Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Georgia Senate Runoff: Early Voting (Day 1)

Below are the numbers from the first day of early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff:

Now, you can also get this data from the Georgia Secretary of State's web site, but I've augmented the numbers to include the percentages and the totals by gender and race.

So, what do we know after one day of voting in the Peach state?
  • Turnout is down, but that's not a surprise. Barely 13,000 votes cast is a fraction of what we were seeing early on in the general election early voting. [I'm still trying to get a hold of the day-by-day data on this in order to draw a proper comparison.]
  • The percentage of African American participation is down. This isn't a fair comparison, but over the entire early voting period for the general election, blacks made up nearly 35% of early voters (via Michael McDonald). For that proportion to sink to 22% is not good news for Jim Martin.
  • The female percentage of the early vote is also down; another possible omen for Martin. Again, according to McDonald, women made up over 56% of early voters prior to the November 4 election. That proportion is now down to just under 48%.
Alright, now that we've got the numbers out of the way let's add in the caveats.
  • Monday, the only day reflected in these numbers, was only the first day of early voting in some counties throughout Georgia.
  • African American-heavy counties, like Fulton, don't start until Wednesday. You'll notice that the spreadsheet doesn't have Fulton among the top five counties for early voting. Fulton was the number two county overall for early voting ahead of the general election. So pack up those doomsday scenarios for Martin for the time being.
  • I spoke with someone at the Elections Division at the Secretary of State's office today and was told that some counties would not be offering early voting at all. What!?! They instead are offering only advance voting. The difference is that there are more locations for advance voting but over a shorter period of time.
All this staggered starting to the early voting brings up an interesting question: What impact will it have? I took a lot of flak in the comments section last week for giving the general election's county results in the Senate race an electoral college treatment. In light of these differing windows of early voting, though, it really could have an impact on turnout. In other words, if the counties that have early voting the longest are Chambliss counties, the the Republican incumbent could potentially bank some votes in a way similar to what Obama did nationwide in the presidential race.

The complicating factor is that a county like Fulton will only have the final three business days of this week and the first three business days of next week -- truncated due to the Thanksgiving holiday -- for early voting. And those advance voting-only counties will only have the three days next week. Again, if those are predominantly Martin counties, then the challenger may be getting the short end of the stick. And to think, there was all this fuss over the Republicans having lengthened the time between the general election and the runoff when they reinstituted the 50% rule for the runoff. The talk over the last week or so here in Georgia was that the extra week would give enthusiastic Democrats even more time to vote. Well, not if they can't. So, the 50% rule hurt Chambliss, but the time between the general and the runoff may not.

I'm going to be augmenting this daily (Well, week-daily as there won't be any new data on the weekends.) as we approach election day on December 2. I'll add in the new data each day and share that with everyone, but I also hope to, as I said, get a hold of some other data in order to potentially make some projections. Stay tuned.

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