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Early voting data finds people eager to cast presidential ballots


The opportunity to cast an early ballot in Los Angeles County continues this weekend, Nov. 5-6, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at El Camino College, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance; West Los Angeles College, 9000 Overland Ave., Culver City; North Hollywood Regional Library, 5211 Tujunga Ave.; West Covina City Hall, 1444 W. Garvey Ave. S, and at Antelope Valley College, 3041 W. Avenue K in Lancaster. You may also vote today and tomorrow at the County Registrar/Recorder office, 1200 Imperial Hwy. in Norwalk from 8 5 p.m.

Riverside County has been accepting early ballots since Oct. 11 and will allow early voting on Nov. 5. Orange County residents may also cast early selections on Nov. 7.

Last weekend, 7,756 votes were cast in Los Angeles County with the highest turnout in North Hollywood where 1,831 ballots submitted.

Across the nation, an estimated 26 million people (about 45 percent of voters) have cast early ballots with Democrats showing strong turnouts in key states such as Florida and Colorado. Early voting for president has reportedly increased overall compared with 2012, according to a study released by the University of Florida which began tracking the data a few weeks ago. The jump resonates more in states that have favored Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton; the Florida study cited Nevada, Maine and Texas where polls have been tight and where early voting is reportedly up about 50 percent from where it was four years ago.

Early voting, whether by mail-in ballots or in person before or on Election Day, has grown in popularity. The National Conference on State Legislatures reports that 37 states allow for some form of early voting, with the remaining 13 states allowing individuals to request an absentee ballot. In Colorado, for example, Democrats at press time reportedly lead by 29,835 ballots, a far larger lead than in past cycles. In Florida, more than 3.6 million people have already voted.

Republican candidate Donald Trump may point to the Midwest where early turnouts have favored him in Ohio and in Iowa; Ohioans have cast about 500,000 votes so far with turnout reportedly down in key Democratic areas around Cleveland and Columbus. In Iowa, early voting is down from 2012 indicating that fewer Democrats have turned out to cast votes in traditional party strongholds. Both Ohio and Iowa voted with so-called “blue” states that turned out heavily for President Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012.

In North Carolina, turnout among Black voters is reportedly down from 2012 with analysts attributing the sparse amount of early voting to a limited number of in-person polling places open in key counties.

While early voting is gaining in popularity, analysts say that there are some limitations to the clues that these ballots can offer. Party affiliation does not necessarily represent how people actually voted. As well, the growing number of voters not affiliated with either major party may add another layer of complication.

“Donald Trump is not winning every Republican, and Hillary Clinton is not winning every Democrat this cycle,” said Mark Stephenson, founder of Red Oak Strategic, an analytics firm that works with Republican clients. “Just comparing these numbers one-to-one is not going to tell you where these candidates might stand (with the public).”

CNN did an analysis of early voting patterns in so-called battleground states and found that what Stephenson said may be true: Voters this year are not deciding along the traditional “party lines.”

In Arizona (at press time), registered Republicans are leading by about 11,500 votes giving them a 1.7 percentage-point edge over Democrats out of 682,000 votes cast so far. Still, the figure is well off the 8.5-point advantage the GOP had at this stage of the 2012 presidential race.

In Colorado, Democrats are reportedly far ahead of Republicans in terms of returning ballots … and the lead is growing. In one week, the Democratic advantage went from about 10,000 votes ahead to roughly 24,000 votes. At this point four years ago, Republicans had a 6,000-plus lead in votes.

In Florida, the Republican advantage is declining as more Democrats turn out early to vote. So far, the GOP advantage has been slashed by about two-thirds as they were up by about 18,000 votes one week ago but now see a lead of about 6,000. In 2008 at this stage of the race, Republicans lead Democrats in the Sunshine State by almost 73,000 votes.

In Georgia, about 827,000 votes have been cast; the Peach State does not register voters by party which makes it virtually impossible to know whether more Democrats or Republicans have voted.

In Iowa, registered Democrats enjoy an advantage over Republicans by roughly 40,000 votes (12.6 percentage points) out of a reported 340,000 ballots cast. Yet at this point in 2012, Democrats led Republicans by more than 55,000 votes. Overall turnout for both parties is down this year in Iowa.

In North Carolina, Democrats have built a strong advantage, and the lead is increasing by the day. At press time, Democrats lead the GOP by about 149,000 votes out of the state’s nearly 812,000 votes cast. However, for the first time since early voting began two weeks ago, Democrats are behind their 2012 pace, when they led Republicans by about 167,401 votes in the early voting and even with that advantage, Obama was not able to defeat Republican Mitt Romney in the Tar Heel State.

About 680,000 people have cast early ballots in Ohio, down about 18 percent from turnout levels in 2012. Because Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature slashed the number of early voting days, there are signs that the drop-off may hurt Clinton more so than Trump.

Analysts contend that the limitations on early voting could be far reaching. For instance, states reporting early voting don’t always include all counties; some states require party registration, and the numbers derived from early-voting tabulations can sometimes be flawed. So, while Clinton is outperforming Trump in Nevada the state may favor Democrats simply because of the concentration of early voting data coming from Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) and in Washoe County (Reno) which are two strong Democratic leanings locagtions. Trump could, in the end, win in Ohio which doesn’t particularly have a history of early voting in Democratic counties.