Despite all of the noise and competing narratives, early vote totals don’t look very good for Democrats. There are some unknowns in the numbers, but several indicators fall significantly behind 2018 totals. The problems also don’t look evenly distributed. The election day vote will determine whether they can make up the deficits or fall further behind. 

According to John Locke Foundation’s Vote Tracker, in 2018, 250,000 more Democrats had voted than Republicans. This year, Democrats have less than 150,000 vote advantage. Those are the knowns. Most of those votes will go to the respective parties. This year, there are 100,000 more unaffiliated voters than there were in the 2018 early vote totals. Those are the unknowns, but unless all of those new independents vote for Democrats, the party has still lost ground over the 2018 totals. 

More concerning, almost 44,000 fewer African Americans have voted this year than voted in 2018. Black voters only make up 18.7% of the early vote this year and made up 21.7% in 2018. African Americans are a core component of the Democratic base. They could conceivably make up the difference on election day. About 25% of those missing Black voters come from Mecklenburg County where about 11,000 fewer African Americans have voted this year than in 2018.

The gender gap that Democrats were hoping to emerge, driven by overturning Roe v. Wade, hasn’t appeared either. The gap has actually shrunk since 2018. Back then, it was 10% and this year it’s only 9%. Only 1,200 or so more women have voted this year than four years ago. 

In addition, younger voters are also lagging their 2018 performance. Among voters under 40, there are about 35,000 fewer than there were four years ago. Again, they could show up on election day. 

For Democrats to overcome their deficits in North Carolina, they will need a strong election day turnout and hope that swing voters break strongly in their favor. Traditionally, election day voting has been dominated by Republicans. COVID and other factors may have shifted some of those behaviors. We won’t know until the votes are counted. The one caveat I offer is that I’m relying on Vote Tracker. If those numbers are bad, then my analysis is, too. That said, I’ve always found them to be reliable. 

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