Michael McDonald has published his pre-election forecast of early vote at 28% of the total vote.
This strikes me as far too low; early voting constituted 15% in 2000, 20% in 2002, 22% in 2004, 25% in 2006, and 33% in 2008. It strikes me as very unlikely that the percent of ballots cast early would decline so substantially from 2008, even with the noted enthusiasm gap among Democrats.
I’ll similarly stick out my neck and project the percent of early ballots at 33%, the same as in 2008.
I think I see where Michael is getting his estimate–he shows approximately 18 million early ballots thus far (although there are some noticeable gaps in state reporting, and we don’t have the hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots in CA that will be dropped off today), and is comparing that to his overall turnout estimate of 40 million.
Michael and I differ on two points. First, he still reports on his webpage the early voting totals in 2008 as 30%, relying on the CPS. I think the much more reliable AP numbers peg the percent of early vote as 32.6% Second, I think he is projecting a decline in percent voting early, as witnessed from 2004 to 2006. I suspect to see less of a drop, as a few more states adopted relaxed early voting laws, and as many more Americans got used to voting early in 2008.
Unfortunately, Michael and I were never able to settle this bet in 2008 because of the lack of reliable data on early votes. Hopefully, he can buy my that bottle of whiskey in 2010!