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New SPLC Analysis: Younger Voters Are Turning Out More, But Continue to Lag in Returning Mail Ballots and Voting Early In-Person

National analysis also finds voters aged 65 and older are voting early at rates higher than other groups

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A new analysis released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) finds that as voters across the country begin to cast their ballots for the 2020 General Election, younger voters are turning out more but continue to lag in returning mail ballots and voting early in-person. 
 
As of October 23 in states that publish absentee and early vote data, voters aged 18 to 29 make up 17.5% of registered voters but only make up 9% of ballots cast by mail (up from 8.3% on 10/21) and 9.4% of early in-person votes (up from 9.1% on 10/21). Conversely, voters 65 and older make up 24.3% of registered voters but 44.5% of mail ballots cast (down from 46.8% on 10/21) and 36.4% of early in-person votes (down from 37.9% on 10/21).
 
“It’s encouraging to see the number of young voter engagement in this election is rising, but they are still very low,” said Seth Levi, Chief Strategy Officer for the SPLC. “While older voters are taking advantage of absentee and early voting options, we need to see the same level of enthusiasm from younger voters. Young voters can be a powerhouse in this year’s election, but only if they get their ballots in. We’re only 11 days away from November 3. Now is the time to make a plan to vote — and those with an unreturned absentee ballot should strongly consider returning it to a drop box instead of through the mail to ensure it arrives in time to be counted.”
 
The analysis is a part of an ongoing data tracking and reporting project between BlueLabs Analytics and the SPLC to track requested and returned absentee ballots as well as early voting in the states that report these numbers. These numbers will be essential reference points as Election Night results begin to be reported, and the SPLC, allied groups, and election observers strive to ensure enough votes have been counted for an appropriate call to be made at presidential and statewide levels. 
 
 
Currently, the SPLC projects regular updates on absentee and early voting trends and analysis two to three times a week before November 3. 
 
ADDITIONAL NATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS:
  • As of October 23rd, just under 45 million people have already voted in the 2020 election, both by mail and early in-person. Another 33 million people have an outstanding mail ballot. The number of people who have already voted or requested a ballot represents about 57% of the total votes cast in the 2016 general election. 
  • Using modeled partisanship combined with party affiliation where it’s available, we can estimate that Democrats hold a 20.1% advantage over Republicans in mail ballots cast (down from 21.4% on 10/21) and a 1.2% advantage in early in-person votes (down from 4.0% on 10/21). Democrats have many more ballots outstanding than Republicans by a margin of 14.7% (down from 15.7% on 10/21).
  • Young voters’ vote share has risen slightly in the last few days. Voters 18-29 now make up 9.0% of mail ballots cast (up from 8.3% on 10/21) and 9.4% of early in-person votes (up from 9.1% on 10/21). Older voters’ vote share has also dropped slightly. Voters 65 and older are now 44.5% of mail ballots cast (down from 46.8% on 10/21) and 36.4% of early in-person votes (down from 37.9% on 10/21).
  • Women continue to outpace men in total votes cast. Women have a 5.6% registration advantage over men but are 10.0% ahead in mail ballots cast and 9.6% ahead in early in-person votes. This gap is particularly pronounced among Black voters, where Black women have cast mail ballots at a rate that is 18.6% higher than Black men and voted early in-person at a rate that is 22.6% higher.
 
KEY STATE HIGHLIGHTS:
 
Florida
  • 3,163,845 voters in Florida have cast their ballots by mail. Florida has now begun reporting early in-person vote data and as of today, 1,037,953 voters have voted early in-person. Another 2,547,843 voters have outstanding mail ballots. The number of outstanding ballots has dropped dramatically since 10/21 (777,715 fewer outstanding ballots).
  • Democrats are outpacing Republicans in mail ballots cast by 17.5% (down from 19.0% on 10/21). However, Republicans currently hold an 8.1% advantage in early in-person votes. Because this is the first time Florida has reported early in-person data, we may see some fluctuations in the margin over the next few days as the sample size grows. This is based on official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Latinx voters make up 14.2% of mail ballots cast (up from 13.3% on 10/21) and 15.5% of early in-person voters.
  • Black voters are over-indexing in early in-person votes compared to their share of registered voters. Black voters make up 14.1% of registered voters, but 15.8% of early in-person votes. They also make up 11.4% of mail ballots cast (up slightly from 11.3% on 10/21).
Pennsylvania
  • 1,291,999 voters in Pennsylvania have cast their ballots by mail with another 1,487,785 having an outstanding mail ballot.
  • While Democrats continue to significantly outpace Republicans in mail ballots cast, their advantage has been shrinking consistently. Democrats currently hold a 51.9% advantage which is down from 56.2% on 10/21, 58.3% on 10/19, and 60.5% on 10/15. This is based on official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Black voters in Pennsylvania are still overperforming their registration rates. Black voters make up 11.8% of registered voters in the state but currently represent 12.5% of mail ballots cast (down from 14.1% on 10/21). AAPI voters also continue to overperform registration rates with 2.3% of mail ballots cast while representing 2.0% of registered voters.
  • White college-educated voters make up 43.7% of mail ballots cast by white voters (up slightly from 43.1% on 10/21). White non-college voters make up 44.7% of mail ballots cast by white voters (down slightly from 44.9% on 10/21).
Michigan
  • 1,860,104 voters in Michigan have cast their ballots by mail with another 56,670 having voted early in-person. 1,120,000 people have outstanding mail ballots.
  • Black voters make up 11.9% of mail ballots cast (no change from 10/21). Though the number of early in-person voters in the state is relatively small, Black voters are outperforming their registration rates in early in-person votes cast - despite being only 14.9% of registered voters, they make up 26.1% of votes cast early in-person.
  • White college-educated voters in Michigan make up 40.7% of mail ballots cast by white voters (up slightly from 40.6% on 10/21), overperforming their registration make up by 7.6%. 
Wisconsin
  • 932,897 voters in Wisconsin have cast their mail ballots. Wisconsin has now begun reporting early in-person vote data and as of today, 142,948 voters have voted early in-person. Another 401,884 voters have an outstanding mail ballot.
  • Young voters have not made much use of early in-person voting in Wisconsin yet. Voters aged 18-29 make up 8.2% of mail ballots cast, but just 3.5% of early in-person votes.
  • Women are still outpacing men in mail ballots cast by a wide margin, 14.0%, despite having only a 5.6% registration advantage. However, that gap shrinks considerably among early in-person votes where women hold just a 3.2% advantage. 
Nevada
  • 302,882 voters in Nevada have cast their ballots by mail as of today. That is a dramatic increase from 10/21 (131,667 more votes). Another 175,395 voters have voted early in-person (also a large increase from 10/21 - 87,744 more votes). The state of Nevada sent mail ballots to all registered voters this year, so there is no data about ballot requests to report.
  • Democrats are currently outpacing Republicans by 25.5% in mail ballots cast (up from 24.2% on 10/21). In early in-person votes, however, Republicans currently have a 9.2% advantage (a large change from 10/21 when Democrats held a 6.1% advantage). That large swing in vote share is due to the massive change in total early in-person votes since 10/21. This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Nevada continues to have a high number of first time voters. 12.3% of mail ballots have come from first time voters (down from 14.0% on 10/21), which is well ahead of the 5.8% national average.
  • Latinx voters’ share of mail ballots continues to trend up. Latinx voters currently make up 12.1% of mail ballots cast which is up from 11.6% on 10/21 and 11.3% on 10/19. Latinx voters’ share of early in-person votes has also increased slightly from 13.2% on 10/21 to 13.3% as of today.
  • Black voters’ share of mail ballots is also continuing to grow. Black voters currently make up 9.1% of mail ballots cast which is up from 7.3% on 10/21 and 7.0% on 10/19. However, Black voters’ share of early in-person votes is down slightly from 10.6% on 10/21 to 9.6% as of today.
Georgia
  • 761,972 voters in Georgia have cast their mail ballots and 1,130,820 have voted early in-person. Another 781,624 voters have outstanding mail ballots.
  • Modeled Democrats hold a 5.7% advantage over modeled Republicans in mail ballots cast (down from 6.4% on 10/21). Modeled Republicans, however, hold a 9.6% advantage in early in-person votes (up from 5.6% on 10/21).
  • Black voters make up 33.9% of mail ballots cast (down from 34.3% on 10/21) and 31.8% of early in-person voters (down from 33.4% on 10/21).
  • Young voters are making more use of early in-person voting than mail voting so far. While voters aged 18-29 make up just 6.9% of mail ballots cast, they are 10.0% of early in-person voters.
  • Older voters have been much more likely to cast their ballots by mail than early in-person. Voters 65 and older are 53.1% of mail ballots cast but just 25.7% of early in-person voters. Interestingly, voters aged 50 to 64 are 23.9% of mail ballots cast but are 35.2% of early in-person voters, higher than any other age group (and well ahead of their 25.2% registration rate). 
North Carolina
  • 684,765 voters in North Carolina have cast their ballot by mail. 1,701,689 people have voted early in-person, which is a large increase from 10/21 (515,103 new votes).
  • Democratic vote share among early in-person voters has trended down in the last week. As of today, Democrats hold an 8.2% advantage over Republicans in early in-person votes, down from 12.5% on 10/21 and 14.6% on 10/19. Among mail ballots cast, Democrats continue to hold a large advantage over Republicans at 29.9%, though it is similarly trending down (from 30.8% on 10/21 and 31.5% on 10/19). This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Black voters continue to over-index among early in-person voters, making up 25.6% of votes (down from 28.2% on 10/21) compared to 23.1% of registered voters. Among mail ballots cast, Black voters represent 17.3% of votes cast.
  • Vote share among first time voters continues to trend up from 7.8% on 10/19 to 8.1% on 10/21 to 8.3% as of today. This is well ahead of the 5.8% national average (which has also trended up from 5.3% on 10/21). 
Arizona
  • 1,257,496 voters in Arizona have cast their ballots by mail with another 1,811,672 having an outstanding mail ballot. Those numbers represent a dramatic shift from 10/21 - 617,171 more votes cast and 571,286 fewer outstanding ballots.
  • Democrats are currently outpacing Republicans in mail ballots cast by 9.5% (down from 13.1% on 10/21). Republicans currently have more outstanding mail ballots than Democrats, by a margin of 6.2% (up from 3.2% on 10/21). Nevada is one of the only battleground states where Republicans have more outstanding ballots than Democrats. This is using official party registration, not modeled partisanship.
  • Latinx voters’ share of mail ballots cast continues to trend up, from 12.4% on 10/19, 13.0% on 10/21, to 14.0% as of today.
  • Young voters’ share of mail ballots cast is also continuing to trend up in Arizona. Voters aged 18-29 make up 8.5% of mail ballots cast (up from 7.5% on 10/21 and 7.2% on 10/19). The vote share of voters 65 and older has continued to trend down, from 48.1% on 10/19 to 47.0% on 10/21 to 44.1% as of today.  
Maine
  • 208,702 voters in Maine have cast ballots by mail and another 60,218 have voted early in-person. 127,647 voters have outstanding mail ballots.
  • Democrats currently hold a 38.0% advantage over Republicans in mail ballots cast (down from 40.6% on 10/19) and a 21.6% advantage in early in-person votes (down from 24.6% on 10/19).
  • College-educated white voters make up 40.7% of mail ballots cast by white voters (down from 41.1% on 10/19) and 40.1% of early in-person white voters (down slightly from 40.2% on 10/19)
 
In addition to analyzing voter trends, SPLC - in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta - is supporting voter registration and mobilization efforts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi this election cycle through the Vote Your Voice initiative. 
 
SPLC is investing up to $30 million from its endowment in nonpartisan, nonprofit voter outreach organizations across the Deep South to increase voter registration and participation among people of color.
 
The Vote Your Voice campaign seeks to: empower communities of color by aiding them in their fight against voter suppression; support Black- and brown-led voter outreach organizations often ignored by traditional funders; support and prototype effective voter engagement strategies; and re-enfranchise returning citizens despite intentional bureaucratic challenges.