Presidential election: Early voting suggests Hillary Clinton is ahead – but result will be close

‘We are seeing the trajectory of the election change in some states’

Adam Withnall
Thursday 03 November 2016 08:41 GMT

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The latest data from early voting in the US election suggests Hillary Clinton is in the lead, but not by as much as her campaign team would have hoped.

With more than 32 million votes already cast – about a quarter of all those expected if turnout is similar to 2012 – the Democrats are maintaining an apparent edge over Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Data about the early vote suggests Ms Clinton is not doing as well as President Barack Obama did in 2012, particularly in the key states of North Carolina and Florida. The numbers from likely supporters have been weak in parts of the Midwest, and black turnout has fallen, too.

But the data also points to strength from Democratic-leaning Latino voters, potentially giving Ms Clinton a significant advantage in major swing states Nevada and Colorado.

According to polling resource Elections Project, more than 6.9 million early votes have been cast by people who have previously identified as Democrat supporters. That compares to around 5.65 million from those identifying as Republicans.

These are not results – some Republicans may end up voting for Ms Clinton, and some Democrats could vote for Mr Trump. But the data provides insights into which demographics have had early success in getting out the vote.

“We are seeing the trajectory of the election change in some states, but Democrats are also making up ground,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor and expert in voter turnout.

Here’s an analysis by the Associated Press’s Election Research unit of what the early voting data tells us in key areas, state by state.

Race tightens in North Carolina and Florida

In North Carolina and Florida, Democrats did better with mail balloting than they had in previous elections. They expected to build on that with the start of in-person voting, where Democrats traditionally do well. But the big turnout – especially among black voters – hasn't yet happened.

In North Carolina, with nearly half of the expected vote already cast, Democrats lead in ballots submitted, 43 percent to 32 percent. But that’s slightly below the same period in 2012, when Mitt Romney narrowly won the state.

This year, fewer polling locations were open in Democratic-leaning counties in the first week of early voting. More locations have since opened, but Democrats are still trying to catch up. Voting by African Americans has declined to 22 per cent of the early vote, from 28 per cent in 2012. The white vote has risen to about 73 per cent from 67 per cent.

In Florida, more than half of voters have already cast ballots. Democrats remain virtually tied with Republicans. At this point in 2008 and 2012, Democrats held an advantage in ballots cast. Obama won the state both years.

The black share of ballots is down, while the Latino share is up.

Democrat and Republican analysts say they see signs that Republican early voters are those who previously voted on Election Day, while Democrats are drawing new voters. That would be good news for Democrats.

“I’m still bullish that Clinton will get to the 270 electoral votes [needed to win the White House]”, said Scott Tranter, co-founder of the Republican data firm Optimus.

Rising Latino vote may boost Clinton

Latinos may be providing Ms Clinton with the support she needs in key Western states.

In swing-state Nevada, where half the total ballots have been cast, Democrats lead with 43 per cent to 37 per cent.

That’s comparable to the party’s share at this point in 2012, good news for Ms Clinton since Mr Obama ultimately won the state by 6 percentage points. Ballots from Latinos and Asian Americans — another group that tends to vote Democratic — are up, while ballots from African American and white voters are down.

More than 1.2 million residents have cast ballots in Colorado, or half the expected vote. Democrats hold the advantage, 37 per cent to 35 per cent. Colorado, for the first time in a presidential election, is voting mostly by mail. At this point in 2012, Republicans held the edge.

In Arizona, where more than half the votes have been cast, Democrats trail by 5 percentage points. But at this point in 2012, Republicans had opened a 10 percentage-point lead. The share of independent or voters whose party affiliation is unknown is also up slightly.

Turnout rose among all races, but at higher rates among Hispanics.

“Arizona is close,” Tranter said.

In Republican-leaning Texas, 3.3 million votes have been cast in the top 15 counties, up 36 per cent. The state does not present breakdowns by party. Voter modelling by Catalist, a Democratic analytical firm, found ballots increasing by all race groups, but at sharper rates among Latinos.

Whites buoy Trump in Ohio and Iowa

Trump may hold an edge in Ohio and Iowa, two states he’s counting on to reach 270.

In Ohio, the heavily Democratic counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin are posting declines in ballot requests compared to 2012, while Republican-leaning counties such as Warren have increased. The state does not break down ballots by party. Voter modelling by Catalist found the white share of Ohio ballot requests was up to 90 per cent from 87 per cent. The black share fell to 8 per cent from 11 per cent.

Obama won Iowa in 2012 due to his strength in early voting. This year, Democrats lead there in both ballots requested and returned, 43 per cent to 34 per cent. But Democrats are running behind 2012 levels based in requested ballots, while Republicans are mostly on pace.

Republicans may be having trouble flipping another state, Wisconsin, that voted for Obama in the last two elections. Overall turnout in Wisconsin is outpacing 2012, with bigger shares coming from major Democratic counties such as Dane and Milwaukee.

Defending Republican turf

Mr Trump also may be holding ground in two Republican-leaning states that Ms Clinton targeted.

In Georgia, the number of ballots submitted has increased mostly among whites, while the black share declined.

In Utah, Republicans lead in returned ballots, 46 per cent to 15 per cent; no party voters made up 35 per cent. The Republican share in ballots is down from 2012 but improved from a week ago.

Additonal reporting by agencies

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