Florida has begun in-person early voting under the new regime that allows, though doesn’t require, two weeks of early voting. Because counties may start early voting on different days, it is not straightforward to compare early voting trends in 2014 with those in 2010.
Using the early voting turnout files available from the state, it is easy to see that early voting in 2014 is well ahead of 2010. Here are the two basic graphs.
First, just leaving aside the fact that over 20 counties did not start in-person early voting until today, the day-to-day early voting turnout has matched 2010 totals, as the following graph shows. (Click on the graph to get the full picture. Unfortunately, the thumbnail cuts off values from the y-axis.)
So, for instance, despite the fact that only 35 counties opened early voting on Monday (15 days before the election), 48,214 people voted early in those counties, compared to 65,276 early voters in all of Florida’s counties in 2010. The total number of early voters in 2014 in the 45 counties that were conducting early voting that day exceeded total early voter turnout in all 67 Florida counties in 2010.
A more apples-to-apples comparison is possible. Let us look at the counties that began early voting in the period when early voting is optional, and compare turnout in those counties with 2010. On Monday, 45 counties reported early voting totals. As I’ve already noted, 48,214 people voted early in those counties. If we look at those same 45 counties in 2010, we see that only 37,297 individuals voted the first Monday in 2010. If we continue this comparison across the first five days of early voting, the pattern is stark: (Again, click on the thumbnail for the full graph)
When we do this apples-to-apples to comparison, we see that turnout has vastly exceeded 2010 totals. Thursday’s 77,365 early voters was 43% greater than the number who voted on the comparable day in these counties in 2010. Overall, early voting is up 37% compared to 2010, when we confine ourselves to counties that have started early voting.
More can (and will) be said about these numbers. The most obvious initial conclusion is that early voting continues to rise in popularity in the Sunshine State. One thing to watch is whether the counties that have opened their early voting centers as late as possible experience the type of congestion that causes long lines to form at the polls. With lower turnout overall in a midterm election, we shouldn’t expect problems to emerge like we saw in 2012. However, the initial evidence is that interest in in-person early voting continues to grow in Florida, so there is a real possibility that the late-opening counties will have to struggle with unanticipated congestion.
I have yet to run these numbers by party, so it’s unclear whether in-person early voting (as distinct from absentee voting, which is also a form of early voting) continues to skew towards the Democrats. I also have to remind the reader that I have not been able to examine parallel figures with absentee ballots, though there is some evidence that interest in absentee voting has also grow in 2014 (compared to 2010).
To quote my friend, Doug Chapin, stay tuned.