Yesterday’s Washington Post had an article entitled, “Trump’s attacks on mail voting are turning Republicans off absentee ballots.”
In several primaries this spring, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. And when they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots, according to multiple strategists. In one particularly vivid example, a group of Michigan voters held a public burning of their absentee ballot applications last month.
I was curious whether we saw this Trump effect in yesterday’s Arlington County Board special election, and…indeed, it sure looks like something was going on. Check out the, numbers below, comparing the 2014 Arlington County Board special election with this one, and what we find is:
- In 2014, there were 1,873 absentee ballots cast in the Arlington County Board special election, with 53.1% going for the “Independent” (aka, Republican) and 43.5% going to the Democrat
- In 2020, there were 10,294 absentee ballots cast in the Arlington County Board special election, with 71% going to the Democrat (Takis Karantonis), 26% going to the Independent (Susan Cunningham) and 2% going to the Republican (Bob Cambridge). That’s a massive increase in absentee ballots cast (from 1,873 in 2014 to 10,294 in 2020), combined with a massive *decrease* in the proportion of absentee/by-mail votes cast by Republicans – or, in the 2014 case, for John Vihstadt, a lifelong Republican who called himself an “Independent” in order to be more competitive in Arlington (note: Vihstadt’s strategy worked!).
- Note that Takis Karantonis, the Democratic candidate, received around 53% of the in-person vote yesterday and 71% (!) of the absentee vote. That’s a huge disparity no matter how you look at it, pretty much.
- What could have caused this? Obviously, the increase in absentee ballots was in large part the result of COVID-19. But why would the partisan proportions change so dramatically, from leaning I/R in 2014 to overwhelmingly D in 2020? Hard to say exactly, because we can’t read people’s minds, but…it sure seems like a heck of a coincidence that Trump’s been railing against vote-by-mail (even as he’s done so himself in the past) and that Republican use of this method of voting has been falling around the country.