Early Voting and Final Polls Suggest Women and Minorities Will Propel Clinton to Victory
As Americans head to the polls Tuesday, roughly one-third of 2016’s electorate—43.6 million people—has already voted, with record turnout by women and non-whites underscoring why pollsters are predicting Hillary Clinton will be elected president and Democrats will retake the Senate by the absolute slimmest of margins.
“In key states like North Carolina, Nevada and Florida, gains among women and minorities have bolstered the Democrat’s efforts to block Trump’s avenues to victory,” the Los Angeles Times said Monday, summarizing the latest polls and early vote statistics. “Trump, too, has seen big turnout increases among his targeted voters, but they have not overwhelmed the Democratic forces as some in his party had hoped.”
Whether Clinton voters will also vote for Democratic senatorial candidates is the nail-biting question that follows who wins the presidency. As of late Monday, pollsters were saying the Senate may end up a 50-50 seat tie, in which the vice president would be the deciding vote. If the GOP keeps its majority, it, along with a Republican-controlled House, will fight a Clinton presidency every step of the way—starting with filling one open Supreme Court seat.
By late Monday, the nation’s top pollsters were predicting Clinton would win the popular vote and Electoral College vote to become the next president. Nate Silver tweeted she has a “65% --> 70%” change of winning the popular vote. Larry Sabato’s “final call” is that she will win 322 Electoral College votes, 100 more than Trump. The Princeton Election Consortium says Clinton will win 90 more Electoral College votes than Trump.
On the other hand, the pollsters all predict a 50-50 seat Senate tie, with Democrats picking up seats in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Needless to say, pollsters have been wrong many times in 2016, and they may be wrong again. But as far as the presidency is concerned, the early voting statistics—how many registered party members voted, their gender breakdown and race—show that women and minorities have been surpassing 2012's turnout in almost every state, suggesting they will propel a Clinton victory.
That pattern has been the case in two key swing states, Florida and Nevada. Michael McDonald of the United States Election Project, which tracks voter turnout, tweeted Monday about the record figures from Florida: “FL #earlyvote Race change vs 2012 via @electionsmith Afr-Am +70.6K (+9.2%) Hisp +453.8K (+86.9%) White +900K (+27.2%) Other +121.5K (+48.3%).”
Those numbers show Democrats rallying, the Huffington Post explained. “One week ago, early returns had Democrats fretting. Turnout among black voters was lagging, and while Latinos were submitting ballots in large numbers, so were white voters seen as more likely to support Trump,” HuffPo said. “Those trends shifted during the last four days. Black turnout jumped substantially, boosted by Obama’s multiple Florida visits and Sunday’s 'souls to the polls' voting drive led by black churches. Black turnout in Florida will end up higher than in 2012, Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor and election data analyst, predicted on Sunday.”
There seemed to be a similar resurgence in Nevada, blogged Jon Ralston, the dean of that state’s press corps, who predicted a decisive Clinton victory but said the open-seat Senate race would be tighter. “I’d guess that right now, based on history and my sources: Trump is down by at least 40,000 votes: About 770,000 votes have been cast, likely two-thirds of the vote. Let’s suppose that there is an Election Day turnout of 450,000 voters. Trump would probably need to win Tuesday by about 10 points to win; This is almost impossible, unless the Democrats decide not to turn out voters on Election Day.” Ralston continued, “The dynamics of the U.S. Senate race are different, which gives Team Joe Heck hope. If he can win his own congressional district, he has a chance. The numbers there don't look good…”
Voter Suppression in North Carolina
If there is one state to watch that may deny the Democrats an outright Senate majority, it is North Carolina, where the GOP-controlled legislature and governor adopted some of nation’s most draconian reversals in voting rights immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the federal enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As recently as a few weeks ago, Republican-controlled county boards of election in black-majority regions were rolling back early voting hours on weekends, which is when blacks have historically voted—after church.
Astoundingly, the state’s Republican Party issued a press release Monday bragging about suppressing non-white early voting. The release was titled, “North Carolina Obama Coalition Crumbling,” and noted that the early black vote was down 8.5 percent from 2012, while “caucasian early voting is up 22.5 percent from 2012.”
“It is strange and alarming for a political party to be happy about fewer people voting, instead of getting more people out to vote — especially in a way that’s clearly racially motivated,” wrote Vox.com, which the quoted Carter Wrenn, a longtime GOP consultant in the state, explaining their enthusiasm for thwarting voting rights. “Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” he said.
Whether those frustrated black South Carolinians show up on Tuesday may make the difference between a 50-50 Senate seat split or a one-seat Democratic majority, tweeted John Hagner, who analyzed the turnout statistics. “In NC: 197K African-Americans who voted early in 2012 haven't voted yet. But 86K of them voted in '14 or '16P. They're voters. They'll vote.” The Election Project’s McDonald replied, “Unless whatever is keeping NC Afr-Am from voting early carries through to Election Day.”
A handful of other last-minute early voting reports and polls also showed some unexpected swings in the electorate that could advantage Democrats.
Nebraska is one of two states that split its Electoral College votes by congressional district; Maine is the other. In Douglas County, Nebraska, which includes the city of Omaha—the state’s “irritating” blue dot as national political reporters like to say—Democrats are five points ahead of Republicans in early ballots. President Obama won that district's single Electoral College vote in 2008.
And in New Hampshire, a new University of New Hampshire poll released Monday found Clinton leading Trump and Democrats ahead for Senate and governor. Clinton campaigned there this past weekend to solidify her position and help other Democrats.
But the two states that are most closely watched are Florida and North Carolina, which according to Silver, mirror all the major trends and factors that typify 2016’s election.
“I think of Florida and North Carolina as being the protagonists of this election,” he wrote. “They have a bit of everything: early voting, conflicting polling, changing demographics. And they’ve always played a role in the drama of the campaign, since neither candidate has ever really been able to pull away in either state. (No candidate has ever been better than a 2-1 favorite in North Carolina in our polls-plus forecast, for instance.) Furthermore, both states’ polls close relatively early and they count their vote relatively quickly, so they’ll be some of the first states we’ll be checking for clues as to how tomorrow will proceed.”