Early voting in Flagler County is considerably ahead of 2012 numbers, when early voting sites were scaled back to just two and early voting days scaled back to eight. But this election’s pace is running just ahead of 2008 numbers–and may yet fall short if Election Day turnout does not at least match the 29 to 31 percent turnout of the last two presidential elections.
And a closer look at the numbers paints a bleak picture for Flagler County Democrats, who are barely overperforming their registration rolls, and severely under-performing compared with Republicans’ enthusiasm locally.
After seven days of early voting, 16,423 ballots have been cast at three early voting sites in Flagler County, with six days of early voting to go. That compares with a total of 19,905 ballots cast in the 2012 election, and 22,454 ballots cast in the 2008 election, making this year’s numbers look hefty.
But they look heftier than they actually are. When adjusted for registration increases, which have been brisk over the past eight years, the numbers look healthy but more modest. Voter registration rolls have grown by nearly 20,000 since 2008, to just over 79,000 this fall, compared with 60,000 just ahead of the Obama-McCain election. That’s a 32 percent increase.
When early voting numbers are accordingly adjusted to reflect a constant number, this year’s early voting turnout is on pace to hit 30,500, assuming the first seven days’ average daily turnout holds for the next six days. That number will beat the 2012 adjusted figure, which would have been 22,736 had the voter rolls been equal. But it will barely go past the 2008 total, which would have been 29,693 (the actual number of people who cast a ballot in 2008 was 22,454).
What is on pace to push the early voting total past 2008 is the combined totals between early voting and voting by mail. So far, 10,265 ballots have been cast by mail, which compares to an adjusted total of 10,800 in 2008 and 12,157 in 2012. With nine days left for voters to turn in mailed ballots, it’s very likely that the final tally will be closer to 12,200, pushing the combined total for early and mail voting to 42,200. That’s an early-voting turnout of 53.1 percent, compared to 51 percent in 2008 and 43.9 percent in 2012.
If anyone was expecting a slackening in early voting in this second week, the numbers by 1 p.m. did not show it: 1,145 people had voted. The slackening took place over the weekend, suggesting that whatever souls-to-the-polls drive may have been planned, it did not have much of an effect locally. Both Saturday and Sunday combined for a lesser total than any of the weekdays’ turnout.
In the race for voter enthusiasm, Republicans are clearly ahead in Flagler.
Overall, Republicans are maintaining a strong advantage in early ballots, both by mail and in person. Combined, Republicans have cast 46.9 percent of the ballots, Democrats have cast 33.8 percent, and Independents or small-party registrants have cast 19.4 percent. Those numbers should worry Democrats–not just because Republicans are running ahead.
That was expected, given their nearly eight-point advantage in registrations. What should worry Democrats is by how far Republicans are running ahead: Their 46.9 percent proportion of ballots is not only 13 points ahead of the Democrats’ pace. It is seven points ahead of the Republicans’ own overall registration share, which says one clear thing: Republicans in Flagler County are a lot more enthused about voting than Democrats are, and whatever ground game Democrats are relying on to make a difference in the election, it’s not making much of a dent: If 33.8 percent of ballots have been Democratic, that’s just two points ahead of Democrats’ overall registration ratio. Republicans, in other words, are easily winning the turnout race in Flagler County.
Nationally, Hillary Clinton has reportedly established a slim lead, ahead of Donald Trump, in early voting, with 21 million votes cast, giving her a presumed advantage in Florida, Colorado and Nevada, where about a quarter of the electorate has voted so far. But that’s assuming that Democrats are voting for her almost exclusively–an assumption rather than a fact. Still, the perceived advantage has solidified despite the late revelations by the FBI that it is examining yet more Clinton emails. With eight days to go in an election studded with plot twists, there’s yet time for more unexpected turns.
The chart below outlines the numbers so far (through Sunday evening tallies), with projected estimates for early voting totals.
Flagler County's Early Voting and Vote By Mail, 2008-2016
|2016 Projected (**)|
(*) The adjusted tallies reflect what the vote would have been had the number of registered voters been constant, adjusted for 2016. Registrations have increase 14.15 percent over 2012, and 32.24 percent over 2008.
(**) The projection is based on the totals for the first seven days of early voting averaged over seven days, with that average multiplied by six remaining days of early voting, and that total added to the actual total of the first seven days.
Sources: Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, Florida Division of Elections, and FlaglerLive.