2014, a couple of interesting points.   At this point in 2014, about 1.75 million ballots were in.  Yesterday, we were about 150K total votes ahead of 2014, and today that number is close to 300K.

For a straight apples to apples comparison, in 2014, about 14.7% of registered voters had voted so far.  Today it is about 15.4%

11 days out in 2014 also marked another point.  The GOP held a 144K vote advantage at this point, which equated to a margin advantage of 8.23%.  It also marked the high-water mark for Republicans – from this point on in 2014, the GOP margin fell, finishing at about 90K.    If the past is prologue, the partisan balance going into election day would be almost even.   Everything else for the last 5-7 days has been consistent with the last midterm, so this will be interesting to watch over the next few days.

If you go back to 2010, the GOP advantage on this day was about 240K votes out of about 1.45m votes.  

In 2016, at this point, 2,864,666 had voted, with leading GOP up just over 14K votes. (+0.5%)

I will say this – I am not sure yet that we are headed for super crazy turnout, as some have suggested.   We are running ahead of 2014, but that advantage isn’t huge.  There are slightly more infrequent voters than we saw at this point, but not a huge difference.  I started this exercise thinking turnout would be about 54%, and I think I’m still there, though I want to see what the weekend looks like.

This morning I looked at this question of cannibalization – is one party or the other getting an edge simply because people who normally vote on election day are voting early.   This is also a chance to look at people who are non-traditional midterm voters.

So here is how it looks:

About 55% of the vote so far comes from people who voted before the election in 2014.  This is overwhelmingly Republican – GOP with about a 13% lead with these voters, or roughly 85K votes

About 30% of the electorate did not vote in 2014.  The Democrats hold a lead here of just over 4%, or about 30K votes.

The remainder is “cannibalized” vote – or people who voted at the polls in 2014 but have cast a ballot before the election this time.  This vote is very close – though about 7K more Republicans fall into this category.

The electorate keeps trending more diverse.  Yesterday it was 75% white, today it is 74% white, with black voters (African American and Caribbean) making up nearly 10% of the vote.   If the final number is under 70%, the math for Democrats gets a lot easier.  At this trajectory, it should be well below 70.

In other words, the Democrats have cut the gap significantly since 2014 without taking away more of their election day vote than the Republicans.   The other good news for my team – Democrats are leading turnout among the non-2014 voters. 

Back to just absentees:

In total, just over 3.38 million ballots have been requested – passing the total number requested in 2016.   Some 1.9 million ballots remain unprocessed,

Two million ballots remain in the back seats of cars and stuck between the couch cushions, and 115K more of them belong to Democrats – going backwards from yesterday’s margin of113K.

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans.  The statewide return rate is 43.7% (was 40.2% yesterday).  Republicans have now returned 48,6%% of all requested ballots, Democrats 42.2%, and NPA’s 37.7%.  Republicans will pass the 50% mark for returning ballots today.

I’ve been asked a lot about the people who requested a ballot but voted another way – and is this why the delta in unreturned ballots is so large.

Right now, about 40,000 people received a ballot, but chose to vote in-person early.  There are about 6,000 more Democrats in this camp than Republicans.  This is a long way of saying:  Democrats, return your freaking ballots.

I think things are tracking in a good place for my party, but I don’t want to sugar coat it:  There is very real work to be done.  There are almost 4 million votes who voted in 2014 who have not voted yet, and Republicans hold about a 250,000-vote advantage.   My side needs to keep driving up that advantage among infrequent midterm voters.  The good news for Democrats:  that pool is rather large.   

As I’ve said all week, there isn’t a lot changing day to day this week.  Miami continues to look stronger than I expected by this point, which is a positive thing for Democrats, though the actual turnout rate for Democrats in Miami-Dade is lagging Republicans by 5%.  Orlando continues to be very competitive, which again is a good sign.  Palm Beach is looking better.   For Republicans, the Fort Myers market continues to be juiced.  I am honestly not sure why the President is headed there – they don’t have a turnout issue there – there are other places I think they could use him. 

Don’t expect significant change tomorrow.  Monday and Friday tend to be better for Democrats in the in-person early vote, but I suspect tomorrow’s numbers will look close to today, then Sunday, we will get a look at what happened on the first full day of statewide early voting.  Just hopefully, the Jaguars won’t be unwatchable again as I write that note.

Until tomorrow, happy Friday everyone. 


12 Days Out Florida - Florida is Getting its Vote On

To:       Fellow Frustrated Jaguars Fans

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       12 days out in Florida

While no one in Florida won a billion dollars, 1,751,451 Floridians have voted. 

This breaks down:

Republicans:  748,091 (42.7%)

Democrats:  694,923 (39.7%)

NPA/Minor: 308,461 (17.6%)

As of this morning, Republicans lead by 53,168 (+3.03%)

Yesterday, we were at 1,448.251, with the GOP holding an edge of 52,850 votes (+3.65%).

The day was pretty much a push.  Republicans narrowly one the in-person early voting, while Democrats won the VBM return. 

And people are voting.  I suspect in the window of Monday through this coming Sunday, we could see well over 2 million total votes – and that is without having in-person early voting open statewide for most of this week.   Based on a look at where votes are coming from, turnout north of 7 million is very real – which leads to one huge caveat:  even at 1.7 million votes, there are probably as much as 5.5 million votes left to be cast.   A lot can happen.

We have now surpassed 2014 in terms of vote cast at this point.  12 days out, we were at 1.6 million votes, and the GOP had roughly a 140K vote week.   The one similarity between this week in 2014, and this week in 2018 – both weeks are seeing relative parity between the two parties.  The good news for Democrats:  the Republican margin – 8.8% at this point in 2014 – is much closer this cycle.

Some of this is low propensity voters showing up – with my side having a slight edge (more on this below), and some of it is both parties are seeing more of their voters choosing to vote earlier – the dreaded “cannibalization” of one’s own vote.

In total, just over 3.35 million ballots have been requested – and while yesterday I said I didn’t think we would match 2016 VBM total requests, well, I was wrong.  It will happen today.   There was a pretty large number of requests processed over the last two days.  In 2014, the VBM return rate was roughly 72.4%, meaning there are at least 1.5 million VBM ballots to be returned.   

Two million ballots remain in the back seats of cars and stuck between the couch cushions, and almost 113K more of them were mailed to Democrats.   That being said, yesterday it was 116K, so yea, progress. ๐Ÿ˜Š

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans.  The statewide return rate is 40.2%.  Republicans have now returned 44.8% of all requested ballots, Democrats 38.2%, and NPA’s 34.6%. 

I had a chance to take a look at the electorate so far, and here are some interesting nuggets. As I said yesterday, the most interesting thing so far is just how unremarkable the numbers look so far. 

The electorate is still very white.  To date, it breaks down at roughly 75% White, 11.5% Hispanic, and 9% Black, though as in-person early voting, the electorate is trending more diverse.  Keep in mind, vote-by-mail in Florida tends to be far whiter than the final electorate.  By Monday, this will look different.

One real highlight for the home team:  low propensity voters at this point are more diverse than the electorate at all. Of the more than 500K voters who have cast a ballot to date but who did not vote in 2014, it is roughly 16% Hispanic.   If tradition holds to form, I suspect we will see the Black (keep in mind, that is both African American and Caribbean American in my state) start to move more this weekend.

Also, interesting, while women outnumber men in the electorate, the ratio is almost identical to all registered voters.  As of yesterday, 10.84% of all registered women have voted, and 10.81% of registered men.  The early edge we saw with female turnout has come back to a push.

There are slightly more unlikely Democrats who have voted so far, and slightly more Democratic voters who didn’t vote in 2014, though there are more “certain” Republican voters left to vote.   Among voters with no voting history, the number of Democrats and Republicans who have voted is almost equal. 

Looking at independents, it is again remarkable just how much they look like everything else right now:  73% white and balanced pretty close geographically compared to the rest of the state.  The good news for my Democratic friends – while not a significant number yet, within Hispanic and Black voters, roughly 50% of the vote is coming from low propensity voters, compared to about 35% among whites. 

To date, about 13.2% of all registered voters have cast a ballot.  Republican turnout to date is about 16%, and Democrats about 14%.  NPA is about 8.5%, but they tend to really grow in the last week and weekend of early voting.  Not surprisingly, the counties that are a little older and have more history of voting by mail are leading the way, with Sumter, home to The Villages still pacing the Democrats, with 28.3% of all Democrats already having voted.   One piece of news that Democrats should feel good about:  Orange County, which in the midterm in 2014 turned out only 43% of all voters—compared to 50% statewide, is closely tracking the statewide average – a little under, but in a good place.  Osceola is another place that struggled in 2014 that seems to be a little ahead of where it should be. 

The Miami media market is performing well in relation to the rest of the state for Democrats, but some of this is because North Florida is down a bit right now.  Turnout in Dade and Broward is getting better, but still lags a bit – but it is getting better.  As a Democrat, I would like to see Duval look better after the first weekend of early voting—Dem turnout here is only 10% so far, compared to 14% statewide.

Or Republicans, the vote in SW Florida looks quite robust, as well as in the counties where they will want to overperform Scott’s 2014 performance north of Tampa, namely in Pasco, Citrus, and Hernando.  In all three of these counties, Democrats are also turning out well – but there are just more Republicans.  The same thing is playing out in places like Sarasota and Manatee, both south of Tampa. The battle here is for the margin. 

As I said yesterday, the most remarkable thing about the election so far is just how un-remarkable it is, though turnout is very strong.  It right now is just very tight.  Just to underscore the point, if we break out the two true battleground counties, Pinellas and St. Lucie, the partisan difference in turnout so far in the two counties combined is about 1,000 votes.

Couple of last big picture thoughts – as many of you all know, the best way to know how Florida will react politically is to understand where the people who live in an area come from.  Therefore, when I get asked about “the wave” in Florida – I often will suggest people look for where Democrats are doing best around the country and find those places in Florida.  Right now, it looks pretty good in several of those counties around Tampa, particularly if NPA voters are breaking the way polling suggests.  Elsewhere, it looks more normal, just as we see around the nation.  This will be worth watching for a bit.

Wanted to close on an observation on the Governor’s race.  A bunch of polls have shown Gillum with a high single digit lead, and honestly, as much as I’d like to think he was up by close to 10, this is Florida, and that isn’t real.  But outside of one or two polls, paid for by the GOP, Gillum has been ahead in every poll since the primary.  He has not won, but he is winning. 

Campaigns are about moments, and moments either solidify or change momentum.  Go back to 2016, and everything was tracking Clinton’s way, until the Comey memo, which stalled some forward progress, and hurt with the late deciders. Comey gave Trump new life.  It may or may not be the sole reason he won, but it changed the trajectory.

Honestly, DeSantis is at the point where he needs a bit of a game changer.  It isn’t that this race is over – it isn’t – there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.   But the trajectory is very much in Gillum corner.

Rick Scott could change the game with his checkbook, as he is trying to do right now.  Ron DeSantis needs events or moments, just like Trump did.  Last night he had a chance to redefine the race, and it didn’t happen.  Gillum is very good in these moments – trust me, in the Democratic primary, I watched hours of tape of him, so at times I could play him in mock debates – and Gillum absolutely denied DeSantis a chance to reshape the race. 

Campaigns are so much about momentum.  There is a reason why Presidential candidates put so much into Iowa and New Hampshire – winning means momentum, and momentum means money and enthusiasm.

And in a race like this, which is turning out to be a turnout race to the finish line, that momentum is what drives volunteers to take one more shift, and donors to write that extra check.    And trust me, after traveling with Gillum for a day with Vice President Biden, that momentum is in his corner.

The race isn’t over, not by a long shot, but when you are winning, you want nothing to change – you just want the election to come as fast as possible, while when you are losing, you are desperate for a moment to change things.  Trust me, every longtime hack has been there -- watching the seconds slip away, hoping for anything that can change things.  But the hardest thing for candidates and campaigns is the realization you can only control what you can control.  

Sure, there are external forces that can change races, but last night’s debate was one of those moments for both candidates – and probably the last moment – for the candidates themselves to control an opportunity to reshape the race.  For Gillum, it was a chance to solidify the momentum, and for DeSantis, probably the last time to really change it. 

Gillum shined on the stage, won the moments in the debate, he won the actual moment, and DeSantis didn’t change the race.   Does it mean it is over?  No.  Does it mean the wind is at Gillum’s back for the next 12 days – absolutely.

Compared to Blake Bortles, who is often just on his back, having the wind at your back is what you want at this stage of the race.

Until tomorrow.


13 Days Out, as Florida right now is Florida.

To:       Fellow Mega Million Losers

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       13 days out

Forgive the lateness of this note – I got home at 2:00 AM last night.  Finally got enough coffee to type a complete sentence.

Before I get into the data, a quick note on the polling out there.  We are in the true silly season of public polling – everyone polls because many political reporters need polling like I need coffee this morning:  it is a source of life.   Release a poll and it is pretty much a guaranteed to get news.   So there have been a lot of polls over the last few days, and even more to come over the next ten days.

We are at the stage, in the words of my friend and Obamaland legend Paul Tewes, where “polls are shit.”  Yes, the public polling can glean some things:  Gillum has led in every one since the primary, which one can safely assume, he is leading.  Is he up 12?  No.  Is he guaranteed to win?  No.  In the Senate race, both Scott and Nelson have led in public polling of late. What does that mean?  Well it means it is pretty much a jump ball.  

There is a reason why candidates don’t use FAU, or Quinnipiac, or random group X to do their polling.  The polling candidates pay for is a lot more expensive, because there are very real controls used to get the most accurate data one can get.  Candidates who are spending millions on ads will spend to get good data – as they should.  This doesn’t mean all public polling is bad – but it does mean very little of it done to the standard serious candidates demand.    One other thing – all polling is based on one really big assumption:  what the electorate will look like.  If the electorate doesn’t look like the polling model, well, the poll isn’t representative of the actual electorate.

This is the long way of saying:  if you are going to watch the polling, watch the trends, and watch the averages, and don’t try to cherry pick the poll that makes you feel better about the race.  Also, if you really care about the race and the outcome – sign up to impact the model:  in other words, sign up to get people to the polls.  I will say this about Florida right now:  based on who has voted to date, it is likely that if we counted the 1.4 million votes in the bank right now, the statewide elections would be very close, but probably with Republicans leading.  But that doesn’t mean anything – because there are solid 5.5-6 million votes left to be cast.  So in the words of FSU head football coach, go #DoSomething.

So here is where we are, 13 days out from the opening game of FSU’s basketball season.

Blake Bortles is still the QB in Jacksonville…

and 1,448,251 Floridians have voted.

This breaks down:

Republicans: 623,582 (43.1%)

Democrats: 570,732 (39.4%)

NPA/Minor: 253,937 (17.5%)

The Republicans have an edge of 52,850 votes (+3.65%)

Democrats won the in person early vote by about 1,000 votes, and the vote by mail returns were pretty much a push.

For comparison, in 2014, Republicans had about a 140,000-ballot lead at this point – and led by around 9%.  In 2016, the GOP had about 10,000 ballot lead at this point. 

We have seen two consecutive days of record in person early voting, though both days we’ve seen robust participation from both parties.  I want to give it one more day before taking a deep look at who is actually showing up – just as with VBM, we need to get enough in-person early votes in to begin making any real observations about what it may mean, and honestly, we really won’t know much until next week, when in-person early goes statewide.

In terms of absentees, Democratic return rates continue to lag Republicans – Republicans have now returned 40.5% of all requested ballots, Democrats 34.4, and NPA’s 30.8.  Statewide, the return rate is 36%. 

In total, just over 3.22 million ballots have been requested – far more than 2014, though it does not appear we will match the 2016 totals.  And just like yesterday, about 116K more Democrats have not returned a ballot than Republicans. 

Honestly, what is most interesting about the vote so far is just how un-interesting it is.  The state is falling into a pretty predictable margins.  The share of vote by market is mostly where it should be – Tampa and SW Florida is a little over-represented, North Florida is a little under.  Only one county, Calhoun, is still unreported from the hurricane, and places like Bay County (Panama City) are seeing voting getting back to normal.  Republican counties are getting more Republican, Democratic counties are getting more Democratic, and the few places in between look generally how they always do.  If this week holds true to form, I suspect today, tomorrow, and Friday will look pretty close to Monday and Tuesday, with the next big jump coming on Saturday.  It looks like Florida, and if it looks like Florida, it is going to trend tight.

Breaking it down by my target counties (if you missed that memo, it is here).  Again, as a reminder, my theory of the case is basically this:  in a very close election, the campaign that can cement the gains their party made from 2014 to 2016 will probably win.

In the 10 GOP counties I am tracking, vote by mail return rates continue to be quite good, though within those counties, the early enthusiasm gap we saw benefiting Republicans a bit has leveled out.  Or example, take Manatee County, a GOP county immediately south of Tampa, more Republicans have voted than Democrats – as will happen there because there are more Republicans, but the gap between the rate of ballot return between the two parties has basically disappeared.  In a race that is all about margins, this is good news.  And in Sarasota, home to one of the highest populations of college-educated women, while the Republicans have overtaken the Democrats in ballots cast – again, which will happen because Republicans have a strong voter registration advantage, more the turnout rate among Democrats is higher. 

In most of these counties, early voting has not yet begun, so there is nothing to look at there.

In terms of the handful of counties where Clinton grew from Obama, it is a mixed bag.  Ballot return rates in Osceola County, home to a significant Puerto Rican population are high.  And while early voting as sped up turnout rates in Miami Dade and Orange, neither are where I wish they would be.  In Duval, nothing so far indicates that Republicans are running up the score, which is a good thing for Democrats.   Again, it is early – and rather than freaking out, or arguing these points with me on twitter, my Democratic friends should go to

One thing I do like as a Democrat:  in-person early voting has really improved the early look at the Orlando media market, as the Republican advantage there has gone close to a push, thanks, almost surely because of Vice President Biden’s stop there yesterday. This is probably the key market in Florida this cycle (though Tampa is always critical), and probably the reason that Scott won in 2014. 

Now that voter registration numbers are finalized, I will start adding more specific data on how turnout rates look in counties, compared to historical averages.  This will begin to give us a better sense of where turnout is going, and where voters might be surging a bit. 

And as I said earlier, I didn’t dig into the make-up of who voted yesterday, because I do want to see more data before looking.  At just 200,000 in-person early voters, it is still a little early.    We are also starting to get enough NPA voters to take a good look at that universe.  On my side, there is a lot of hope that the NPA vote will break away from Trump, and what it is looking like will give us a good sense if that is happening.

Generally, 13 days out, it looks like it almost always does:  Republicans have more certain voters left to vote than Democrats – as they always do --- Democrats have more less certain voters left in the pool than Republicans.  The electorate should over the next 3-5 days get more balanced, both from a partisanship and racial perspective.  I continue to think we are headed to an election where the floor for the candidates for Governor and US Senate is 47-48%.  In other words, but for right now, Florida is looking like she’s gonna Florida.  

Just hopefully Bortles doesn’t Bortles against the Eagles on Sunday. 


14 Days Out to Election -- and FSU basketball

To:       People who love democracy and dogs.

From:   Steve Schale

Re:       2 more weeks

It is great to be writing this from America’s county, Duval.  It isn’t so great to be writing this while riding in a van – so forgive me if there are any more typos than normal.

Yesterday was the first day of in-person early voting, as 113,750 people went to the polls.

Not surprisingly, it was a record first day for a midterm election, but how much of a record might surprise you.  More people voted yesterday than the first two days of early voting in 2014, combined.  This happened to coincide with Joe Biden being in Florida. I am not necessarily saying the two are correlated, but the two events are facts. 

In total, about 25% of all the ballots cast to-date were cast yesterday.  Between VBM ballots, and in-person early vote, more than 300,000 votes were processed.

Today was also the first day that Democrats “won” – driven by their small advantage among in-person early voting.  Vote by mail looked like it has pretty much every day last week – with the GOP winning the day there by a few thousand votes.

As we enter early voting, there have been 1,260,846 total ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 545,327 (43.25%)

Democratic ballots: 496,104 (39.35%)

NPA ballots: 291,415 (17.4%)

Total GOP advantage:  49,223 (3.9%)

Monday’s numbers were 930,657 total votes with GOP advantage: 50,399 (+5.75%)

And for comparison purposes, 14 days out in 2014, the election looked like this.

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,609,835

Total Republican advantage:  141,433 (+8.8%)

Assuming turnout at 7,000,000 voters, roughly 18% of the potential total turnout is in. 

Just to stress one point – this time just for my Democratic friends:  There are 118,508 more Democratic ballots sitting on kitchen tables or in piles by the front door than there are Republican ballots.   

In terms of in-person versus vote by mail, right now, vote by mail accounts for 90% of ballots processed so far, though more people are likely to vote by mail than vote in-person early.

The Republican advantage in vote by mail is 53,745

The Democratic advantage in early voting is 4,522

In total, 31.5% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 35.81 % of their ballots, Democrats 29.8%, and NPA returning 26.93%

As I said yesterday, this isn’t going to be a deep dive.  I will be back to some more normal schedule tomorrow, plus after a few days of early voting, there will be more data to look at in terms of the make-up of that voting universe.

Couple of quick notes though:  voting in Broward and Miami Dade was strong.  Overall, voting in the three southeastern main Florida counties made up about 37% of all the early votes cast yesterday.  One flag on this stat – in person early voting isn’t up statewide until Saturday, so the early returns will favor the larger counties. 

The Panama City and Tallahassee markets continue to really lag where they should be, driven by the 8 counties most impacted by Hurricane Michael.  As I laid out a few days ago, I don’t expect the impacts of Michael to change anything but the most 2000-esque types of elections, but this is something to continue to watch.   The Jacksonville market is also lagging, though this should catch up as early voting continues. 

Look for more tomorrow.  Until then, thanks for reading.






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.


Florida 2018 - Darrell Waltrip Days (17) Until the Election

To:       Fellow hacks, fellow Americans, and all the FSU fans who are reading this while in line at the store buying their last-minute tailgate supplies.

 From:  Steve Schale

 Re:       17 Days out.


At the time I am finishing this memo, we are now:

45 hours until the first early voting sites open.

403 hours until the polls open on Election Day

415 hours until the polls close in the Eastern Time Zone counties

416 hours until the polls close in the Central Time Zone counties

417 hours until opening tip for FSU basketball

As of this morning, there are 877.782 ballots vote by mail ballots returned. 

Republican ballots 386,101 (43.99%)

Democratic ballots: 335,702 (38.24%)

NPA ballots: 155,979 (17.77%)

Yesterday was another day this week, just like every other day this week, with the GOP returning slightly more ballots than the Democrats.  This was the slowest day this week, though I am also pulling the data earlier in the morning, so as the day goes on, the total number of ballots processed on Friday could grow.  The basic make-up of the day isn’t likely to change.

One note from yesterday, we saw ballots processed in Bay County for the first time since the storm.  The eight counties most impacted have been, as to be expected, focused on other priorities.  There are still two counties: Gulf and Liberty, both who were significantly impacted, who haven’t reported since before Michael. 

Today’s GOP advantage: 50,399 (+5.75%)

Yesterday GOP advantage:  46,104 (+5.83%)

Thursday GOP advantage: 43,098 (+6.31%)

Wednesday morning GOP advantage: 40,179 votes (+7.28%).

And for comparison purposes, 18 days out in 2014, the election looked like this:

Total ballots returned (2014): 1,186,083

Total Republican advantage:  136,180 (+11.5%)

Assuming turnout at 7,000,000 voters, roughly 12.4% 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%. 

Yesterday, another 21,345 VBM requests were processed, moving the total number of requests to 3,224,028.

Democrats have a 63,592-voter edge in total requests, meaning Democrats have 113,991 more ballots yet to be returned.  The new VBM request number has steadily declined every day this week, which is common at this point in the cycle. 

Just to stress one point – this time just for my Democratic friends:  There are 113,991 more Democratic ballots sitting on kitchen tables or in piles by the front door than there are Republican ballots.    Come on people, I know we are all bummed about the start of the Jaguars season, but let’s get those things back in.

In total, 27.23% of all requested ballots have been returned, with Republicans returning 30.95% of their ballots, Democrats 25.61%, and NPA returning 23.43%

As I mentioned yesterday, when I think about these races, there are a few buckets of counties I will be watching, particularly as in-person early voting starts.  And let me repeat something I’ve said a lot – these numbers are just what they are: numbers subject to interpretation.  The things I see in them are things I see, based on watching a lot of elections in Florida.  But they aren’t predictive.  So, take them for what they are worth – my notes. 

Basically, these memos are the same thing I would do when I worked on more actual campaigns – try to spot trends, try to find holes, and try, when possible, to fix issues.  Since I am not working on this one, I am sharing my thoughts with you (well, most of my thoughts).    I am grateful there are people who find these things interesting – and I do try very hard to try to provide a little look behind the Florida curtain.

As we get into in-person early voting, it is likely we will see record vote counts, so significant chunks of the electorate voting each day, and there is a lot to be gleaned from that data.   But as Trump/Clinton showed us, the candidate who wins going into Election Day isn’t always the one that wins. 

I am confident of one thing:  This election is going to be very close, in all five statewide elections.  Several of the ballot measures will probably pass or fail by tens of thousands of votes.   I can parse through this data and find things would excite both sides.  For example, the Republican margin is nowhere near what it was in 2014 – in fact, the margin is 86,000 voters better for the Democrats today than it was on this election day in 2014.  On the flipside, in the places where Republicans need to do well to win, ballot return rates are high across the political spectrum.  It is shaping up to be a Florida election.

This is a long way of me saying what is obvious.  If you care about this election, get on the google, figure out the nearest place you can volunteer, and go grab a clipboard.  If you live in a state that doesn’t have a competitive election, you can pitch in here, by making calls and sending texts.  And if you don’t like data in here, use it as motivation.  If you don’t know how to help, tweet at me and I’ll give you some ideas.

You can make a difference.  So, go make a difference – or as my old boss says, “Don’t boo – vote.”

I am not going to write a memo tomorrow (you are welcome) – I am going to do a big table setter for in-person early voting that will be out on Monday.  For your planning purposes, with Vice President Biden in the state early this week, my Tuesday memo will be short, then we will get back to normal

The form of these will be like 2016.   I will be watching a bucket of counties that I think are important to both sides, these memos will track them over time.  If you are curious why I chose these counties, keep reading.   We will also track the state’s two primary swing counties this cycle: St. Lucie and Pinellas.

To recap yesterday - for Democrats to win, we win our votes in a handful of counties, and generally try to keep margins in play elsewhere.  For the Nelson/Gillum math, there are a few places where Clinton’s vote shares outperformed Crist in 2014.  

On this side, there are three base counties:  Orange, Osceola, and Dade.  The latter has seen a lot of organic growth towards the Democrats, but the former two Central Florida have been turnout issues in midterm cycles.    If Dems can get those two counties to perform closer to Presidential cycle margins, the math starts to look good.  In all three, vote by mail returns have been slow, which is normal.  We will be looking to see if the first few days of early voting start to bring the overall numbers more in line with what a Democratic win model would look like.

On the defense side, two counties where Clinton outperformed Crist worth watching:  Escambia (Pensacola), and Duval – also known as DUUUUVAL, which is Jacksonville.  The key for the ticket in those two places will be increasing African American participation.  These are also two communities that both DeSantis and Scott will want to look more like they did for Scott in 2014 than they did for Trump in 2016.   In Escambia, both parties are seeing strong return rates – with the rate running pretty even (GOP leading in ballots, as is expected).  In Duval, both parties are slower as of now, though the GOP has returned about 27% of their ballots, compared to 21% for Democrats.  In 2016, which is the model Democrats will want to see here, the vote by mail return rates got better for Democrats as the cycle wore on, and Early Voting really drove the close margin here.   Hopefully the Jaguars will win here on Sunday and energize folks to get out and vote!

Secondly, for the Republicans, to counter balance the growth the Democratic ticket is likely to see in the urban counties, there are about a dozen counties where Trump (2016) outperformed Rick Scott (2014).  While the GOP ticket is unlikely to see the same kind of raw vote margins Trump won in these counties, they will want the final percentage spread to look more like Trump than like Scott.  Most of these counties are in the I-4 corridor:

North of Tampa will be watching Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco.  These three counties, stacked north to south, are the bulwark of the kinds of places where Trump won Florida.  Scott won these three counties by 13,753 votes in 2014.  Trump won them by 110K votes – nearly 75K more than Romney four years earlier. Combined they make up about 5% of the total statewide vote – but for DeSantis, they are probably his biggest targets of opportunity.  Absentee returns in all three counties have been robust.

South of Tampa, we will be watching both Manatee and Sarasota. Again, north to south, Manatee tends to be slightly more Republican than Sarasota, which typically looks very competitive when Democrats do well, with the exception to the rule being 2014, where Crist did well, despite losing Florida.   Sarasota is looking quite competitive right now, with Democrats holding a slight lead in returned ballots.

In the Orlando market, will be watching two of the exurban counties: Marion, home to Ocala, part of The Villages, and Florida horse country, and Volusia County, which is home to NASCAR, and home to a significant blue-collar manufacturing base – and a rapidly growing Puerto Rican population.    Scott won these two counties by about 26K votes, Trump by nearly 80K – which was a 50K vote improvement over Romney in 2012.  Right now, like the north of Tampa counties, ballot return rates are all above the state average.

And finally, will be watching Charlotte county near Fort Myers, and Martin county near West Palm Beach.  Both are interesting in that, like the others, both saw Trump really grow from Scott.  And both are right in the middle of the Red Tide mess.   Scott won these two by about 18K votes, Trump by about 50K, about 20K more than Romney.

Lastly will track Florida’s two swing counties: St. Lucie, and Pinellas, both which had gone for the top of the Democratic ticket in 08, 10, 12, and 14, then went for Trump.  Right now, Democrats have a slight edge in returns in St. Lucie, and Republicans in Pinellas, though in both, GOP return rates are slightly higher.

Oh, and one last thing – nearly 50% of Democratic absentee ballots have been returned in Sumter County, the primary home of the GOP base The Villages.  Republican ballots are out pacing Dems, but Dem return rate is higher.   Good to see my Democratic friends there rushing in their golf carts to get their ballots in! 

Looking ahead, as I mentioned yesterday, we should see a pretty big in-person early voting day on Monday, when the counties that opted to open early voting for two weeks will open, then if tradition holds firm, the rest of the week will level out, and just like vote-by-mail this week, I suspect midweek will look a lot a like from day to day. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend.