25-Sept update: I’ve been asked for an update - and the update is: the numbers here haven’t changed meaningfully. I’m working on an interactive election predictor page. Stay tuned.
Now in comic format
This page now in easier-to-understand comic format here!
Joe’s Yuge Strategic Misstep
Several states have begun releasing reports on voters who have requested vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots. North Carolina, in particular, has begun publishing a daily report here.
Lockdowns have driven a surge in demand for mail-in voting. North Carolina’s mail-in requests currently stand at over fourteen times the demand at the same time in 2016.
In 2016, Republicans had the advantage, requesting forty percent of all VBM ballots to the Democrats’ thirty-one percent. In 2020, Democrats hold a commanding advantage: having fifty-one percent of all VBMs to the Republicans’ 16 percent. The charts below show the difference:
2016 vs. 2020 VBM makeup. Don’t panic. This is actually bad news for Joe.
Should Republicans toss in the towel then?
No! Actually, Joe Biden needs to throw in the towel.
I will explain why.
The MSM has convinced Democrats voting in person is dangerous
It is well known that the MSM has made a massive push to get Americans to vote by mail. Thus far, this push has been effective on Democrats, but not so much Republican. Nate Silver says:
According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 30 percent of registered voters said they planned to vote by mail, and 43 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. But among Trump supporters, only 11 percent said they planned to vote by mail, and 66 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. Among Joe Biden backers, 47 percent said they planned to vote by mail, while only 26 percent said they planned to vote in person on Election Day. (The share who said they would vote early in person was consistently 20-21 percent among all three groups: Trump supporters, Biden supporters and voters overall.)
The percent of Democrats intending to vote by mail rises to 57% in battleground states, which have remained locked down for the most part. Source
Polls show that Democrats strongly believe that voting is a health risk.
Sixty-three percent of Democrats believe voting is dangerous Source
Given these priors, it seems exceedingly unlikely that Democrats are inclined to go out and vote during Election Day. Joe Biden must get the majority of Democrats to vote by mail!
So what voting methods will voters take? Here’s what a poll says:
The surveys are consistent:
- Democrats need to have a majority to turnout by mail.
- Joe Biden’s supporters will need close to a majority to turnout by mail.
- Republicans need to have a majority to turnout on Election Day.
Applying this turnout model to NC VBM statistics
What does that mean for North Carolina ballots? Well, we can take the numbers from 2016 and extrapolate them to figure out target turnouts for Joe Biden based on stated voter preferences.
First, we find out how many people in each registered party voted in 2016 Source:
In 2016, 1,872,593 Democrats voted in the election, compared to 1,571,730 Republicans and 1,305,330 Independents. Assuming the respective parties voted for their respective candidate at 100%, independents broke strongly for the Republicans.
We can use these numbers to establish target baselines for each party to reach 2016 turnout levels using stated voting by mail preferences.
|2016 NC turnout||VBM % (estimate)||2020 NC VBM target to match 2016|
How are the parties tracking?
Using the published reports, we can detect the linear trends and make a projection as to how the parties are currently tracking.
We capture the projections to October 27th, the last day a ballot can be requested, and find the following.
|2020 NC VBM target to match 2016||Currently on track for…||Gap|
|Democrats||936,296||761,992||-174,304 (Severely underperform)|
|Republicans||282,911||288,630||+5,719 (Slightly Outperform)|
|Independents||430,758||513,106||+82,348 (Well Outperform)|
Joe Biden is well under where he needs to achieve a VBM majority.
Wait, there’s more.
The above models were using optimistic assumptions - that only 50% of Democrats intend to vote by mail (polls indicate closer to 55%), whereas 18% of Republicans intend to VBM (recent polling shows this number can be as low as 11%).
- Per historical Florida data, only ~80% of VBM ballots ever get returned.
- Some percentage of VBM ballots get spoiled and do not count at all.
- Joe Biden’s team has made the deliberate decision to not have a ground game due to safety reasons, and hence will not be able to make up the differential in GOTV efforts.
- “Souls to the Polls,” one of the key driving Democratic turnouts in North Carolina where people would go to church and then go to early voting in a group, does not apply as churches are closed.
When these other factors are considered, Joe Biden is done… maybe even 1984 done… but if and only if Republicans can deliver on their Election Day and early voting GOTV efforts.
The media will be trumpeting the mail-in voting numbers as if they are portending a doomsday scenario for Trump. You can smile and know they are in for a nasty surprise on Election Night.
Recommendations for the Trump team
Stay on top of mail-in statistics. Have a model turnout in mind for each state and each district, and stay on top of any deviations or funny games.
Double down on GOTV efforts. Joe Biden’s nightmare scenario can happen IF AND ONLY IF the Republicans match their 2016 turnout.
Communicate these news to supporters. The media will be attempting to demoralize Trump supporters with misleading statistics. Don’t let them