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October 27, 2010

Tea leaves and early voting

It is tempting to see evidence of a Democratic leaning enthusiasm gap when examining trends in the early voting data released by the state's election board, but national political observers say: Resist that urge.

In Maryland the numbers show that Democratic voters have cast 63 percent of the vote so far -- even though the make up 56 percent of the electorate, a trend the Sun reported in a story for Wednesday's paper. Republicans, on the other hand, made up 27 percent of the vote, doing slightly better than their 26 percent registration.

The data would seem to show that Maryland is already bucking the predicted tend of highly energized GOP voters this year. After all, if the Rs were truly excited about Maryland's race, wouldn't the numbers show them flocking to the polls ahead of the allegedly disgruntled Democrats?

Jennifer Duffy, of The Cook Political Report, warned that the data is best used as a progress report for the competing D and R early voting programs. Indeed, the Democrats seem to be reaching more people on a nightly basis, though the GOP in Maryland claim they are exceeding goals.

George Mason University's Michael McDonald, who this week got into a lively debate with The New York Times' Nate Silver on this very topic, says early voting seems to be tracking pollsters' predicted outcomes in a number of states. But, he argues that the most insightful way of looking at the figures is to compare them with the turnout breakdowns by party from previous elections. Such a comparison is impossible here where early voting is brand new.

Todd Eberly, of St. Mary's College of Maryland, takes a stab at Mason's suggested analysis anyway and notes that in the September primary GOP voters stayed away from early voting places, but percentage-wise turned out more than Dems when the election was over.

Bottom line: Fun as this is, we're just not going to know much until Nov. 3.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Early voting
        

Comments

A more complete news story on early voting would include absentee ballots:

How many absentee ballots have been requested? How does this compare to previous mid-term elections? Does the proportional breakdown of absentee ballot voters reinforce the Early Voting trends, or does it suggest something else altogether?

It is a broad, broad stereo-type but I'm going to paint it anyways.

Democrats skew less wealthy that Republicans. So DNC voters had a tougher time the last 2 years...most early voting states also allow voters to change addresses/precincts.

Therefore more Dems had to use early voting than GOP'ers.

Just a thought...

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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