Despite Controversy, Early Voting Boosts Obama in Florida

A look at the numbers begs the question: Did Republicans really succeed in blunting Democrats' early advantage?

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If you’re in Florida, duck, because the voting lawsuits started flying over the weekend, this time to get Republican Governor Rick Scott to extend early voting.

Around the Sunshine State, cable-news cameras have been capturing frustrated early voters standing in lines that look longer than the exodus scene from Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. That’s put more scrutiny on Tea Partyer Scott and Florida’s GOP-led legislature, which cut the state’s number of early-voting days from 14 in 2008 — when Barack Obama won Florida, helped by robust early balloting by Democrats — to just eight in 2012, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney has to wrest Florida’s enormous cache of 29 electoral votes from Obama if he’s to have any real chance of winning the White House.

Let’s be frank about one thing: Scott and the Florida GOP can hand us all the disingenuous reasons they want for reducing early-voting days, including their favorite canard: cracking down on voter fraud. But their real impetus was to reduce Democratic turnout, because Democrats tend to do more early voting than Republicans — and because they gave Obama a 9-point lead among early in-person voters in 2008. Yet now that early in-person voting has ended in Florida as of Saturday, with absentee ballots still coming in by mail or by hand, a look at the numbers begs this question: Did Scott and the Florida GOP really succeed? And the answer seems to be: not all that much.

One of the more levelheaded pundits crunching Florida’s early-voting numbers is Paul Flemming, state editor for the Tallahassee Democrat. His political blog notes that while more than 2.6 million early in-person votes were cast in Florida in the 2008 presidential election (when then Republican Governor Charlie Crist extended early-voting hours), 2.4 million were cast this year, a 9.4% drop. Granted, that’s almost a tenth, which could turn out to be an epic difference, given that some polls still show Obama and Romney in a statistical tie in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state. But Flemming also notes that Democratic voters, who outnumbered Republicans 46% to 36% in early in-person voting this year, seem to have widened their 2008 lead.

What’s more, Flemming points out that while Scott and the GOP legislature cut the number of early-voting days, the number of early-voting hours, 96, remained the same as in 2008. As a result, Flemming wonders how much of the 9.4% drop can be attributed to the fact that Obama’s 2012 campaign hasn’t generated the levels of enthusiasm in Florida that his 2008 effort did. Flemming also believes that the Obama team, anticipating the in-person early-voting crunch, made a smart move by emphasizing absentee voting this time around.

As a result, while the number of absentee ballots cast by Florida Republicans in 2008 beat the Democratic number by some 15 points, this year that gap narrowed dramatically to fewer than 5 points. In fact, the total number of absentee ballots cast in Florida so far is more than 2 million, up 8.7% from 2008. That brings the early-voting total in Florida (in-person and absentee ballots) to almost 4.5 million — more than in 2008. (In 2008, Florida had 11.2 million registered voters; this year it’s 11.5 million, so the total early-voter share of the state electorate is still about the same, around 38%.) In all, Democrats have cast almost 250,000 more early votes than Republicans have, and that number could climb when all the outstanding absentee ballots have come in. Obama likely ends up with an early-vote lead in Florida of about 5 points.

At the same time, Florida’s county-elections supervisors have the discretion (which they’re exercising today in counties like the most heavily populated, Miami-Dade, where voters on Sunday loudly protested the early-voting reduction) to in effect extend in-person early voting by letting people either hand in or make in-person requests for absentee ballots at elections offices. That should also raise the state’s total early-voting tally.

All of which prompted Flemming to ask in our conversation today, “Was all the screaming about early-voter suppression merited?” Maybe not, especially given how deftly the Obama campaign’s defense adjusted to the Florida GOP’s offense. But if the GOP ploy didn’t appreciably diminish early-voter tallies for Obama, and if Romney still ends up winning the state as polls are forecasting — one even has him up by 6 points — a just-as-pertinent question is: Why did Scott and the Florida legislature shoot itself in the democracy p.r. foot by going to all that effort to give their state, if not the whole country, the very distinct impression that they were in fact trying to reduce turnout? Image-wise, one of their dumbest moves was to cancel early voting on Sundays, which is especially helpful to lower-income voters who might not be able to take much time from work to vote on weekdays — and which has traditionally afforded black churches the opportunity to galvanize pulpits-to-the-polls efforts.

What’s also easily forgotten is that Florida Republicans used to like early voting. The GOP-controlled legislature approved the practice in 2002 in order to ease the ballot pipeline and avoid electoral debacles like the 2000 presidential vote re-count — and in the beginning it was a boon to conservative candidates. While Democrats are considered more enthusiastic early voters, the fact is that it “disproportionately rewards campaigns that are better organized,” as an expert once put it to me, and in Florida that usually meant Republican campaigns. In 2004, when George W. Bush won Florida by 5 points, the Sunshine State’s typical early voter was an elderly white Republican male.

But then came 2008, when Obama’s campaign galvanized women and minorities, and the typical early voter was more likely to be a young African-American woman. Whether or not reducing early-voting days significantly disadvantaged that demographic, quite a few Floridians believe that was Scott’s intent — and that could further reduce his re-election chances in 2014.

88 comments
Alexander
Alexander

> “Was all the screaming about early-voter suppression merited?”

Well, I normally vote by mail due to a disability.  My ballot did not arrive this year, so I had to go to my local polling place. 

It was physically painful for me to wait in line to get in,  but I did so because the alternative of not voting at all would have been emotionally painful for a much longer period of time.   Especially if I had yielded to the physical pain, not voted because of it, and then come January 21,  Obamacare was dismantled, and (not being Massachusetts residents) we would have been stuck with VaPoR-CaRe until such time as 50 states could come to a consensus on a replacement for Romney to sign into law.  I would have blamed myself, in part, for the loss.

As they say, lightning seldom strikes twice in the same place.  For all 50 states to come to such a consensus  a second time would have been unlikely to happen again any time soon.  Especially, as many lawmakers would have been resentful after the fruits of their hard work in coming to such a historic agreement were tossed in the trash like a bunch of rotten bananas.

While I felt cheated that my ballot failed to arrive, I have no idea of whether or not it was the result of any kind of attempt at voter suppression. But if it was, this was one case where it ultimately failed.

P. S.  Now that the election is over, those who were for Romney really ought to watch the "Romney Flip/Flop" (R/S, not J/K :) video.  With the pressure to fight for Romney behind you, you'll have a chance to enjoy it now. without feeling like anyone is trying to influence you.   It really is both honest and funny.  If Romney has any sense of humor he'll probably be watching it with his own family tomorrow night! 

But stay away from the "Romney on Mormonism" video.  He didn't realize it was being taped, and it really makes him look like he has a short fuse when he's not in public.  And the other party in the video might have been baiting him a little.

CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

Students who stood in lines at Florida Universities for hours- kudos to you! University of South Florida is rumored to have had 4 hour wait.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

LANDSLIDE!

Carroll County, NH resultsBarack ObamaDemocrat (Incumbent)69.70%Mitt RomneyRepublican27.27%

grape_crush
grape_crush

> “Was all the screaming about early-voter suppression merited?” 

Yes, and definitely more so than all the screaming about nearly non-existent voter fraud...which was the rationale given that supposedly justified these greater restrictions.

Just ask yourself this question: In a country where we have less-than-stellar voter turnout, what legitimate reason do we have for making it harder to Constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote? None. We need to be making it easier for everyone to vote, not narrowing the universe of possible voters.

There isn't a legitimate reason, so that leaves illegitimate reasons, right? Given that these efforts disproportionately affect young, poor, and minority* citizens, and that those constituencies tend to vote Democratic, and that these efforts at legislated suppression are occurring in states that have GOPers in position to enact such laws...it's reasonable to assume - it's a no-brainer, actually - the answer to the question is that there is a coordinated, concentrated effort on the part of the American right wing, through the GOP, to reduce the number of Democratic-leaning voters in order to better the odds that they will gain political office.

And yes, there's evidence to support that conclusion.

(*not minority for long)

FredericMarc
FredericMarc

Seems to me that this article shows how much of a bad faith construction all this "voting suppression" thing is. The Democrats, are always giving us Social Democrat countries like Europe. Australia, Canada. In all these countries, you need to show a voters' card and an official ID, ID card or passport. There is no early voting, and to get absentee voting is not easy, you need to go to your consulate or your ambassy. The real myth is that there is no voting fraud in America. I suspect it to be massive, but impossible to detect because of this insane system. 

tonyt
tonyt

It has been an election campaign,  - for common sense vs 6th sense, undecided voter vs undecided candidate, laughing debater vs thirsty debater, surrendered debater vs moderate debater, Libya terror vs Benghazi CIA operations, agreeable debater vs swinging debater, old ships vs horses and bayonets, improving economy vs standstill economy, 4 more years of the same stuff vs no change from the previous 4 years, last campaign vs new campaign, get out the vote vs suppress the vote, white vs black, blue vs red, Nate vs Joe, storm relief vs presidential leadership, 1 billion campaign vs 1 billion campaign,  etc etc .....all good stuff.

robertpd
robertpd

Quick notes from someone actually IN Florida.. Both Dems and Reps heavily pushed absentee voting - seemingly moreso Dems than Reps, but I can't quantify that. I can tell you both mentioned it constantly in their ads. Second, you don't have to pay for postage to absentee ballot. You do have to request the ballot be sent to you by a certain date and you have to mail it in on time. It comes with a nifty "security" sleeve that obscures your voting/voter info from being read from outside the envelope and must be signed across the seal. No clue why people wait to turn them in at early and regular polling places. Phobia of it being lost in the mail...? However, you can track your ballot and know it was received via the election official's websites (they also tell you when it's mailed to you after being requested) and if for some reason it goes missing you can turn up at your polling place and be granted a provisional ballot. So, that's all just clarifying because when folks say "blah blah blah such and such happens like this in Florida.." - usually they're misinformed.

Big_Tickets
Big_Tickets

No stopping the people who love our president from voting at the polls. There is such a respect and gratitude for Obama.. little to none for Romney.. and with the whole Romney Medicare Fraud Scandal, his questionable integrity has been shot to none. A man who profits from defrauding our own government.. please. need I say more

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

@timmypadget

Sorry to bust your bubble, but the vast majority of absentee voters in Florida are REPUBLICANS

EdPiedra
EdPiedra

I do not think so ! Floridians are  SMART  not LAME BRAINS  !  

WE VENTURE TO SAY 99 % of voters DO NOT COMPREHEND that Obamacare is COUPLED with --DIRECT ACCESS to their Bank accounts BY THE GOVERMENT !

Click on: -- http://tinyurl.com/nweao6 ----

Search : INTRUSIVE OBAMACARE 3590- page 59

Hear it --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5-OUZv7nIQ ---

( Video- Rush Linbaugh ) -----In addition to deducting medical costs directly from you account, the law will allow the state to monitor all of your financial transactions.THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID IT IS TO REPEAL OBAMACARE. 

VOTE Romney/Ryan !!VOTE Romney/Ryan !!  TAKE YOUR FRIENS TO VOTE !

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

I've heard that we get the leaders we deserve.  So who elected this Scott guy?

FabienL'Amour
FabienL'Amour

I don't quite get this early voting / absentee ballot charabia.  In Canada, your employers is required by law to give you an hour off work to go vote in Federal and provincial elections.  The early voting turnout is minimal.

Dachman
Dachman

Was this supposed to be news artilce or a opinion piece?

ML_NY
ML_NY

I beg you to look up the meaning of "begs the question" and use it correctly, if at all, in the future. Interesting analysis, even if grammatically challenged.

skullcrusher66
skullcrusher66

This whole scandal is inexcusable. If Romney wins florida you better get off your ass and take to the streets because its time to put an end to corruption.

DeeDee
DeeDee

Florida Democrats...THROW THIS SCOTT DUDE OUT ON HIS ARSE! AND ALL THE OTHER CORRUPT REPUBS. Geez, what a disaster you all are. What an international embarrassment. Please secede from the United States if you can't get your act together. Are the Repubs in your state THE MAFIA?!?!

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Europe: a "Democrat country"

Bozo.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@FredericMarc 

Seems to me that this article shows how much of a bad faith construction all this "voting suppression" thing is. The Democrats, are always giving us Social Democrat countries like Europe. Australia, Canada.

Europe is not a country; but it would come as a surprise to you that the majority of the countries doing well in Europe are also lead by conservative governments and as you know Canada is not 'social democratic' right now. If you can't get the basic facts right then the rest of the rant automatically get tainted.

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

@robertpd 90% of the lib-loons here in the swamp are delusional and misinformed

FredericMarc
FredericMarc

@Big_Tickets This kind of comment reminds me my travel in Eastern Europe. When talking about "The One", try "The Great Leader", The Maximum Leader", The perpetual Wisdom", HE, Who LOve Us".....

LearntoRead
LearntoRead

@LiberalLies2012 No ones arguing that, learn to read: "As a result, while the number of absentee ballots cast by Florida Republicans in 2008 beat the Democratic number by some 15 points, thisyear that gap has narrowed dramatically to fewer than 5 points." --> Republican absentee MARGIN has shrunk, so you're right republican absentees in Florida sill outnumber democrats, no sh*t sherlock, HOWEVER: THE IN-PERSON EARLY VOTING MARGIN has increased for DEMOCRATS.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@EdPiedra Rush Limbaugh "The Dear Leader" of the conservative movement. A drug addled child molester.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

@EdPiedra This oughta be flagged for the Flush video alone.  Proof positive that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

bobcn
bobcn

@EdPiedra I've always wondered why Limbaugh calls himself a comedian.  Is it because we're supposed to laugh at him while he's pushing BS like this?  Or is it because we're supposed to laugh at the dimwits that he's conned with his BS?  Or is it both?

LearntoRead
LearntoRead

@EdPiedra AHAHAHAHA! really? did you really just cite this fat bigot as a credible source?? Haha you're livin' in the dream world bud...

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I certainly voted for his opponent.  But we got his ugly mug anyway.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

@FabienL'Amour Maybe you Canadians can send us some election monitors to ensure the fairness of our election (not kidding).  You see in the US we talk a lot about democracy and our "right to vote" but we don't really mean it.  What we really mean is that where ever there are Republicans in charge we will do everything possible to make sure Democrats have a very hard time actually voting.  Election day is not a holiday, it's not done on a weekend, you get no time off work, ballots are filled with meaningless measures to make them very long and thus time consuming, the number of polling places are rarely in proportion to the population they are supposed to serve, early voting days get cut and only one voting location per county in some places, voters are threatened with criminal charges in others, some voting places even run out of ballots and yes after all that you get to wait as much as 6 hours to vote......    Yes, the "greatest country in the world" can't even get an election right.  Send help....please........

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@ML_NY He'd have to assume what he's trying to prove, which might cause him to hurt himself...

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

@DeeDee You really want me to answer that??  

[I can't even argue with you.]

RichinCali
RichinCali

@MrObvious @FredericMarc 

Fred you are the one who is lacking in the basic facts. I have lived in both australia and canada, id requirements are very similar to the US. No "voter card" requirements, no photo id required, alternate id's allow you to vote, phone bill with name and address etc. Early voting in both countries. Quit making shit up man.

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

@LearntoRead

Bullcrap. As usual lib-loons need an excuse. Obummer has pushed early voting because he sees the hand writing on the wall. HE'S LOSING THIS ELECTION AND IS SIMPLY TRYING TO GET AS MANY TO VOTE EARLY BEFORE THEY CHANGE THEIR MINDS

FredericMarc
FredericMarc

@53_3 @EdPiedra Everybody who doesn't vote Democrat is a liar! We know now. Half of the Nation is a liar. Not 47%, 50%. You "hope, when we hope, we "lie". You should start your own country with your "Great Formidable Leader". He, hopefully, is going to be free, very soon.

doddeb
doddeb

@hollywooddeed@nflfoghorn:  Just as we got Kasich in Ohio.  Because many of the Dems stayed home (not to mention that Kasich did not campaign on half the stuff he has gone and done).

So, the lesson we can take from this:  VOTE today.  Please.

FabienL'Amour
FabienL'Amour

@Fla4Me Criminal charges for what? 6 hours?!?!  How can a party be in charge of elections?

Here is how it works here, every voting station has 2 Elections Canada employee that verifies your identity and marks your name on the voter list and hands you a numbered ballot.  After filling your ballot you fold it and you tear the ballot number off in front of the officials.  You put your ballot in the box and give the numbered part back and it's done.  Longest I waited to vote was maybe 15 minutes during the Quebec Independance Referendum in 1995.  The ratio of booths / voters is defined by law so the voting experience is quite similar all over the country.    

MrObvious
MrObvious

@RichinCali

Quit making shit up man.

I'm sure everyone in the country of Europe agrees.

fitty_three
fitty_three

You can probably thank FOX "news" for his ignorance.

UMMLocal12
UMMLocal12

Canada ain't perfect, but they do a lot of things right.