As early voting begins today, my twitter feed is full of photos of long lines at polling locations an hour or more before the polls even open. Democrats are celebrating and sharing the images. Republicans are silent. One of the starkest differences to have emerged in recent years is that Democrats think voting is good and Republicans think it is risky. Democrats want to make access to the ballot box easier. Republicans want to make it harder. In other words, one party believes in democracy a bit more than the other.
For years, if not decades, Democrats have said, “If more people vote, we win.” This year, we are about to find out if that’s true. Early voting indicates the country will have a record turnout. Democrats are almost giddy at the prospect.
In North Carolina, the coronavirus has caused a spike in mail-in ballots, a method of voting that has traditionally been small and dominated by Republicans. This year, according the political scientists Michael Bitzer and Chris Cooper, Democrats are outpacing Republicans by wide margins. So far, Democrats have made 47% of the 1,344,643 ballot requests, while Republicans requested 19% and Unaffiliated voters comprised 33%. Of the 533,677 accepted, 51% came from Democrats, 18% from Republicans and 31% from Unaffiliated voters.
In Battleground states, according to Tom Bonier of Target Smart, Democrats hold a 15% advantage among people who have already voted compared to 8% four years ago. In addition, almost three times as many first-time voters have voted than did in at this point in 2016. Democrats hold a 7% advantage among these voters as opposed to the 1% lead they held four years ago. Black voters and college educated white voters are spiking while non-college whites are plummeting. Women are seeing a “massive” increase in turnout, making up 55% of the voters so far compared to 52% at this point in 2016.
As Bonier notes, Democrats have always voted early while Republicans tend to wait for election day. The question is whether or not the GOP sees a large enough surge on November 3 to overcome the huge hole that Democrats are digging for them right now. Bonier also says we will certainly see record number of voters and may see the largest turnout as percentage of voting age population in more than a century.
We are about to find out if Democrats really win when people vote.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >