by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
… [E]arly voting has increased in every election cycle since 2004, so we would expect early voting to be up in most places. And bigger numbers for early voting doesn’t always translate to higher turnout overall. Around 40 percent of ballots in 2014 were early in-person voting, absentee ballots, or vote by mail, compared to 35 percent two years earlier and about 32 percent in 2010. (Remember, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now vote entirely by mail.) But overall voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since the Second World War. Big early voting numbers could mean wider general interest in the midterm elections, or it could mean that a larger chunk of the usual pool of voters decided to vote early this year.
If the historical trends continue, we can expect about 45 percent of all voters to cast ballots early, absentee, or by mail in 2018.
Back in 2014, some liberals looked at higher numbers of registered Democratic voters participating in early voting and insisted the polls showing their preferred candidates trailing had to be wrong. They were deeply disappointed on Election Night.
There’s a perception that high early vote turnout is good for Democrats and bad for Republicans, but that drastically oversimplifies things.