The Democrats typically lead Republicans in early voting during midterm and presidential election cycles. In 2016 the Democratic lead in early voting was such that it inspired major news outlets, AP for example, to run articles with titles like “Early voting: More good signs for Clinton in key states.” Among the states in which early voting portended a victory for Hillary, according to AP, were Florida and North Carolina. The story went on to quote her spokesperson as follows: “The Clinton campaign describes both North Carolina and Florida as ‘checkmate’ states.” Trump won both of course.
Oddly, most of the major media have been reluctant to report early voting trends in the current cycle. AP has reported on it only when there are vague complaints about alleged voting machine problems. The Washington Post, which was just as anxious as AP to run stories about early voting in 2016, now tells its readers that these ballots have no significance: “Who’s voting early? Mostly people who would have voted anyway.” What has caused such a reversal in media attitudes? To paraphrase Dana Carvey’s SNL character, Enid Strict: Could it be the surge in early voting by Republicans?
And, make no mistake, there is a GOP surge that has rendered this year’s early voting pattern unique. Interestingly, the only major network that has covered this story in detail is by no means remarkable for its Republican-friendly reporting. On Monday NBC reported, “The data suggests enthusiasm among early GOP voters that could put a dent in Democratic hopes for a ‘blue wave’ in the midterms.”