The Corner


Those Inevitable, Not-So-Illuminating Reports from Polling Places

I certainly don’t mind readers sending in anecdotes about high or low turnout at their polling places, and the cable-news networks and local news will do plenty of live shots from outside local schools and city halls and other places people are voting. But the anecdotes rarely tell you much about how high turnout is going to be.

In fact, every Election Day, the turnout anecdotes and reports develop roughly the same way, something like this:

8 a.m.: “Bob, I’m reporting live from outside the local middle school, and right now the lines are outside the door! Looks like we’re going to have high turnout, back to you in the studio!”

10 a.m.: “Bob, shortly after nine, the steady stream of voters slowed to a trickle, and now it’s almost completely stopped, with no wait at all right now. Looks like we’re going to have low turnout this year, back to you in the studio!”

p.m.: “Bob, it’s amazing, right around noon, the parking lot filled up again! There’s another long line, and so now it looks like turnout will be high this year, back to you in the studio!”

p.m.: “Bob, it’s been another dramatic shift. As midday turned into afternoon, the line just disappeared. Now the parking lot is mostly empty, a few senior citizens here and there — turnout might be a lot lower than we thought it would be just a few hours ago. It’s a slow election day, back to you in the studio!”

p.m.: “Bob, it’s amazing, the polls close in just an hour or two, but in the late afternoon, the voters started coming again in droves! The parking lot is full, and long lines are all the way out the door, people say they’ve never seen the line this long, looks like we could have record turnout this year! Back to you in the studio!”

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Anchorman Bob has figured out that most people vote before or after work or during their lunch break.

Also keep in mind that the early vote becomes a larger chunk of the overall vote each year, which should mean fewer people showing up at polling places on Election Day. If the historical pattern continues, the early vote should be about 42 or 43 percent of the overall vote in 2018. So shorter lines at polling places might not reflect fewer votes being cast this year.

Most Popular

White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

O’Rourke’s America

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of ... Read More