Election Day has come and gone for 5.5 million Americans who have participated in early in-person or mail-in voting. What do we know so far about the votes that have been cast? While no ballots can be counted until Election Day, there are some clues that we can gather based on data about party affiliation, gender and race of early voters. As of now — 15 days and 2 hours until the polls open on Election Day — here’s what we know about which candidate could cross the 270-electoral vote threshold to win the presidency. And put us out of our damn misery.
1. Clinton has an apparent advantage in key states
- North Carolina: Until this past Thursday, Republicans had a lead in North Carolina in terms of mail-in ballots. But after in-person voting began in North Carolina this past Thursday, Democrats pulled ahead. Not a good sign for Republicans.
- Florida: Numbers look good in Florida for Democrats. The number of early ballots requested are nearly evenly split between parties, with Republicans holding a slight edge of about 10,000 more ballots total. That means the Republican mail-in ballot vote has been cut by 65 percent compared to 2008 levels, when 49 percent of Republicans and 32 percent of Democrats made early requests.
It’s not magic: the Democratic party went into overdrive this year, registering 500,000 new voters in the Sunshine State. If Clinton manages to clinch a win in either North Carolina or Florida, there’s a good chance she’ll emerge victorious overall.
2. Clinton also seems to have an advantage out west: Arizona, Nevada and Colorado
- Arizona: The battle in Arizona is “close”, according to Republican data analytics firm Optimus, with 44 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans having returned early ballots. This is troubling for Republicans, who can usually count on Arizona as a reliably Republican state.
- Colorado: By late last week in Colorado, Democrats were beating Republicans 43 percent to 30 percent in ballots returned. Consider that in 2012, Republicans were beating Democrats at this point in the game. Also don’t forget: Colorado has since become a majority Democrat state.
- Nevada: A possible clue about Nevada’s eventual outcome: Ballot requests in the state are lower than average among older white voters, who tend to vote Republican.
3. Trump may have an advantage in Georgia, Ohio and Iowa
- Georgia and Ohio: Ohio and Georgia are trickier, as neither state reports on party affiliation of early ballots. They do, however, report on race. In both states, the number of ballots requested and returned by Black voters is down from 2012 levels. And in Ohio, according to the U.S. Elections Project, the counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin — which tend to go blue — have seen lagging early ballot requests.
- Iowa: The Democratic lead is underwhelming in Ohio compared to 2012, when Obama emerged victorious in the state after a strong early Democratic turnout.
…And what we don’t know
In short: it is not possible to predict with 100% accuracy.
Here’s what Matthew Weil, the associate director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center said about it: “A lot of caution has to be used when looking at early returns. Early returns are basically based on which party someone is affiliated with. We don’t know how they’re voting.”
To add another layer, this is anything but a typical election. Our two contenders have historically low favorability ratings, meaning that experts struggle to predict how voters registered with a particular party may vote.
Having said all that, even Republican analysts are wringing their hands at what looks like a likely Clinton victory. Said Scott Tranter of Optimus, “The Trump campaign should be concerned.”