In the era of early voting, we like to say that every day is Election Day. It’s true – people are making up their minds and casting their ballots every day for the past two weeks. Now, as the ballots start coming back in (in spite of a painfully slow US Postal service) we are starting to see how this election is shaping up. As of today, over 882,000 ballots have been returned which we estimate represents between 35 and 36% of our total anticipated turnout of 2.4 to 2.5 million. Here are four key observations from the latest voting returns:
1. Republicans are holding on to their ballots.
Republicans typically hold a fairly significant participation advantage in Arizona elections. They usually represent between 41 and 44% of the total turnout depending on if it is a Presidential or Gubernatorial Cycle. Right now, Republicans only make up 39% of the current returns. They are underperforming between 2 and 3% points and hold only a few thousand vote lead over Democratic returns. We expect that the Republicans will return to their regular advantage over the remainder of the election, but they are going to have some ground that they need to make up.
2. Democrats are returning ballots at a higher rate than usual.
On the other hand, Democratic participation is overperforming compared to typical election participation. Rain or shine, Democrats typically make up about 32% of the electorate no matter the Presidential or Gubernatorial Cycle. However, as of right now, Democrats make up 36% of the returns so far. That means they are not only covering the deficit of Republicans right now, but also a slight deficit in Independent and unaffiliated voters. It would appear that the Democrat turnout efforts that are underway in several areas (such as ONE Arizona and others) are having an effect.
3. Swing districts are experiencing outside the normal returns.
In a few swing districts, we are seeing enhanced versions of the partisan performance issues that we mentioned above. For example, in LD8 (Pinal/Gila County area), while Democrat registration is higher by 10 points, Republican participation usually closes the gap to make things even. Currently, in LD8 Democrats are holding a 6% point participation advantage which is much closer to registration. LD9 (Tucson) boasts a 4 point registration advantage but Democrats are currently holding a 16 point participation advantage. LD18 has been a bellwether swing district in the past – with Republicans winning in recent years. Currently, 700 more Democrats than Republicans (a nearly 8 point swing compared to registration) have voted in the district located in the Chandler and Ahwatukee area.
4. LD28 deserves its own bullet point.
In one of the most heated legislative races in the state, there are several interesting things to note about LD28 (Phoenix/Arcadia/Paradise Valley). First, to avoid the risk of confusion here is a handy chart of the voter registration numbers compared to historic participation compared to current ballot returns.
As you can see, Republicans usually outperform their registration by 10 points; however, right now it is less than 4 points. Democrats are making up the difference – outperforming registration by nearly 8 and participation by nearly 6 points. However, there are still a lot of ballots expected to come in and the gaps appear to be closing. We can assume at a minimum that turnout will fall somewhere between 2012 and 2008. So a conservative estimate of turnout would be 85,000 expected voters. With 38,000 ballots returned so far, approximately 44% of the ballots have been cast in this election. The election isn’t even halfway over.