WASHINGTON — There are many unknowns with this year’s midterm elections, but one thing seems clear: A lot of people are going to go to be voting. From poll data to actual early ballots, the signs point to 2018 as a blockbuster midterm in terms of turnout.
Last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal showed truly notable numbers for the percentage of voters who are highly interested in the election.
Overall, 65 percent of those surveyed said they had high interest in this midterm election. That figure is higher than any number seen recently. The closest election was 2006, when 61 percent said they were highly interested in that midterm. Furthermore, the trend in the data holds true for a wide range of demographic groups from women to Democrats and Republicans to white, African–American and Hispanic voters.
Beyond the polls, there’s more concrete evidence that voters are revved up for November. Looking at early ballots that have already been cast, the number two weeks out was actually ahead of where they were in 2016. More than 8.1 million people have already voted in 2018, according to data from TargetSmart. Two weeks before Election Day in 2016, the figure was 7.9 million.
Even taking into account the steadily increasing number of early votes that come with every election, those numbers suggest an impressive level of voter engagement. Remember those figures are comparing this midterm electorate to the last presidential one.
But the numbers are even more remarkable when you compare the early vote in 2018 to the early vote in the last midterm, 2014, in states with key races.
Georgia, Tennessee and Texas have each seen an increase of more than 500,000 early votes compared to the same point in the 2014 election. In each of those states the early 2018 vote has more than doubled compared to the same point in 2014, according to TargetSmart data.
And the ballot in all of those states this year looks similar to 2014 — they each have a Senate and gubernatorial race this year just as they did in 2014.
Arizona, Florida and Nevada, three other states with important Senate races this year that didn’t have one in 2014, are also seeing big boosts in their early vote — all double-digits in terms of percentages.
None of this is an indication of who voters in these states in these states will ultimately select. There are “models” for what the vote so far looks like and, in some states, numbers showing how many Democrats and Republicans have voted, but the fact is we won’t know the results for certain until the votes are counted.
The data here suggest one point clearly, however. Whatever happens when everything is tallied, whoever wins and loses, it will be difficult for anyone to cite voter apathy as a cause. These numbers show an electorate that is involved in the 2018 election and ready to show it at the ballot box. This is what an engaged citizenry looks like.