In key swing states, Democrats are piling up a massive absentee vote advantage that could spell trouble for Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans with just over three weeks until Election Day.
According to The New York Times, key battleground states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida are seeing a surge in Democratic enthusiasm in heavily blue cities.
In Wisconsin, for example, the report notes that nearly 650,000 absentee ballots have already been cast, many of those votes coming from Democratic strongholds. That’s a stunning boost from the 146,000 mail-in votes that were cast overall in Wisconsin in the 2016 general election.
The same trend is being seen nationwide as millions of voters are casting their vote early by mail or in person.
“As of Friday, more than 8.3 million ballots had already been received by elections officials in the 30 states that have made data available,” the New York Times reports. “In six states — including the battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Minnesota — the number of ballots returned already is more than 20 percent of the entire 2016 turnout.”
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The Democratic enthusiasm to vote is not limited to Wisconsin. Ballot return data from heavily Democratic cities like Pittsburgh; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Tampa, Fla., and the long lines of cars waiting at a Houston arena to drop off ballots, are signs that many voters have followed through on their intentions to cast ballots well ahead of Nov. 3.
There is still time for Republicans to catch up in many places, and they are expected to vote in strong numbers in person on Election Day. And untold numbers of absentee ballots could be rejected for failing to fulfill requirements, like witness signatures, or could face legal challenges. But in states that have begun accepting absentee ballots, Democrats have built what appears to be a sizable advantage, after years when Republicans were usually more likely to vote by mail.
Tom Bonier, the chief executive of TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm, said his models showed Democrats with a 10-point advantage among the 275,000 first-time voters nationwide who had already cast ballots and an 18-point lead among 1.1 million “sporadic voters” who had already voted.
At the same point in the 2016 cycle, Mr. Bonier said, his model showed Democrats with a 1.6-point advantage among sporadic voters.
“Democrats are highly engaged, and they’re turning out,” Mr. Bonier said. “Republicans can’t say the same.”
Democrats are energized as Trump flails
It should be noted that Republicans will almost certainly have an in-person advantage on Nov. 3, when they believe their target voters will turn out and theoretically boost their chances of winning.
The question is whether it will be too late – and the Democratic advantage too large – to overcome.
After all, this surge in early voting comes in the midst of the worst several weeks of Trump’s presidential campaign, after he flopped in his first face-off with Joe Biden, got himself infected with COVID-19, and then pulled out of the second presidential debate.
With Trump planning a superspreader, Mussolini-style rally at the White House on Saturday, it’s pretty clear that his behavior is unlikely to change down the stretch.
While the Democratic early and absentee vote advantage doesn’t necessarily mean they are coasting to victory, it does show how energized they are to defeat Donald Trump.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.