Elections throughout the country on Tuesday have shown a record level of participation by voters who are faced with choices for both the U.S. House and Senate, and various gubernatorial races. Polls have shown that Democrats and, especially in recent weeks, Republicans, are excited to show up and cast a ballot in the mid-term elections. Also, more than 34 million voters have already cast their votes early or turned in absentee ballots. This represents an increase of more than 50 percent over the number of early votes cast in the 2014 midterm elections. Democrats, especially, are heartened by what appears to be an unprecedented increase in which voter turnout is rivaling typical turnout levels in a presidential year.

Democrats and ostensibly unaffiliated voter registration efforts have been busy throughout the year. Voter registration drives have been active not only on college campuses but also at high schools. In Kentucky, And in West Louisville, Kentucky, the NAACP and Urban League were busy signing up voters at drive-up locations even on October 9 -- the last day of registration.
 
Turnout is up among all age cohorts, racial groups and educational categories. While older voters still make up a disproportionately large percentage of the electorate, the increase has been found across all ages, races and educational levels. However, turnout has been greatest among ethnic minorities, younger voters, and citizens who vote rarely or never. According to Real Clear Politics, turnout is up in 39 of 41 states among voters aged 18-29. Turnout is up in all 41 states where data is available among voters ages 30 to 39. The large number of younger voters have heartened the Democratic party.

In Michigan, the number of absentee ballots issued and returned across the state has increased by more than 50 percent from the same point in 2014. Clerks are ordering more ballots, hiring more precinct works and adding voting booths to accommodate the increase. Experts say that absentee voting has been increasing due to an aging population of Michiganders, but just a small number of the increase in absentee ballot requests is from those who otherwise would have voted on Tuesday. Some experts predict that as many as 1 million sometime voters who did not vote in 2010 and 2014 elections may vote this time. This may mean that the turnout may rise to as many as 4.2 million. Turnout for midterm elections in Michigan is usually about 3.2 million. This would represent the highest turnout for a midterm election on a percentage basis in almost 50 years.

Can Democrats rely on Detroit?

In Michigan, the Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is poised to take the governorship, having outpaced the Republican candidate, Bill Schuette, by double digits in voter intention. Democrats have long relied on voters dominated by labor unions in Saginaw, Genesee, Ingham and Wayne counties, where the automobile industry has long been located, 

In a study obtained by Spero News, Prof. Corwin Smidt of Michigan State University examined voter records in Michigan. In his recent study, he predicted that 4.24 million voters will go to the polls. This number does not include, however, newly registered voters who not yet included in the state voterfile. He predicts that the turnout rate will be 57.1 percent among registered voters. Smidt wrote that this represents a new high for voter participation when compared to recent elections. At no time since 1978 has Michigan seen a registered voter turnout rate of 57 percent in midterm elections. 

Smidt noted that despite the high turnout rates, which would normally favor Democrats, the balance of voters in MIchigan are shifting away from the Democratic party, due to the consistent decline of registered voters living in Wayne County, which is home to Detroit. "Even with much higher turnout, Wayne County is expected to make up a smaller proportion of Michigan voters than it did in 2016 or 2014," he wrote. "When re-weighting county level results to their expected 2018 turnout, [President] Trump's vote percentage would improve over a 2014 or 2016 turnout model. This does not mean Republicans will continue to win these counties, but it does mean demographic trends are pushing Michigan toward being more so a battleground."

Smidt noted that while a young midterm electorate is expected, Michigan's electorate is still older than 2016, when Michigan voters threw Democrat Hillary Clinton for a loop and voted for Trump instead. Young voters under the age of 30 represent 9.8 percent of the electorate, which is an increase from the 6 percent seen in 2014. And it is less than the 13.6 percent of voters under 30 who pulled the lever in 2016. "Interestingly," he wrote, "it is not the elderly but late middle age voters (45-59), who as a group are trending toward making up a smaller proportion of the electorate."

Republican confidence

On Sunday, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that the coming election will be “tight.” While she granted that Democrats’ enthusiasm is reflected in their early voting, she said that Republicans are “matching” their enthusiasm. “It's tight, George, it's tight," McDaniel said. "It's going to depend on voter turnout on Election Day. Democrat enthusiasm is definitely there. We are seeing that in the early voting in all of these key House and Senate races, and Republicans have been matching, so literally Election Day voting is going to determine the balance of the House.”

On Sunday, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that the coming election will be “tight.” While she granted that Democrats’ enthusiasm is reflected in their early voting, she said that Republicans are “matching” their enthusiasm. “It's tight, George, it's tight," McDaniel said. "It's going to depend on voter turnout on Election Day. Democrat enthusiasm is definitely there. We are seeing that in the early voting in all of these key House and Senate races, and Republicans have been matching, so literally Election Day voting is going to determine the balance of the House.” McDaniel, whose father and brother were once Republican governors, is a native of Michigan. 

In 2016, Michigan broke with tradition and favored a Republican over a Democrat for the presidency. Hillary Clinton won only eight of Michigan’s 83 counties. Of the ten most populous counties, voters went for Clinton in Genesee (home to Flint), Washtenaw (home to the University of Michigan), Kalamazoo, Wayne (home to Detroit), and Ingham (home to the state capital and Michigan State University). The remainder: Oakland, Macomb, Saginaw, Kent, Saginaw,  and Ottawa pulled the lever for Trump. And the 11th most populous county, Livingston, also went for Trump. Republicans will have to win over the latter five counties to make a good showing on Tuesday. Trump won by a narrow margin in Michigan in 2016.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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