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2010 Early Voting

Last updated: November 2, 2010 2:52 PM

Update

In-person early voting has concluded in all but a few states (see a listing of early voting dates). I have constructed 2010 pre-election estimates of the percentage of votes that will be cast early and turnout rates. It will be some time after the election when it will be possible to determine the percentage of votes cast prior to Election Day. Most likely, it appears that the 2010 percentage is the highest for any midterm election, but did not exceed the 2008 presidential election -- which was the highest percentage of early voters in modern elections. I add the qualifier "modern" since prior to the 1840s, elections were held over mutliple days and there are no historical records.

I blog on early voting and other election-related analysis at the Pollster section of Huffington Post. A recent post is an analysis of where we stand on early voting, and what it may mean to the election. My most recent post examines a late surge for Democrats in Nevada. As a reference, I collected similar 2008 statistics for many states and localities.

A special debt of gratitude to the Associated Press Elections Unit for providing me with statistics for some states that are not providing their numbers to the public via the web. I am also indebted to the election administrators who are willing to share their early voting reports with me, if they do not post on-line.

What is Early Voting?

Early voting has dramatically increased in recent years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of voters who cast their ballot prior to Election Day increased from 20% in 2004 to 30% in 2008. These recent rates are in stark contrast to the 4% who voted early in 1972.

Figure 1. Early Voting Rates, 1972-2008.
Source: Census Bureau's Current Population Survey

CPS early voting rates

One of the reasons for increased early voting is that states have adopted expansive early voting laws. Generally, states offer two forms of early voting: vote-by-mail and voting at special early voting precincts. States that promote vote-by-mail may do so through "no-excuse" absentee voting, sign ups that allow voters to always receive a mail ballot, and by holding their elections entirely by mail. Notably, Oregon became the first state to adopt all-mail ballot statewide elections by a voter initiative passed in 1998. Some of these states allow voters to cast their ballot in-person at an election office, and others go one step further by opening special polling places where anyone can vote early. Notably, North Carolina permits same-day voter registration for persons voting early at special polling places, but does not allow it for Election Day voters. Other states may effectively have same-day registration for in-person early voters when their registration and early voting periods overlap.

Another reason for the increased percentage of early voters is that once a state adopts early voting, voters become familiar with the option and early voting rates generally trend upwards. Notably, local jurisdictions in Washington moved to all-mail ballot elections as the percentage of mail ballot voters neared 100%.

What is in store for early voting in 2010? There was a slight retrenchment in the percentage of early voters from 2004 to 2006, when the early voting rate dipped to 18.5%. We might expect this again since midterm and primary voters tend to hold on to their ballots a little longer, perhaps because they want more information because the top of the ballot candidates are not as well-known to them as presidential candidates. However, another important consideration is which states will hold competitive elections and turnout will be higher. Some of the hotly-contested elections are occurring in states with permissive early voting laws, such as California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, and Washington. Early voting may thus either be even or slightly lower than it was in 2008.

The early voting statistics are tracked below. In addition to the most recently reported total number of early votes in 2010 by state or local jurisdiction, I provide the percentage of early votes in 2006 and the total number of votes cast in 2006. The number of early votes in 2010 divided by the 2006 total ballots provides a sense of the relative usage of early voting in 2010 and a sense of overall turnout. For a similar table of early voting statistics for the 2008 election, see here.

Where possible, I provide additional statistics, such as the party registration of early voters, gender, and age. To be clear, party registration statistics are NOT actual votes. A registered Democrat or Republican is free to vote for candidates of the other party. However, party registrants are likely to support candidates of their party, so these statistics provide a clue as to the state of the race among the early voters. While President Obama performed well among early voters in 2008, it should be noted that in previous elections Republicans generally performed better among early voters as early voters tended to fit a more Republican profile: they tended to be older, better educated, and be composed of fewer minorities. It will be interesting to observe if 2010 will mark a continuation of 2008 or a reversion to previous elections.

Early Voting Statistics

State Mainpage Early Voting Statistics on the Web 2010 Total Early Vote Selected
Statistics
2010
Early Vote/
2006
Total Vote
2006
Total
Ballots Counted
2006
% Early*
2008
%
Early
Last Updated
United States 19,090,970
22.3% 85,769,132 22.4% 30.6%
Alabama
1,250,401 2.4% 4.1%
Alaska 34,966
14.7% 238,307 17.5% 30.0% 11/1/10
Arizona 877,695
56.5% 1,553,032 47.2% 52.9% 11/1/10
Arkansas 284,971
36.5% 780,409 30.1% 37.1% 11/1/10
California
html 3,182,073 35.8% 8,899,059 41.5% 44.8% 11/2/10
Colorado   1,211,297
Party Percent
Dem 34.6%
Rep 40.7%
Other 0.6%
Ind 24.0%
76.4% 1,586,105 54.4% 78.9% 11/2/10
Connecticut
1,162,391 5.6% 10.4%
Delaware
258,053 3.2% 5.2%
District of Columbia
122,356 4.1% 10.5%
Florida
  2,172,599
Party Percent Mode Percent
Dem 36.5% In-Person 47.1%
Ind 14.3% Mail 52.9%
Rep 49.2%    
44.5% 4,884,544 31.1% 51.8% 11/1/10
Georgia   774,690
36.1% 2,143,845 18.0% 53.1% 11/2/10
Hawaii 120,292
34.5% 348,988 34.0% 38.5% 10/28/10
Idaho 55,575
12.1% 458,927 12.3% 29.6% 10/27/10
Illinois (20 jurisdictions incl. Chicago) 447,821
12.5% 3,586,292 6.9% 22.2% 11/1/10
Cook County (xcld. Chicago) html 83,896   12.3% 680,693 5.0%   10/28/10
Indiana 194,187
11.3% 1,719,351 9.9% 23.6% 10/27/10
Marion County 21,125   10.2% 207,640 8.1%   10/31/10
Iowa pdf 349,216
Party Percent
Dem 43.7%
Rep 38.0%
Ind 18.2%
Other 0.1%
32.6% 1,071,509 22.8% 36.0% 11/2/10
Kansas 136,486
15.8% 864,083 19.3% 34.7% 10/27/10
Johnson County html 62,365   33.3% 187,379 28.4%   10/30/10
Kentucky 60,727
4.4% 1,370,062 4.8% 6.3% 11/1/10
Louisiana pdf 125,054
Party Percent Race Percent Gender Percent Mode Percent
Dem 46.7% White 76.4% Female 52.5% In-Person 92.1%
Rep 42.3% Black 21.3% Male 47.5% Mail 7.9%
Other 10.9% Other 2.3%        
13.1% 954,896 4.5% 14.7% 10/27/10
Maine text 133,768
Party Percent
Dem 37.7%
Green 2.1%
Rep 34.5%
Ind 25.7%
24.3% 550,865 17.6% 31.3% 11/2/10
Maryland html 286,250
Party Percent Mode Percent
Dem 63.9% In-Person 76.7%
Other 9.4% Mail 23.3%
Rep 26.7%    
15.8% 1,809,237 8.6% 7.9% 11/2/10
Massachusetts
2,243,835 3.4% 6.5%
Michigan
3,852,008 19.5% 20.4%
Minnesota* 71,000
3.2% 2,217,552 6.6% 10.0% 10/26/10
Mississippi
610,921 3.2% 2.9%
Missouri
2,178,278 5.7% 11.1%
Montana xls 155,864
37.9% 411,061 29.3% 39.7% 11/1/10
Nebraska 82,506
Party Percent
Dem 35.4%
Other 9.6%
Rep 55.0%
13.5% 610,499 17.9% 21.8% 10/29/10
Nevada (see note below)* html 419,983
Party Percent
Dem 44.2%
Ind 15.7%
Rep 40.2%
Statewide statistics are statewide in-person early voters as of 10/22/10 plus
all mail ballots from Clark and Washoe counties and additional in-person early voters as of 10/31/10.
Mail ballot statistics are reported by the Associated Press.
71.6% 586,274 51.7% 66.9% 11/1/10
Clark County zip 258,283
Party Percent
Dem 46.2%
Ind 16.4%
Rep 37.4%
71.3% 362,790 53.3%   10/29/10
Washoe County html 69,211
Party Percent
Dem 40.3%
Ind 15.0%
Rep 44.7%
57.3% 120,806 46.7%   10/29/10
New Hampshire
418,550 5.8% 10.0%
New Jersey (13 of 21 counties) 111,089
4.8% 2,315,643 3.9% 7.4% 11/1/10
New Mexico 274955
48.4% 568,597 40.2% 62.3% 11/2/10
Bernalillo County pdf 114,054
Party Percent Mode Percent
Dem 46.5% In-Person 70.9%
Rep 42.5% Mail 29.1%
Other 10.9%    
57.4% 198,611 Unk.   10/31/10
New York (56 of 62 counties) 118,994 2.5% 4,703,830 3.4% 3.6% 11/1/10
North Carolina zip 956,910
Party Percent Race Percent Gender Percent Age Percent Mode Percent
Dem 46.4% White 76.8% Female 53.4% 18-29 5.9% E-mail 0.1%
Lib 0.1% Black 20.9% Male 45.9% 30-44 14.1% Fax 0.0%
Rep 36.5% Other 2.4% Unknown 0.7% 45-64 44.8% In-Person 94.5%
Ind 17.0%         65+ 35.2% Mail 5.4%
46.7% 2,036,451 21.0% 60.6% 11/2/10
North Dakota 66,181
30.0% 220,479 16.4% 37.2% 10/28/10
Ohio (79 of 88 counties)* 778,472
18.6% 4,184,072 15.4% 25.2% 10/31/10
Cuyahoga County pdf 180,408   38.4% 469,930 38.4% 38.5% 10/31/10
Franklin County html 135,654   35.2% 385,863 35.2%   10/31/10
Hamilton County   62,363   21.0% 296,420 25.7%   10/30/10
Knox County html 4,406   20.7% 21,329 20.7%   10/30/10
Montgomery County html 37,255   17.0% 219,153 17.0%   10/30/10
Ross County html 5,240   21.5% 24,345 16.9%   10/30/10
Summit County html 33,226   16.2% 205,714 12.9%   10/30/10
Tuscarawas County html 6,016   19.0% 31,593 16.1%   10/29/10
Oklahoma     926,462 6.0%
13.0%
Oregon (from AP, as of 10:30am on 11/2/10) pdf 1,111,201
Party Percent
Dem 44.4%
Ind 14.1%
Rep 36.9%
Oth 4.5%
79.4% 1,399,650 100% 100.0% 11/2/10
Pennsylvania 109,601
Party Percent
Dem 39.6%
Ind 6.2%
Rep 54.2%
2.7% 4,096,077 4.0% 3.9% 10/29/10
Rhode Island     392,882 3.9% 5.1%
South Carolina 141,578
12.7% 1,117,311 6.9% 17.4% 11/1/10
South Dakota
341,105 27.3% 25.2%
Tennessee html 736,885
39.4% 1,868,363 47.4% 59.2% 10/29/10
Texas (15 largest counties) html 1,724,486
39.2% 4,399,068 39.9% 44.0% 10/28/10
Utah 72,758
12.2% 582,561 13.9% 37.1% 10/25/10
Vermont
263,025 20.2% 29.0%
Virginia 108,103   4.5% 2,398,589 4.9% 13.5% 11/1/10
Washington
(37 of 39 counties)
1,459,979
70.0% 2,085,074 88.6% 89.2% 11/2/10
Benton County pdf 34,406   68.4% 50,276 100% 100% 10/29/10
Chelan County xls 15,094   64.2% 23,518 100% 100% 10/28/10
Clark County html 91,348   78.4% 116,505 100% 100% 11/1/10
Cowlitz County pdf 26,944   85.1% 31,643 100% 100% 11/1/10
Franklin County html 11,573   88.8% 13,034 100% 100% 11/1/10
King County html 409,913   64.5% 635,753 71.3% 100% 11/1/10
Kitsap County html 68,708   75.4% 91,073 100% 100% 11/1/10
Pacific County html 8,010   90.4% 8,861 100% 100% 11/1/10
Pierce County pdf 145,625   67.2% 216,574 84.2% 100% 11/1/20
Snohomish County pdf 141,936   68.2% 208,243 99.8% 100% 10/1/10
Spokane County pdf 117,188   74.5% 157,335 100% 100% 11/1/10
Thurston County html 62,425   73.4% 85,011 100% 100% 11/1/10
Whatcom County html 54,457   78.0% 69,782 100% 100% 11/1/10
Yakima County pdf 40,834   73.5% 55,584 100% 100% 11/1/10
West Virginia html 113,716
Party Percent Mode Percent
Dem 54.1% In-Person 95.1%
Rep 35.8% Mail 4.9%
Ind 8.0%    
Other 2.1%    
Partisan registration statistics for in-person early voters only
24.0% 473,014 13.6% 23.7% 11/1/10
Wisconsin
2,183,155 7.8% 21.2%
Wyoming 29,042
Party Percent
Dem 20.1%
Ind 6.8%
Rep 73.1%
14.8% 196,217 21.7% 25.2% 10/28/10

* Notes: State Level 2006 Percent Early from the Associated Press, Election Research and Quality Control. County Level 2006 Percent Early from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's 2006 Election Day Survey. State Level 2008 Early Voting Statistics are compiled here. As soon as possible, I will add 2008 county level statistics from the 2008 Election Day Survey. Please bear with me as this is a lot of data to crunch!

A special note about Minnesota: Provided numbers are rounded.

A special note about Nevada: Nevada publicly reports statistics for in-person early voters only, which does not include mail ballots. The statewide numbers include mail ballots for Clark and Washoe counties provided by the Associated Press. The AP is not providing a breakdown of mail ballots by county, so mail ballots are not included in the county statistics. Clark and Washoe counties sometimes report information in a more timely manner than the state. In some instances, I may update the state totals with counts from these counties.

A special note about Ohio: Statewide statistics are inclusive of the Ohio counties reported here. These statewide statistics are provided by the Associated Press, and I have no county breakdowns. Ohio provides statistics for "party." This is not party registration, rather, it is the record of the last party primary a voter participated in. I therefore choose not to report these statistics as they are not as meaningful as party registration statistics reported by states with party registration.