Dems Lead Early Vote Turnouts, but Experts Cautious on Meaning

Tuesday, 26 Oct 2010 10:08 AM

By John Rossomando

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Tallies from the nine states that report voters’ party affiliations during early voting show Democratic turnout running ahead of Republicans in six states. However, analysts say these numbers can be deceptive — some differences are as little as a tenth of a percent. They might even hide efforts of leftist successors to the discredited and defunct ACORN organization, as well as others on the liberal side, to pad the Democratic vote.

Early voting, Democrats, RepublicansAlthough 31 states allow early balloting, only nine permit revealing party registrations as the voting proceeds. While the Democrats lead in six, Republicans are turning out in larger numbers in Florida, Nevada, and Colorado.

In Florida, Republicans, possibly motivated by Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate candidacy against independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, lead early returns with 52.8 percent of the vote. Democrats have 33.7 percent of the vote, and independents, 13.5 percent.

“That’s interesting because usually the Democrats have won the in-person, and the Republicans have won the mail balloting,” says George Mason University political science professor Michael McDonald, who runs a project tracking early voting returns around the country. “The Republicans are winning it by a large margin, and that’s a little bit unusual due to the fact the Senate race has really two Republican candidates and one Democratic candidate.”

Colorado Republicans lead early balloting with 41.8 percent of the vote, compared with 36.5 percent for the Democrats, and 21 percent among independents.

In Nevada, Republicans have a slight advantage with 42.5 percent of the vote compared with 42.4 percent for the Democrats, and 15.1 percent among independents. This reflects the tight race between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and GOP challenger Sharron Angle, McDonald says.

Less than a percentage point separates Democrats and Republicans in Maine, where Democrats have 37.1 percent of the vote compared with 37 percent for the Republicans, 24.3 percent among independents, and 1.7 percent for the Greens.

Democrats lead in Iowa with 45.5 percent of the vote, compared with 38.1 percent for the Republicans, and 16.4 percent of the vote among independents.

In Louisiana, Democrats lead with 46 percent, compared with 43.6 for Republicans and 10.4 percent for those listed as other.

Maryland’s Democrats hold a commanding lead in the state’s early voting with 63.8 percent of the vote, compared with 27.4 percent for the Republicans and 8.8 percent among those listed as other.

Democrats likewise lead in North Carolina, where they have 44.5 percent of the vote among early voters, compared with 38 percent for Democrats and 17.4 percent among independents.

In West Virginia, Democrats lead with 55 percent of the vote, compared with 35.3 percent and 9.6 percent among those listed as other when state election officials stopped reporting the affiliations of its early voters on Oct. 21.

“The early voting numbers are generally confirming the polling numbers we are seeing,” McDonald says.

The West Virginia numbers could be an exception because many of the state’s Democrats are conservatives who might vote Republican, McDonald tells Newsmax.

The Democratic National Committee has touted the early voting trend in the Democrats’ favor, saying it is an important part of its midterm strategy.

But some political observers voice skepticism about how such results play out in the final count.

“People should be both cautious and skeptical about these reports,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, tells Newsmax. “They are piecemeal and can be quite deceptive. Essentially, the parties and their allied groups are picking and choosing bits of information favorable to their side as a kind of psychological warfare designed to pump up their base and discourage the other party.”

Sabato compares early voting results with partisan polls that campaigns leak with the intent of misleading the press and feeding their base.

“I’ve learned to ignore almost all of this,” Sabato says. “The early voting is about proportions of people registered with a particular party. It does not necessarily show how they voted, since many people registered with one party not infrequently split tickets.”

Early voting reports also have propelled suggestions of potential voter fraud around the country.

“Some of the old ACORN groups are back at it again,” David Norcross, chairman of the Republican Lawyers Association, tells Newsmax.TV. “They use quotas for registration. That encourages people to go out and sign up anybody, or nobody — just sign up addresses and things like that.”

Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford tells Newsmax his Texas-based group has received numerous reports from election officials saying people don’t know whom to vote for and Democratic poll workers pushing people to vote a straight party ticket, among other infractions.

“We’ve got these poll reports because we’ve got these poll watchers who are there,” Shackelford says. “They can’t say anything, but they can write down what happens.”

Shackelford’s group been involved in an effort to defend a group of tea party poll watchers from a lawsuit brought by the Texans Together Education Fund, an ACORN successor group, claiming they had defamed it.

These poll watchers have been verbally and physically harassed by people loitering at the polls, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, who was observed electioneering and threatening to turn a poll watcher’s name into the Department of Justice for voter intimidation, Shackelford says.

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