Modeling early voting patterns can tell us a lot about a battleground state.
Analysis: Alex Frieden & Mike McDonough; writing by Charlotte Platt; editing by Karen Wickre.
Once again, Republicans and Democrats are fighting tooth and nail to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes. Many may remember the lack of a decisive result during the Bush-Gore race in 2000; this year Trump may be eager to claim victory before hundreds of thousands of Florida’s mail-in votes have been counted. Tracking day-to-day election results in Florida — a tight race already, and now with pandemic effects on voting habits — is critical to ensure comprehensive results.
This is why we built our Florida Early Vote Report in partnership with Unite the Country. To help set expectations and context for how the election could play out, we have been applying Hawkfish predictive models to the early vote data. Our model helps us understand, at an aggregate level, roughly how many votes Biden and Trump have likely banked to date. On election day and in the days leading up to it, we will know who returned their ballots or already voted in person, how many absentee ballots have not been returned yet, and what our modeling tells about these voters.
With over 15.2M registered Florida voters, the state reflects a close race across party lines: 5.6 million are registered Democrats; 5.4 are registered Republicans; 4.0 are unaffiliated; and 0.2 are in other parties, according to our estimates. Virtually every scenario (see these analyses from CNN, Vox, and The Intelligencer, for example) indicates that if Biden wins FL, it’s all but over for Trump.
Such an outcome depends greatly on Democrats continuing to press on getting out the vote, and where possible voting early. Florida is a unique state in that it permits ballots to be pre-processed 40 days before Election Day under Covid-19 emergency authority. Trump’s (baseless) assertions that mail-in-ballots will be tainted by “fraud” reflect a fear that may be valid: those voting by mail will choose Joe Biden by a wide margin. To date, nearly 5 million people have voted early in Florida, the plurality of whom are registered Democrats. With less than two weeks remaining before election day, Florida mail-in ballots have already exceeded the 2.75 million absentee ballots cast in the 2016 general election. But nothing is a foregone conclusion: more than 10 million registered voters have yet to vote, and Florida’s role as a pivotal state remains.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll continue tracking absentee and early voting in Florida. Stay tuned. If you’re a journalist interested in seeing the data directly, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Early Vote Dashboard, Secretaries of State Early Vote Data.