Monday, December 1, 2008

Georgia Senate Runoff: Early Voting (Final Day)

The final numbers from last Wednesday -- the final day of the early voting period -- are in for the Georgia Senate runoff. With the general election early voting total as a baseline, the just under half a million early votes cast in the runoff are under a quarter of those votes cast prior to November 4. Is that a harbinger of what to expect tomorrow? I doubt it. My hunch is that the proportion of early to election day voters will be skewed toward the latter in this instance; the opposite of what we saw during the general election voting. [Early voters comprised over 51% of the general election electorate.] Our only (similar) guide here is the 1992 Senate runoff between incumbent Democrat, Wyche Fowler and Paul Coverdale Coverdell. Coverdale Coverdell managed to overcome an general election day deficit in a runoff that witnessed a 45% drop in turnout from the beginning of November to the end when the runoff was held. [There were just three weeks between the elections in 1992, whereas there were four in 2008; another change the Republican-controlled general assembly made here in Georgia when they changed the runoff threshold from 45% 5o 50%.]

Let's assume that the early votes make up half of the total runoff turnout. If that's the case, then turnout will have dropped by almost 75% from the November 4 total. My guess is that that is a bit too steep a drop off. But I don't think that something between that mark and the 45% figure from 16 years ago is a stretch. Much depends on the each of the candidates' ground games. My observation has been that Chambliss has been on the air more (at least in Clarke County via the Atlanta TV market). This was confirmed this morning by my less than representative American government class, which while not representative from a sampling standpoint was at least dispersed throughout Georgia during UGA's weeklong Thanksgiving break.

That, of course, is only part of the equation though. The GOTV efforts on the ground in the Peach state are where the real difference is going to be felt. There is at least some anecdotal evidence that Martin has marshaled a superior ground game to Chambliss based on the Obama infrastructure and an influx of Obama volunteers to the state. But as you can see below, those efforts have not made a dent in one of Martin's vital voting blocs ( least not in early voting).

The proportion of African Americans coming out to vote early barely varied throughout the early voting period. From November 14 - 26, that proportion only broke 23% twice; the day that early voting began in Fulton County (Atlanta) on the 18th and on Friday the 21st. And even then, that day's total of African Americans only amounted to 24% of the day's early voters. Even that is far below the over 34% of the early voters African Americans comprised ahead of the November 4 general election. The extent to which Martin's (Obama's) supporters can reach that segment of the electorate prior to 7pm Tuesday night will to a large degree determine whether the former state rep can overcome the three point deficit from November 4 (...not to mention the 3-6 point lead the handful of polls conducted have shown Chambliss enjoying).

One thing Martin may be able to lean on is the steady rise of women early voters across the runoff's early voting period. Though that demographic, too, fell below the mark it reached in the general election early voting, it was, at the close of early voting, only two points below the general election level (54% for the runoff to 56% in the general). That may bolster Martin's numbers, but it could also be that those female voters are coming from Chambliss areas. It may not be a coincidence that the rise in women voters came at the same time as the Cobb County (a Republican stronghold) rose to the top of the pack in terms of raw numbers of early voters county-by-county.

If we break women early voters down by racial groups, we don't gain too terribly much more information. Both demographics increased subtly over the three days in which early voting was conducted prior to Thanksgiving last week. Though white women made up anywhere from 34% of daily early voters to 39%. Black women, on the other hand, varied from just shy of 12% to just north of 14% on any of the ten days early voting was held.

Much of that speaks volumes of the current state of the race. Chambliss looks to be in good position heading into Tuesday's vote, but whether that is a comfortable margin come Tuesday night will depend on the GOTV efforts being made throughout the state today and tomorrow.

Recent Posts:
Georgia Senate Runoff: Early Voting (Day 7)

Georgia Senate Runoff: Early Voting (Day 6)

Georgia Senate Runoff: The Polls


Jack said...

Paul Coverdale, eh?

Combining the early voting data with the recent polls, it's probably too late for Martin to have a realistic shot at winning, right?

Anonymous said...

Aha! Good catch. That's a pretty bad typo from someone at a school that has a building named for the former senator.

...Senator Coverdell, that is.

I knew I'd pay a price for not actively blogging over Thanksgiving. At least I didn't call him David Coverdale.

Unknown said...

i just wanted to let you know that you got cited by 538.

Unknown said...

Don't forget that the dynamics of early voters will different from the general election. It didn't last as long and the locations and hours were much more limited. Most people with a 9-5 work schedule that doesn't allow for scheduling lee-way wouldn't be able to vote early, whereas they were in the general election.

I think it is possible that there are enough housewives or women working part time jobs (compared to the number of men working part-time) that there would be a small boost in women voting early. I didn't find that surprising at all. It could also explain the change in the African American vote if there is a difference in the time constraints of work schedules between the average African American and the average white Georgian. Of course it would be hard to properly find the data to support that, but it is a possibility.

However, I don't think it looks good for Martin. I think the early voting helped more democrats vote than it did conservatives. If the benefits of early voting are more limited and conservative Georgia voters seem to favor the typical Tuesday election day compared to liberal Georgia voters, then it is a good sign for Chambliss.

The big question is will liberal voters who preferred early voting in the general election, but were unable to vote early in the runoff due to time & distance constraints take the effort to vote before or after work on Tuesday.

Jack said...

Wasn't familiar with David Coverdale, but he sure looks like a Senator.

Trying to think of the numbers here. To me, Martin can only win if the the African American turnout percentage at least slightly surpasses that of the general — after all, with the turnout figures in that election he finished about 3 points behind Chambliss. Depending on the turnout assumptions we make for tomorrow night (still have five minutes!) that would require different percentages of tomorrow's voters to be African American. I'd love to experiment with the numbers, but unfortunately, I don't have the total African American turnout for the general — it doesn't seem to be on the Georgia SOS page.

Anonymous said...

SOS is close to having a really nice site, but they just have a lot of missing pieces. The general election numbers by race and gender being a couple of those pieces.

I've been talking about this county level data for a week and I collected it from the unofficial totals from the general election last week. What I don't have is a breakdown of early voting by county for the runoff for a comparison. And that is indicative. SOS has some material online but others they don't. And that's the stuff they want you to pay for.

Still, I need to try and do something with that today or no one is going to care.

I will say this: The fact that Cobb County is the tops in terms of number of early voters does lend some credence to those PPP numbers that have Chambliss up 58-41 among early voters.

Jack said...

Okay, I must be missing something. There is no way that the SOS doesn't have poll closing times online.

What time do they close?

Jack said...

Never mind, Jim Martin just informed me that the polls are open from 7 to 7.

Anonymous said...

It was good of Martin to take time out of what was likely a very busy day to let you know that. I'm impressed.

SOS has it up now on their main page under the link for tonight's election results.

Given their other issues, they may not have had that up at 3:30 when you left that comment.

Jack said...

SOS put up the info precisely because they saw my comment.

And to be honest, I got the information from Martin because I had signed up as a supporter on Facebook on the theory that people vote based on who has more supporters on social networking sites. (Just checked Saxby's page; it didn't have a voting reminder. And my theory would be good for Chambliss; he's up 4,023 supporters to 3,021. Never a good sign for a Democrat when you're losing on Facebook.)