Watching the Vote Counts: A Lesson from Maryland

By Adam Pagnucco.

Just like me, I bet you’re eagerly watching the presidential vote counts in states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Here’s a bit of info from Maryland that might help you digest what you’re seeing.

Press coverage of those states emphasizes voting by county. If certain big counties (like Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, Clark in Nevada, Fulton in Georgia and so on) are both heavily Democratic and have counted below average percentages of their votes, that is obviously going to impact the overall state leads. But there’s another thing to consider: voting mode. Democratic Party leaders told their people to vote by mail and vote early. Republican Party leaders told their people to avoid mail and vote in person. That has apparently had some impact in how members of each party chose to vote.

The chart below shows former Vice-President Joe Biden’s vote percentages in nine Maryland counties as of this writing (3 PM on November 5): Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Garrett, Harford, Queen Anne’s, Washington and Worcester. The data comes from the State Board of Elections. All of these counties gave at least 60% of their total votes so far to President Donald Trump. They are arguably the most conservative counties in the state. The red bars in the chart show Biden’s percentage of the total votes. The blue bars show Biden’s percentage of the mail votes.

In every one of these counties, Biden received less than 40% of total votes tabulated so far. However, in every one of these counties, Biden received a majority of mail votes. In seven of the nine counties, Biden received at least two-thirds of mail votes despite losing by double digits overall to Trump.

A strong caveat: this is Maryland, not Arizona, Georgia, Nevada or Pennsylvania. But these are also rather conservative places in Maryland, places where Democrats at all levels usually lose. The implication here is that voting mode may matter as much as vote count percentages by county. If a disproportionate share of the outstanding votes in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania are mail votes, Biden may have an advantage as those votes come in even if they come from red counties.

Let’s see how much that matters in the hours ahead.