Yesterday the Secretary of State reported that 202,464 South Dakotans had cast early ballots. That’s 100,074 more early ballots than were cast by Election Day in 2016. The current early vote is equal to 53.4% of the total turnout in the 2016 general election and 35.8% of the current electorate of 565,313 as counted on October 1.
South Dakota’s early enthusiasm is actually low compared to most states. 32 states have seen more early votes so far as a percentage of 2016 general turnout. The national average so far is 65.6% of 2016 overall turnout. Minnesota is just a tick behind us at 53.3% of 2016 turnout. Iowa and Nebraska are also in the fifties. Wyoming’s early turnout is a measly 39.1%. North Dakota is at 67.6%, while Montana beats us all at 95.8% of the 2016 turnout so far. The most enthusiastic states appear to be Hawaii at 110.6% and Texas at 107.7% of total 2016 turnout; in other words, more people have come out to vote before Election Day in those two states than participated in each state’s entire 2016 general election.
Like Montana, Washington, New Mexico, Georgia, and North Carolina are all above 90% of 2016 turnout; a big Monday could put each of those states over 100% before Election Day.
The partisan distribution of the early votes cast so far in South Dakota show no dramatic difference from the partisan distribution of the total electorate—and by dramatic, I mean big enough to suggest that we might see a difference in this year’s results from the consistent past shellackings of non-Republicans on the ballot. South Dakota’s early electorate so far is slightly more Democratic, slightly less independent, and just about as Republican as the total registered electorate:
|10/30 absentee votes||96,781||64,514||40,259||622||288||202,464|
|% party turnout||35.66%||41.27%||30.01%||29.12%||21.65%||35.81%|
|% early turnout||47.80%||31.86%||19.88%||0.31%||0.14%||100.00%|
These small divergences seem predictable: Democrats nationwide are more fired up about getting their ballots in early, while independents are their usual less-engaged selves and not participating with quite as much gusto in the wave of early enthusiasm that their partisan neighbors are showing. But these small differences don’t show any Blue Wave on the prairie. The number of Democrats casting early ballots so far is 8,500 more than their percentage of registered voters would produce. But they’ve still been outvoted by early Republicans by 50%. 8,500 more Democrats than expected in the early vote are only 7.7% of the 110,000 vote margin by which Trump beat Clinton here in 2016. They don’t even make up the 10,585 vote difference between what Mike Rounds won in 2014 and the votes hauled in by Rick Weiland and Larry Pressler put together in a much higher-profile, big-dollar campaign than has been waged this year by Dan Ahlers solo against Senator Rounds. Looking at this slight tilt of early voting toward Democrats and thinking, “Holy cow! Blue wave!” is wishful thinking.
More hopeful than the differences may be the similarities. Donald Trump’s hogwashing discouragement of early voting doesn’t seem to be deterring South Dakota Republicans from casting early ballots. Republicans are participating close to the statewide percentage for early voting and close to their percentage of the total electorate. The figures above may demonstrate that, Donald and Kristi Noem’s bad examples be darned, voters of all stripes in South Dakota recognize that voting early, by mail or at the courthouse, will ease crowding at the polls on Election Day and make voting safer for voters and poll workers. Maybe we aren’t on the road to higher turnout; maybe we’re just showing good sense and spreading out—or, as we should say this year, socially distancing—our turnout. Everybody wins when we vote early, vote safely, and prevent Election Day from becoming another superspreader event.
Here is a more meaty blogging, worthy of Mr. H’s attention. He can rage and hate on petty things but then we go and write a missive with real meaning.