Early Voting: Trick or Treat Edition

Early voting is over but as of 11:30 on Thursday night, the Maryland State Board of Elections has not posted the final numbers on early voting participation. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts as the opening act of this year’s elections come to a close.

1. The Impact of Early Voting is Overrated. Most studies of early voting indicate little effect on total turnout. Unsurprisingly, many early voters are people who would have otherwise participated on Election Day or voted absentee. The latter explains the decline in absentee ballots. EV provides opportunities for both parties but mostly convenience for voters.

2. Many lament that Election Day is not a holiday or we don’t vote on the weekend. Except that early voting dived by roughly 50% on a gorgeous weekend over early voting held on weekdays. Confirmation for political science studies that show zero relationship between free time and propensity to vote.

3. The Case for Republicans: Early voting was supposed to benefit Democrats and it was a bust. Despite an expansion in the days for early voting and number of early voting centers, Republicans have prevented Democrats from any net gains over 2010. And this occurred even though early voting increased and there are far more Democrats than Republicans in Maryland. Republicans increased their rate of turnout to match that of Democrats. Democratic turnout in the big three was terrible.

4. The Case for Democrats: Once the final numbers are released, the final totals will reveal a gain in raw votes for Democrats. Precisely because there are more Democrats, the addition of another 40,000 or so voters will result in the Democrats going into Election Day with a net gain from early voting. As @mdtruth has reported, 2010 turnout predicts 2014 turnout very well, so the lack of a net change is not a big surprise.

5. My Assessment: To the extent that it does matter, the evidence that either party has gained substantially over 2010 is thin. As of the end of Day 7, Republicans had a net gain of less than 2000 ballots over 2010. The number is around 5000 if unaffiliated voters are also included. But the numbers are still down for everyone if you factor in the decline in absentee voting, which is of course not yet complete.

6. But If I Must Pick a Winner: Republicans have more reason to feel pleased. Democrats had hoped that early voting would result in a substantial gain in votes banked in advance of Election Day. That hasn’t happened. And it’s hard to blame it on being a hard year for Democrats, as 2010 was worse. Nonetheless, @mdtruth has it right in that 2014 turnout correlates well with 2010 turnout. Any real impact on the final outcome is unclear and likely small.

I’m traveling this weekend but will see if I can report the final numbers at some point. And “in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good morning, and good night!”

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Record Early Voting Turnout but Democrats Yet to Benefit

EVGraphBlack = All, Blue = D, Red= R, Purple = Unaffiliated

Early voting hit a new high of 44,718 on Wednesday, easily beating the previous high on the first day of early voting. Moreover, the total number of early voters, 243,386, now exceeds the 219,601 who participated in early voting in 2010.

Democrats Still Net Down from 2010

Contrary to my expectations expressed yesterday, however, the increase in the number of early voters has not yet benefited Democrats. While the number of Democratic early voters has increased by 9,344, the number of Republican early voters is up by 11,110 and unaffiliated voters by 3,301.

Unlike in 2010, when the overall Democratic turnout rate surpassed that of Republicans by 0.85%, Republicans are only 0.02% behind Democrats–a gain for Republicans over yesterday. As of Wednesday night, 7.35% of Democrats had voted compared to 7.33% of Republicans and 3.28% of unaffiliated voters.

Right now, 0.19% fewer unaffiliated voters have cast votes than in 2010–a bright spot for Brown as they are expected to break for Hogan in this election. However, the number of unaffiliated early voters is up because the number of registered unaffiliated voters has risen since 2010.

The following table breaks down the early vote and absentees by county:

early7

As each day’s increase is a smaller percentage of the total, the changes in county rankings unsurprisingly have tended to decrease. In good news for Democrats, Howard and Prince George’s have both jumped one place from yesterday. Montgomery remains dead in the water in 21st place. In Talbot, an incredible 16.27% have voted.

One caution: while the early vote is now up over 2010, the number of absentee votes received remains much lower. While 27,569 absentee ballots have been returned thus far, a total of 87,813 absentee ballots were cast in 2010. So the total of early plus absentee ballots cast in 2014 does not yet exceed the total of the same from 2010. Unless early voting jumps quite a bit tomorrow, that will remain true at the conclusion of early voting.

 

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People Voting Early. . . Just Not in West MoCo

Today’s Early Vote Takeaways:

  • Early Vote is Very Stable.
  • Democrats will Start Gaining from EV Tomorrow.
  • Western Montgomery Epicenter of Low Turnout.

EVGraph

Black = All, Blue = D, Red= R, Purple = Unaffiliated

Stability is the Story

Early voting remained highly stable on Day 6, rising just a bit over Day 5. The rate of Democratic turnout continues the trend of rising at a miniscule rate above Republican turnout. Right now, 6.04% (122,996) of registered Democrats have voted as compared to 5.97% (56,675) of Republicans and 2.59% (17,030) of the unaffiliated have cast ballots.

The number of registered voters who have voted early in 2014 equals 90.5% of the 2010 total across all days. The total number of Democrats who voted early in 2014 is 87.6% of 2010. The similar figures are 96.8% for Republicans and 93.0% for the unaffiliated. The higher GOP number reflects that they have virtually closed the gap in turnout with Democrats from 2010.

Democrats will Start Gaining Tomorrow

Total early voting turnout should exceed that of 2010 tomorrow. At that point Democrats will start to benefit from the ramp up in early voting despite the lost of their advantage in the rate of turnout. Due to their dominance, Democrats will extend their raw vote advantage over the Republicans.

Here are the Day 6 early vote and absentee totals by county:

early6

But Not as Much as They Might

The gap in turnout between high and low turnout counties continues to grow with the big three Democratic counties all lagging more and more behind the high turnout counties. Except for Howard, I expect every county above the state average in turnout to vote for Hogan. Charles, the only other solid Brown county, is also below the red line.

Western Montgomery Epicenter of Low Turnout

Turnout in Montgomery is especially abysmal, particularly on the west side of the County. Outside of portions of Allegany and Washington Counties, the four legislative districts in western Montgomery have the lowest early voting turnout rates in the State:

2.13% in District 15 (Potomac to Poolesville),
2.20% in District 16 (Bethesda),
2.59% in District 17 (Rockville-Gaithersburg),
2.05% in District 39 (Clarksburg-Germantown-Mont. Village).

Lt. Gov. Brown seems tailor made to appeal to the liberal voters who predominate in this part of the world. Yet, these levels are between 34% and 42% of the statewide rate. The mystery is even greater because education is usually heavily related to turnout and these districts have among the highest share of college graduates and people with graduate degrees in the country.

In short, these are exactly the sort of core Democratic voters that Brown needs to turn out. No wonder he spent yesterday morning at the Bethesda Metro Station greeting people as they entered the escalators. (P.S. Anyone who really fixes these perpetually under construction behemoths would get my vote.)

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Sleeper Senate Races?

Yesterday’s post on Senate races revealed that most contests are safely in the bag for one candidate or another but highlighted the four closest contests in the State. This afternoon, I take a look at races that are likely to go one way but have an outside potential to surprise. In truth, however, most just further illustrate the paucity of competitive Senate races in Maryland this year.

District 3: Young (D) v. Stottlemyer (R), Likely D
Over at Center Maryland, Josh Kurtz views Sen. Ron Young as a potentially vulnerable Democrat. I just don’t see it. Frederick County now has only a slight Republican lean. In the old District 3, Obama won 59% of the vote even in the old district, though O’Malley took just 48% in 2010. Redistricting shed the district’s most Republican territory, leaving it more Democratic.

In 2010, former longtime Frederick Mayor Young defeated incumbent Sen. Alex Mooney, who is now running for Congress in West Virginia. While Young has a well-funded campaign, his Republican opponent, Corey Stottlemeyer, has little cash to spend (<10K) and has sent no direct mail yet.

However, I suppose a surprisingly large Hogan wave combined with too many Youngs on the ballot–his wife, a former Frederick alderman and mayoral candidate, is running for delegate–could result in an upset. Except that it is much more likely that both members of this husband-wife team win.

District 6: Olszewski (D) v. Salling (R), Likely D
Johnny O. isn’t a character from Goodfellas or a member of a 1950s boy band. Instead, he’s a talented two-term delegate who is the junior half of a father-son political dynamic duo–Johnny O. Sr. has served on the Baltimore County Council since 1998.

In the 2010 delegate race, Johnny O. came in ahead of his fellow Democrats in this increasingly competitive district. But southeastern Baltimore County has not been immune to the attractions of GOP candidates. McCain won 54% in District 6 in 2008, and Ehrlich won 60% in 2010. Brown is not expected to perform well here.

I’d be shocked if Johnny O. didn’t become Sen. Johnny O. (J Yo?). Beyond his excellent father-son personal political brand, his opponent is not well funded. Nevertheless, a rash of straight ticket voting could possibly make this one to watch.

District 9: Frederic (D) v. Bates (R), Likely R
Democrats saw an opportunity to pick up a seat in increasingly Democratic Howard County when incumbent Sen. Alan Kittleman decided to run for county executive. But it looks likely that Del. Gail Bates, who has served in the House since 2002, will keep this district in Republican hands.

Things might have gone differently had the Democrats taken advantage of redistricting and been willing to rejigger the lines radically. However, the redistricting map kept the most Republican areas of Howard united in a single district and still contains a bit of uber-Republican Carroll County.

Though Democrat Ryan Frederic’s campaign is better funded, Bates’ campaign has had healthy financial support. Moreover, Bates’ opponent doesn’t have the name recognition or campaign experience that come from her multiple election victories.

Though Bates would probably prefer that popular Howard County Executive Ken Ulman not be #2 on the Democratic ticket, she’ll benefit from Kittleman leading the Republican charge on the local level. In a better Democratic year and with more demographic change, Frederic might have a better shot but a loss by Bates would be a real upset right now.

District 12: Kasemeyer v. Pippy, Likely D
The only reason that this district is on the likely rather than safe list is that Sen. Ed Kasemeyer won in 2010 with under 60% of the vote. However, the Chair of Budget and Tax unsurprisingly has a well-funded campaign. While Pippy has more than a token amount in his campaign account, it’s not really enough to mount a viable campaign against an entrenched incumbent.

I received some needed push back from my post yesterday declaring two seats safe for Democrats. Specifically, Sen. John Astle in District 30 has dicey turf for Democrats that will go for Hogan and Astle has had close races in the past. However, my cursory examination of campaign finance reports suggests an opponent without sufficient resources.

In District 8, Sen. Kathy Klausmeier also has swingy turf that could cause trouble for Democrats in a bad year but her opponent filed an affidavit indicating a lack of money. If the Republican Senate campaigns are more vibrant than I realize in these districts, let me know. No doubt both are concerned about an undertow due to low support for Lt. Gov. Brown in their area.

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Why is MoCo Turnout so Abysmal?

Montgomery Specific

1. It’s Always Nice to be Asked

Reminders to vote are few. I have received no calls–robocalls or person-to-person calls from either Democratic Party or the Brown campaign. Nor have I received any GOTV mail. Maybe it’s because I am a regular voter so they know that I’ll vote.

I did receive one candidate mailer from Chris Van Hollen and I think another from Ike Leggett. Nothing compared to the pre-primary deluge. On television, there are as many ads for Virginia Senate candidates as for the Maryland’s gubernatorial race.

We also could see more of Anthony Brown in person. It’s odd that it just doesn’t feel like the state’s largest jurisdiction has gotten much face time with the candidate. Turnout in Montgomery has been especially weak so events in Potomac or Bethesda as well as Rockville and Gaithersburg would not go amiss.

2. Organizational Weakness

Democrats are scrambling to get volunteers for early voting centers. The county training for precinct officials was less well-attended than in previous cycles. If Democrats are providing rides to the polls as in past years, I haven’t heard about it. Republicans have been weak for some time in Montgomery, and that hasn’t changed. Brown was smart and opened another campaign office in Bethesda but that doesn’t seem to have picked up the slack.

3. Surefire Winners

Virtually all of the Democratic candidates for elective office in Montgomery sit in safe seats, so voters have little reason to go to the polls and candidates have little incentive to mobilize them. Completely the opposite of the Democratic Primary. It also helps explain the gradual atrophy of the Democratic organization–muscles get flabby when they aren’t exercised.

4. Nobody Cares

Voters are profoundly uninterested in the election to the point that one would barely know that we are at the end of a campaign. Honestly, it just doesn’t feel like an election around here. There are almost no signs up outside people’s houses in my neck of the woods.

More General

5. Defend the Record

Take pride in it; don’t hide from it. In extremely tough economic times, Maryland balanced its budget and maintained its AAA bond rating while protecting public schools and universities–critical to both kids but and the State economy. Leadership played a key role in making Maryland the first state to vote for marriage equality. In contrast, Hogan has done a good job of creating resentment at what people haven’t liked.

6. Finally, Give Me a Reason

For whatever reason, Democratic messaging is not connecting in Montgomery. Democrats have given voters many reasons not to vote for Larry Hogan but the reasons to vote for Anthony Brown remain fuzzy or simply don’t excite. The ads on choice feel like the 1990s are calling and wants their commercials back, likely because Parris Glendening ran similar ones against Ellen Sauerbrey.

If the Purple Line motivates voters beyond core supporters and opponents, it is well hidden. Perhaps closing strongly with Brown’s positive pre-K and school construction program might give people a concrete reason to go out and vote for Anthony Brown.

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Early Vote Bounces Back

EVgraph5

Black = All, Blue = D, Red= R, Purple = Unaffiliated

Good news. After a weekend off, the early vote bounced back to the second highest yet with 40,081–1.1% of all eligible voters–casting early votes on Monday. A total of 157,884, or 4.3% of all eligible voters, have cast ballots so far. Additionally, 22.297, or 0.6% of all eligible voters, have returned absentee ballots.

Good News for Democrats

The increase in early vote numbers is helpful to Democrats. If  40,000 people turn out each of the next three days, the total number of early voters will rise by around 58,000 over 2010. As Democrats comprise a disproportionate share of registered voters, the increase will likely result in an bump up for the raw votes banked by  Democrats. Even though Democrats seem to have lost most of their early vote turnout advantage from 2010, they still have a good shot at increasing the total votes won through early voting.

Absentee Votes

Today’s table includes absentee ballots as well as early votes, so the rankings are not strictly comparable to yesterday’s table. However, the incorporation of absentee votes does not alter the overall picture greatly. The number of absentee voters is smaller than it used to be thanks to early voting.

early5

Party Breakdowns

The number of registered Democrats (97,777) who have voted early far exceeds the number of registered Republican (45,219) or unaffiliated (13,341) who have cast early ballots. The percentage of registered Democrats edged further above that of Republicans but only by an infinitesimal amount as the gap is now 0.04%.

Republicans and unaffiliated are approaching their 2010 early vote totals at a faster rate than Democrats. While the number of early Democratic voters is 69.7% of their 2010 total voters, Republicans have already reached 77.3% with unaffiliated at 72.8%.

So even though Democrats may benefit from the increase number of voters, as explained above, the closure of the gap with Republicans suggests that they will benefit less than they might and certainly less than they hoped. The poor performance in Montgomery remains especially disappointing to Team Blue, although it is performing better with absentee than early voting.

Doing Best in the Base

Both parties seem to be turning out voters at a higher rate in their base counties. Consider that the rate of registered Democratic turnout exceeds that of Republicans by 1.89% in Baltimore City, 1.46% in Prince George’s, 1.26% in Howard, 1.01% in Montgomery, and 0.39% in Charles. On the other hand, registered Republican turnout exceeds that of Democrats by 1.97% in Talbot, 1.10% in Worcester, 1.10% in Wicomico, 0.56% in Queen Anne’s, 0.46% in Garrett, and 0.45% in Harford.

Turnout in Key Legislative Districts

District 3: 1669 D, 1083 R, 397 U (52.7% D)
District 6: 1992 D, 1120 R, 258 U (58.4% D)
District 8: 1920 D, 1250 R, 274 U (54.9% D)
District 9: 2492 D, 2197 R, 615 U (46.3% D)
District 12: 2770 D, 918 R, 381 U (67.1% D)
District 29: 1172 D, 1187 R, 264 U (44.2% D)
District 30: 3042 D, 2270 R, 690 U (50.5% D)
District 34: 2063 D, 1719 R, 470 U (47.8% D)District 38: 1893 D, 1984 R, 388 U (43.6% D)
District 42: 1673 D, 1118 R, 246 U (53.8% D)

Democrats form a majority of early voters in D3 (Young), D6 (Olszewski v. Salling), D8 (Klausmeier), D12 (Kasemeyer), D30 (Astle), and D42 (Brochin).

The numbers are most dangerous for incumbent Democrats in D29 (Dyson) and D38 (Mathias). In these two districts, more registered Republicans have voted than registered Democrats.

In D9 (Frederic v. Bates) and D34 (James v. Cassilly), the numbers are in between–Democrats are a plurality but not a majority. Del. Mary-Dulany James is probably stronger in D34 because of her long history representing this swing territory and appealing to unaffiliated voters. Del. Gail Bates likely has the edge in D9 for similar reasons.

 

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Senate Projections

Sen14Summaryratings for individual races are below

Looking over this year’s Senate races in Maryland reveals no threat to Democratic dominance. Republicans have no chance of even winning enough Senate seats to sustain a gubernatorial veto should Republican Nominee Hogan upset Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

The Democrats start with a built-in advantage with the 20 safe districts located in the big three Democratic counties of Montgomery (D15-20, D39), Prince George’s (D21-6, D47) and Baltimore City (D40-41, D43, D45-6). Add in the extremely safe seats in Baltimore County (D10 and D44), Charles (D28), and Howard (D13), and the Democrats reach a majority without breaking a sweat.

However, the Democratic advantage extends beyond structural. The Democrats demonstrate an ability to fight hard and win seats on Republican turf. Republicans don’t exhibit the same ability, which is why virtually all of the toss-up races are seats that Republicans should win but might not due to the strength of Democratic candidacies and support for them.

Here are the top four races to watch:

1. Mathias (D) v. McDermott (R), Toss Up
Incumbent Sen. Jim Mathias has a real fight on his hands to hold District 38 due to a challenge by Del. Mike McDermott in a race profiled earlier this year. Based on the district’s strong Republican lean, Mathias ought to lose but this former OC mayor is a born campaigner and has a huge financial advantage.

2. Dyson (D) v. Waugh (R), Toss Up
Roy Dyson has a resilience rare in politics, holding this seat since 1994 after losing his congressional seat in 1990 following a scandal that attracted national attention. Due to an increased naval presence, St. Mary’s Republican lean keeps getting stronger–Romney won 58% of the major-party vote–which leaves Dyson’s hold on it more precarious. Conservative Democrat Dyson has his hands full in his rematch against Steve Waugh, who came within 3 points of taking District 29 in 2010.

3. James (D) v. Cassilly (R), Toss Up
Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) has decided to retire and Democrats have high hopes of taking this Harford County seat. Democrats did their best to carve out as Democratic district as possible in south Harford though District 34 still remains Republican territory. But Del. Mary-Dulany James has won elections here since 1998. She campaigns hard and is better funded than former Bel Air Mayor and Harford Councilmember Bob Cassilly.

4. Brochin (D) v. Robinson (R), Lean D
Sen. Jim Brochin has far more money than his Republican opponent, Tim Robinson, and is an indefatigable campaigner. I would rate the district Likely D except that Brochin has a lot of new Republican territory in this reshaped version of District 42. Still, he could be in trouble if a Republican wave hits hard here.

Sen14Proj

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Souls Not at the Polls

early4

After Day 4 of early voting, the rate of Democratic turnout finally pulled ahead of the Republicans. But not by much. As of last night at 8pm, 3.58% of Democrats and 3.56% of Republicans had voted. This gap of 0.02% is far smaller than the 2010 gap of 0.85%.

Any effort on Sunday to bring souls to the polls at African-American churches did not have a major impact. The state’s two majority-black jurisdictions–Baltimore City and Prince George’s–had turnout rates below the statewide level. Indeed, Prince George’s dropped one place in the county turnout rankings.

So far, the share of registered Democrats who have voted early is 52.0% of the 2010 number. The equivalent figure is 57.8% for Republicans, and 53.9% for unaffiliated voters.

Interestingly, the ratio of unaffiliated to Democratic turnout is relatively lower than in 2010. As polls show that Brown trails Hogan among independent voters, that would seemingly be good news for the Lt. Governor. Except that the share of unaffiliated voters has increased sufficiently that they are currently closer than the Democrats in reaching their 2010 turnout.

The best news for the Democrats is that Howard, an increasingly Democratic county, jumped three places in the turnout rankings. In contrast, Harford, a Republican bastion, fell three places. But all of this is small beer compared to Baltimore City’s and especially Montgomery’s consistent under performance.

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