Monday, October 22, 2018

Updated: Maryland Absentee Ballot Requests May Not Be Good News for Jealous

Originally published on October 11, 2018. Post has been updated to include Absentee Ballots submitted through October 22, 2018.

Faced with daunting poll numbers that suggest Larry Hogan holds a steady double digit lead over Ben Jealous, Maryland Democrats have looked for silver linings wherever they can. In a press release today, they touted an increase in Democratic absentee ballot requests relative to 2014. While it's true that Democratic absentee ballot requests are up significantly, ballot request are up among Republican and unaffiliated voters as well and in 2014, Republicans were more likely to return those ballots.

But the bigger problem for Democrats is the significant cross-over voting suggested by the polls taken thus far in the governors race. According to the most recent polls, Hogan is drawing support from about 33-35% of Democratic voters. Jealous, on the other hand, is only receiving support from about 5% of Republican voters. Among unaffiliated voters, Hogan is supported by 64% to Jealous' 31%. That means that while Hogan will win the lion's share of the Republican and unaffiliated vote, Jealous will share a significant chunk of the Democratic vote with Hogan, while receiving little from Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

It's fairly easy to apply those partisan levels of support to the absentee ballot requests. If you remove the undecided voters from the poll (there aren't many) and use the Gonzales Poll as a guide, then Jealous receives 60% of the Democratic vote, 5.5% of the Republican vote, and 31% of the unaffiliated vote. Hogan receives 37.7% of the Democratic vote, 93% of the Republican vote, and 64% of the unaffiliated vote. The remaining votes from each group go to third party candidates (according to the Gonzales Poll).

As shown in the table, applying those partisan margins to the requested absentee ballots would net 35,288 for Jealous, or 44.4% of the total, and 42,093 for Hogan, or 53% of the total.  Historically, Democrats have dominated the early vote in Maryland. In 2014, Anthony Brown won the early vote by 9 percentage points. 

***Updated with data as of 10/22/2018, Hogan's position has improved. Hogan now receives 53.7% to 43.7% for Jealous. In this model, Jealous doesn't overtake Hogan unless Hogan's share of the Democratic vote drops below 29%. And again, Democrats tend to dominate early voting in Maryland. 

There's no way to tell how the folks who have requested absentee ballots will vote and I'm certainly not predicting a 54% to 44% margin for the election or even among actual absentee ballots. I am saying that any assumption that the absentee ballot requests point to good news for Jealous... is not a safe assumption.