The remains of Hurricane Sandy are pelting the states beyond the eastern seaboard with rain, snow, and high winds. A bit further east, millions are without power from Virginia to Massachusetts, trees have damaged homes and blocked roads, New York City is a mess, with its subways out of commission for the foreseeable future, much of Hoboken is still underwater, phone lines are down in many areas, and the Gallup tracking poll is suspended until at least Wednesday.
Early voting is likely to be disrupted in many of the suffering states, if not put on hiatus entirely. One of the big stories of this election had been both campaigns’ focus on getting out the early vote, and many analysts expected that the early vote would outpace the 30 percent who voted early in 2008. But as of Monday, we really can’t compare this cycle to the past cycle.
But even then, there are some interesting signals. A reader noticed that yesterday, the cumulative in-person early vote in Cuyahoga County fell behind the 2008 pace, and wonders “if it’s a sign that the Obama early vote in Ohio was front-loaded.” This is the county that includes Cleveland and that Obama won, 69 percent to 30 percent, in 2008.
Early voting in Ohio begins 35 days before Election Day. For the first 24 days of early voting, the pace of 2012 ran slightly ahead of the 2008 pace. They recorded 1,895 votes on this year’s first day, compared to 696 four years ago; 12,771 votes with three weeks to Election Day, compared to 10,616 votes on the same day four years ago; and so on. But with eight days remaining until Election Day, 26,386 early votes have been cast in Cuyahoga County, compared to 27,529 with eight days to go in 2008.
In 2008, 54,340 Cuyahoga County residents voted early; this year’s accumulated vote amounts to 48 percent of last year’s total. The early voting did pick up in the final days before Election Day, so in a normal cycle, we might see a pickup. But with this new complication of weather yesterday and today, early voting is likely to slip significantly for at least a few days.
There’s one other wrinkle: The number of registered voters, both statewide and in Cuyahoga County, is down significantly:
The deadline to register to vote in Ohio has passed. About 7.9 million people are registered to vote in Ohio for the November election. Though that number is expected to slightly increase, that’s down from about 8.2 million registered to vote in 2008.
In Cuyahoga County alone, there are about 80,000 fewer registered voters than there were four years ago.
The bottom line is that turnout this year is probably going to be slightly lower than in 2008, and each party’s early-vote effort may indeed be “cannibalizing” the Election Day vote. But in many of these key states — Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, and now Pennsylvania — the early vote is likely to slow to a trickle.