This article is about numbers, but that’s what elections are about. With the polls closing in 36 hours, once again it is worthwhile to look at where the vote stands. Thanks to Political Data’s fine analysis, we can now trace the early vote by day, party and district. There are more than 2.5 million ballots at the county registrars and from a partisan perspective the results are fairly promising for Republicans – if there is a national tide GOP tide it may not stop at the Sierras as it did in 2010.
A week ago Republicans accounted for 38 percent of returned ballots, Democrats for 42 percent; and those numbers remain unchanged. But now the turnout is 14 percent of registered voters. Analysts expect the final turnout to be about 45 percent, so this means about a third of total ballots are now safely under lock and key with the counties. And the early vote does suggest a low overall turnout this year.
These early votes are from older and whiter voters than the registered voter pool. For Democrats to hold their supermajorities in the legislature and their numbers in the congressional delegation, they must drive up turnout in late absentees and on Election Day. And fortunately for the Democrats, they have a tool to do just that; their registration drives that have reconfigured several hotly contested districts.
Let’s look at three. In the 14th Senate District running from Bakersfield to Fresno, GOP Sen. Andy Vidak is seeking a full term after winning the seat in a special election. A week ago I wrote that Vidak looked like a probable loser because Democrats had jumped out to a 20-point lead in early ballots.
The Republicans have begun sending in their ballots and now the Democratic edge is only 13 points. But this is higher than their early vote numbers in both 2012 and 2010. Why is this; because Democrats have undertaken a huge registration drive in this district and driven Republican registration down from 33 percent to just 29 percent.
Three years ago when the Citizens Redistricting Commission drew this district there were 122,910 Democrats and 84,733 Republicans. Going into tomorrow, Democrats stand at 136,647 voters and Republicans at just 82,173.
Politics is about numbers, and Democrats understand numbers far better than Republicans. Republicans somehow seem to have convinced themselves that registration really does not matter – that these are new Latino voters who won’t turn out. But in this district at least that is clearly untrue as Latino turnout is way up in the early vote.
Republicans and their independent expenditure allies do great direct mail pieces and TV commercials, but mail pieces and commercials do not vote, voters vote, and here the GOP has simply fallen apart. Vidak may win; he is probably slightly ahead in the early vote, but he has to climb a much higher mountain because of the Republican registration decline in his district.
A similar pattern is apparent in a hotly contested congressional district, the 26th Congressional District in Ventura County where GOP Assemblyman Jeff Gorell is going up again freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley.
Again the numbers tell the story. When this seat was drawn in 2011, it was 41.1 percent Democratic, 35.5 percent Republican, and in 2010 the GOP won the congressional vote here and their candidates for governor and US Senate both carried this district. But after big Democratic registration drives in 2012 and 2014, Democrats now have 40.8 percent of voters and Republicans just 32.7 percent. In raw terms, a Democratic edge in 2010 of 18,875 voters has been expanded to an edge of 29,661 voters.
And this shows, in 2010 Republicans got 44 percent of early voters to just 39 percent for the Democrats; today Democrats have 42 percent of the early vote to just 39 percent for Republicans.
None of this says Gorell cannot win; he has run a strong campaign and Brownley carpetbagged into this district in 2012 and depended on the Obama tide to carry her in. But if she survives the spirited Gorell challenger it will be because the Democrats reshaped this district over the past four years and now are turning out their higher numbers.
The Republican registration problem is perhaps best illustrated by the 66th Assembly District in the Los Angeles County South Bay. This was an historically Republican seat held for many years by the late Assemblyman and Senator Bob Beverly and then by Assemblyman Jerry Felando.
The 1991 redistricting split this seat in two, but in 2011 the Commission largely restored it. But because of GOP registration collapses it is now marginal at best. This high income district always favored moderate Republicans, but in 2012 the GOP nominated a tea party right wing extremist and blew the seat losing to current Democratic Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.
This year the GOP candidate is businessman David Hadley who is well funded and by all accounts fits the district. But again the Republican registration decline has allowed the Democrats to reshape the district. It was 35.4 percent Republican in when it was drawn 2011, now it is only 32.5 percent GOP; the Democratic registration edge has expanded from 7,112 voters in 2010 to 22,246 today. Needless to say, the early vote figures are not nearly as good for Republicans in 2014 as they were in 2010.
Republicans are not falling behind in every case. GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in Stanislaus and Merced Counties has increased his Republican registration so that what was a plurality Democratic district in 2010 is now a plurality Republican district. And his early vote figures are up over 2010.
The early vote is following the registration numbers, it is up for Democrats where their registration is up. If Election Night 2014 is another heartbreak of Republican defeat, as Election Night 2012 was, the numbers will tell the story.