Category Archives: turnout

Turnout Way Up in 2018

Prof. Michael McDonald’s United States Election Project has released turnout estimates for 2018. How does turnout compare to the past? How does Maryland compare to its sister states?


McDonald’s estimates are for the voting eligible population (VEP) as opposed to the voting-age population (VAP). The VAP includes non-citizens and disfranchised felons who can’t vote, and excludes expatriates who can.

VEP adjusts VAP for these differences, as the proper way to calculate turnout is voters/VEP, not voters/VAP. The immigration waves over the past few decades mean that failure to adjust leads to serious underestimates of voter turnout.

National Midterm Turnout Very High

As the graph at the top indicates, national turnout regularly rises in presidential elections and drops in midterm elections. But look at 2018. The 49.2% of eligible voters who cast ballots this year is higher than in any midterm since at least 1960.

It’s a full 12.5% higher than turnout in the 2014 elections held just four years ago. Polarization in Congress has been increasing for some time. The injection of Trump into the political scene combined with the continued close division in the country has spurred similarly activated division in the electorate.

How Does Maryland Compare?

At 51.1%, VEP turnout in Maryland was 1.9% higher than in the country as a whole. Maryland ranked 23rd among the 50 states and DC – not too bad for a state with neither a competitive gubernatorial nor senatorial election.

On the other hand, education is highly correlated with turnout, so maybe Maryland doesn’t do so great for such a highly educated state. We rank third among states in terms of the share of residents with college degrees and second based on the share with advanced degrees.

Maryland Turnout Way Up Too

According to McDonald, the estimated 2018 VEP turnout of 51.1% for Maryland is fully 9.1% higher than the VEP turnout of 42.0% in 2014. It not only marks a reversal from the abysmal turnout of four years ago but also a jump 4% higher than the more typical 47% turnout in 2002, 2006, and 2010.

2002: 46.8%
2006: 47.2%
2010: 46.7%
2014: 42.0%
2018: 51.1%

2020 really ought to be something.


Maryland is Not Texas: Final Early Voting Age Stats

The above table shows the final statewide Maryland early vote broken down by age cohort for 2018.Older voters dominated early voting in absolute and relative terms. Voters 45 and older composed three-quarters of early voters. Democratic early voters skew a bit younger and Republican early voters a bit older.

Interestingly, unaffiliated and minor party voters skewed notably younger than either major party. The two youngest cohorts comprised 31.8% of early voters, as opposed to 23.1% for Democrats and 14.8% for Republicans.

These differences likely reflect differences in the age composition of the pool of registered Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. It has been a long-time trend for newer voters to be less inclined to register with a party but I’d like to confirm that this national trend applies to Maryland registrants.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats dominated early voting in all cohorts with some variations. Interestingly, Dems were a smaller share of 45-64 early voters than either 25-44 or 65 and older voters.

The real difference, however, are between the share of Republicans and unaffiliated early voters. The share of Republicans among early voters is about 10% lower in the two youngest cohorts compared to the two older cohorts. In contrast, unaffiliated and minor party registrants were a greater share among the younger cohorts.

The final data verify my earlier conclusions that there is no real sign of a youth wave in Maryland. The above table shows estimated rates of early voting among the general population by age. In Texas, early voting among the young was up at far higher rates than in Maryland. Additionally, young Texans increased early voting by more than  older Texas. Not here.

Consider that voting among the youngest cohort increased 2.9% from 2014 while it was up 5.0% among 24-44 year olds, 8.8% among 45-64 year olds, and 14.3% among 65 and older. Similarly, the fall off from 2016 was greater among the young. Among 18-24 year olds, 2018 turnout was 56% of 2016 turnout. In contrast, for 25-44 year olds the equivalent figure is 59%. For 45-64 year olds, it’s 73%, and for the 65 and older crowd, it’s an incredible 98%.

Early voting provides no sign of a youthful blue wave. We’ll have to see what the electorate looks at the end of Election Day. But the current bottom line is that changes in early voting look a lot different in Maryland than in states like Texas.

The good news for Democrats is that early voting was way up in 2018. Some contend that this merely reflects the general trend towards more early voting. However, the jumps from 2012 to 2016 and 2014 to 2018 have one key factor in common: the incredible polarization that Donal Trump brings to politics.

My expectation remains that, even though the electorate in 2018 may not be quite as favorable to Democrats as in 2016, the electorate this year will look a lot more like 2016 – a good year for Democrats – than 2014 – a good year for Republicans.

(Written hurriedly. Please excuse inevitable typos and other errors.)


Final Early Vote Statistics by County and Party

The first table shows the percentage of all registered voters who turned out by party affiliation. Overall 16.7% of registered cast ballots during early voting. However, 19.5% of Democrats participated as compared to just 15.4% of Republicans. Just 10.6% of people not affiliated with either major party – independents and people with minor party affiliation – cast ballots.

Talbot ended up where it began with the highest rate of early voters at fully 31.6% of all registered. Do they give away chocolate at the polls in Easton? Clearly, there are no extra incentives in Allegany, which bottoms out the table at 6.2%.

Next up we look at the share of early voters from each party:

In the state as a whole, Democrats comprised 64.1% of early voters, compared to just 23.5% for Republicans. One begins to wonder if Republican public antipathy to early voting discourages their voters from participating even when it exists.

Republicans are outnumbered by unaffiliated voters in the Big Dem 3 of Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore City. Other populous counties also congregate towards the top of the table. In Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Howard and Charles, Democrats formed 51.4%, 65.0%, 60.3% and 70.4% of early voters.

GOP voters outnumbered Democrats in just 9 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions. All are solid Republican bastions located in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore and much more lightly populated than the heavily Democratic counties.

I hope to have more statistics later today but need to go teach my class on American politics.


To the Numbers: Pre-Election Turnout by Party & County

Today’s stats include both early voters and returned absentee ballots, so we can get an overall sense of who has already voted. There are some substantial changes in county rankings from when I ran these numbers just yesterday.

Specifically, Prince George’s has gone from being towards the bottom of the pack to virtually the same as the state average. St. Mary’s has fallen several places from being 14th to 20th in turnout out of the state’s 24 jurisdictions.

However, Talbot continues to lead the pack with just under 30% of its voters have done their civic duty compared to just 7.3% in placid Allegany. Overall, 15.3% of registered Marylanders have voted as of the end of the seventh day of early voting.

Next up are statistics by party and county:

Democrats have a 3.3% lead (difference from math based on the chart due to rounding) over Republicans in participation in early voting and returning absentees.

Montgomery Dems continue to lead the way for their party with Democrats out voting Republicans by 7.1%. One might attribute this to MCDCC having gotten their organizational act together and the weak organization of local Republicans.

Is there also a Ficker Factor? Ficker is a peripatetic one-man band but not well organized or supported. State Republicans seem unenthusiastic with Larry Hogan avoiding him at a recent rally and Kathy Szeliga failing to include him on a list of key races in her email blast. As Adam Pagnucco noted, Republican primary voters have repeatedly rejected Ficker when given the opportunity.

In Howard, it has gotten more imperative for Allen Kittleman to turn out election day voters as Democrats have out participated Republicans in by 6.3%. In Frederick, Democrats are 5.9% ahead of Republicans, which can’t hurt County Executive Jan Gardner and Sen. Ron Young’s reelection bids. Democrats are also notably ahead by 4.5% in Anne Arundel where Republican County Executive Steve Schuh is facing surprisingly strong competition and Sarah Elfreth hopes to win John Astle’s open seat.

Here is the share of Democrats and Republicans among people who have already voted sorted from most to least Democratic:

Among the state’s 24 jurisdictions, exactly one-half have more Democratic than Republican voters and vice-versa. Notice, however, that all of the state’s really large jurisdictions are in the top portion of the chart and have substantially heavier Dem turnout.


How Will Turnout Matter This Election Cycle?

I’ve been covering who has been turning out in early voting heavily the past few days. There is little evidence of a wave of young voters turning out that will carry the Democrats to victory. At the same time, the electorate looks much improved for Democrats from 2014 even if it is not showing signs of being as favorable to them as the 2016 presidential electorate.

Of course, we won’t know the complete picture about how turnout has changed from either 2014 or 2016 until all the votes have been cast. But it seems important to take a moment to pause from statistics to  consider when and how turnout dynamics matter.

Turnout Won’t Matter in the Governor’s Race

Based on the polls, Ben Jealous is in dire trouble. In a future post, I hope to explore why Jealous is flailing despite Maryland’s favorable demographics that should be even more favorable due to shifts in voting behavior unleashed by Trump in a future post. In a nutshell, he losing far too much of the Democratic base.

Anthony Brown fared poorly among white voters four years ago. Ben Jealous looks set to do even worse even as Democrats elsewhere look poised to make substantial gains among highly educated women. Equally problematic, he is hemorrhaging support among nonwhite voters.

Even the most favorable Democratic turnout wind cannot save Jealous from these fundamental problems. They could help close the gap with Hogan but that would merely serve to make his loss somewhat more respectable. But there is no way that Jealous can win the election if he loses roughly 30% of Democratic voters as polls currently indicate.

Who Votes Matters More Down Ballot

Republicans are hoping that there will be a Larry Hogan wave that gives them enough seats in the General Assembly to uphold his veto in at least one house. They’ve focused particularly hard pm the Senate in their “drive for five.”

Except to my surprise in our polarized era, voters seem quite inclined to split their tickets. The same polls that show Larry Hogan receiving a vote share in the high 50s reveal similar proportions wanting Democrats to control the legislature.

In 2014, the Republicans picked up the low hanging fruit in several districts that had long leaned more Republican in national elections and became even more so with Trumpian populism. But there were simply enormous gaps in support for Hogan and Republican legislative candidates elsewhere.

That pattern could easily appear again in 2018. Gov. Hogan has framed this election as a vote to maintain what he presents as our much improved status quo and that he works well with the legislature. That’s hardly an argument to throw out Democrats in the General Assembly.

Republicans are hoping that better candidates and huge financial investments will change this dynamic. But Democrats who defect for Hogan may not be so quick to do so when presented with different candidates. Democrats who think Hogan is fine or Jealous has too many unrealistically expensive plans will often find their local Democratic candidate better attuned to their patch and deem the Republican too right wing.

In Senate races with Democratic incumbents fighting a tough battle for reelection, such as Ron Young in Frederick or Kathy Klausmeier in Baltimore County, a more favorable electorate could provide them with a crucial cushion.

It could also make a difference in the many exciting county executive races and help, for example, carry Johnny Oleszewski into office in Baltimore County. The races in Howard and Anne Arundel have also tightened, though it’s unclear how much. If Democratic challengers can get within a few points, a more favorable electorate could open the door to an upset. It won’t be enough to overcome a spread that looks more like 55-45.

In short, this year, turnout dynamics look likely to have the potential to play a crucial difference around the margins but the candidates have to get close enough for the margin to make a difference.


Blue Wave or Not? Comparing Early Voting Turnout with the Past

Democrats remember 2014 in which lassitude among their core voters helped propel Larry Hogan into office. They’re hoping that the electorate will look more like 2016 in which Hillary Clinton carried the state by a large margin.

Using data from the State Board of Elections, the above table presents the percentage of people by party who took advantage of early voting at the end of the sixth day. It also shows changes from both 2014, the previous gubernatorial election, and 2016, the presidential election.

The statistics suggest that the 2018 electorate is unlikely to resemble closely the 2014 electorate. Democrats are joyful that early voting turnout is up a full 6.3% from 2014. Even better for Team Blue, Democratic turnout is up by even more at 7.5%.

Republicans are also turning out 5.5% higher but the lower increase means that the GOP has fallen behind. While Democratic and Republican turnout at this point in early voting was equal in 2014, Democrats have pulled into the lead this year.

Comparisons with 2016 are less favorable for Democrats. Early voting turnout  this year is 4.0% down from 2016. Democratic turnout is down by even more at 5.1%. Republican turnout has decreased much less at 2.1%. However, Republicans start from a much lower base as the EV electorate in 2016 was much more lopsidedly Democratic in that year than in 2014.

The bottom line is that the early voting electorate this year is much more favorable to Democrats than 2014. But it’s also not nearly as favorable to them as the 2016 electorate.

Of course, we have to wait and see the impact, if any, on total turnout. Early voting can simply replace Election Day voting. Nevertheless, the idea suggested by the data that total turnout will end higher than 2014, not a banner year for voting or when Trump polarized and mobilized people, but not reach presidential year turnout is intuitively appealing.



Early Voting Skews Democratic and Female

In previous posts, I’ve presented evidence that there is no wave of youth voters showing up at early voting. While this doesn’t comport with Democratic theories that young Marylanders will propel them into office in a wave, there is other good news for Democrats.

Democrats Out Participating Republicans

First, Democrats are participating at higher rates than Republicans in early voting in all but two counties in the state:

The statewide gap in participation between the two major parties is 2.4%. However, it is much wider in some jurisdictions. In Montgomery, Democrats are showing up a full 5.6% more than Republicans. The gap in Howard is 5.2% and in Baltimore City is 5.1%.

Democrats in Kent, Prince George’s and Frederick also have high participation rates relative to Republicans with gaps of 4.9%, 4.2%, and 4.1% respectively. Anne Arundel Democrats lead their Republican counterparts by 3.5%.

In contrast, Republicans are narrowly out participating Democrats in Caroline and Somerset. The latter has long had weak Democratic participation relative to the potential strength of the party in this county with a sizable African-American population.

Finally, note that unaffiliated voters (i.e. independents) are participating at lower rates than members of either major party in every jurisdiction throughout the state. Overall, their turnout rates are less than half as strong as either major party.

Why the lower rates? First, major parties have organizations trying to get their voters to the polls. Second, independent voters just tend to be less interested in politics and less likely to vote.

Women Out Participating Men

As of last night, women composed 57% of all early voters, while men were just 43%. People with no gender marker in their voter file comprised 0.06% of all early voters.

These statistics are more like what one might expect to see in a Democratic primary where women often compose around 60% of the overall electorate. They provide further evidence of the Democratic lean of early voters. Trump has exacerbated the already wide gender gap in partisanship and voting behavior.

If 2016 seemed to be ultimately all about angry men lining up behind Trump, early voting in 2018 is thus far about motivated women.


Early Voting & Returned Absentees Across Maryland

Today, Seventh State expands its coverage of pre-Election Day voting to include returned absentee ballots as well as early voting. Yesterday was the biggest day so far for early voting as 91,480 voters across the state went to early voting centers.

At the end of the sixth day of early voting, 11.7% of registered Marylanders have participated in early voting. Today’s first graph shows the share in each county who had cast ballots early at the close of yesterday’s early voting. While almost 25% of voters in Talbotians have done their civic duty via early voting, under 5% of Alleganyites have done the same.

The share of registered voters who have returned absentee ballots is much smaller. As the following graph reveals, only 1.4% of Marylanders have returned absentee ballots.

Just 37.6% of absentee ballots mailed have been returned, so that figure will surely rise. Even if every single absentee ballot is returned, that would account for 3.6% of all registered voters – a much lower share than ballots cast via early voting.

Talbot is strong in absentees as well as early voting but Montgomery leads the class with 2.3% of registered voters having returned absentee ballots. Charles is the lowest with just 0.8% of registered voters having done the same.

Three of the four jurisdictions at the low end of people voting by absentee ballot are majority black or close to majority black (Prince George’s, Baltimore City and Charles). Heavily white Harford is the fourth county in this lowest group. There are also no heated executive races in these four counties.

The final graph shows the combination of early voters and absentees to give an overall sense of pre-election turnout. Overall, 13.0% of registered Marylanders have already cast ballots.


Really, It’s Not a Youth Wave. It’s a Senior Tsunami.

Earlier today, I published a piece arguing that there is no blue wave based on the early voting statistics. One reader pointed out on twitter that information about whether there was a wave could be better gauged by comparison with the past. After all, young voters could have closed the gap even if they remain behind older voters.

In order to provide a better basis for examination, I calculated early voting rates at the end of the fifth day of early voting for 2014, 2016 and 2018, which are shown in the above table. I used the same method as described in the post earlier today.

I suppose an optimistic reader might point out that early voting among 18-24 and 25-44 voters is three times higher than the abysmal turnout of 2014, a year when Democrats were unmotivated and demobilized.

That comparison seems a bit facile when you consider that the absolute turnout rates remain low. Three times more of a very small number is a slightly less small number. As of now, it means 8,111 18-24 year olds have voted than in 2014.

Comparisons with 2016 are less favorable. The share of early voters in the two youngest cohorts is only around 60% as large as at the same time during early voting in 2016. That was a presidential year, so we naturally expect turnout to be higher despite the absence of the panoply of state and local offices up at midterm.

At the same time, when Ben Jealous said Democrats needed a more progressive candidate to inspire higher turnout, I don’t think that the former co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s campaign was suggesting that he could do about 60% as well as Hillary Clinton.

Moreover, the older cohorts are much closer to turning out at 2016 rates than the younger cohorts. The 45-64 cohort has so far turned out at 69% of the rate of 2016. Even more impressively, the 65 and older cohort has seen very little drop off. The share of voters among seniors who voted is 91% of 2016 rates.

While the other age cohorts turnout rates appear roughly in the middle of their 2014 and 2016 turnout rates, the rate for seniors is clearly far closer to the much higher 2016 rates. Don’t forget that this group also a had a far higher bar to meet.

Comparing the difference between turnout rates for the oldest and youngest cohorts tells a similar story. In percentage points, older voters participated in early voting 8.6% more in 2014, 17.3% more in 2016, and 17.0% more in 2018.

The changes from 2014 to 2018 are even more dramatic. Yes, the youngest voters increased their turnout from 0.7% to 2.2%. But older voters jumped from 9.3% to 19.2%. That’s a gain of 9.9% as opposed to a gain of 1.4%.

In short, the evidence doesn’t support the conclusion that young Maryland voters are highly “energized” and eager to vote compared to other age cohorts, as claimed by the Jealous campaign. In early voting, it’s not the young but the old who are showing the way.

It’s not a youthful blue wave. It’s a senior tsunami.


Early Voting Day 5 Stats

At the end of yesterday, 9.3% of registered Maryland voters had taken part in early voting. Talbot continues to lead the early voting pack as over one-fifth of its registered voters have now cast ballots. Allegany trails at the end with just 3.6% having participated in early voting. Indeed, all Western Maryland counties lag in early voting.

Most counties with hot executive races – Howard, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel – continue to have above average turnout but Frederick continues to be an exception. Montgomery has very average turnout despite its comparatively unusual three-way contest.

Most counties in CD 1 are also voting at high rates. Dorchester and Cecil continue to lag with Wicomico just below average but closing the gap with the state average compared to yesterday. It’s interesting to see Somerset in the above average category as this relatively poor county often has low turnout.