Do Mail-in Ballots in Florida give Democrats an Advantage?

May 28, 2020

I’m sure that most of you have heard that President Trump wants to eliminate mail-in ballot voting, particularly in battleground states. His reasoning (I’m using that word in its broadest sense) that mail-in ballots are ripe for election fraud, even though most political scientists say the amount of election fraud is small, mail or otherwise.

I suspect his reasoning is more about his belief that mail-in ballots give Democrats an advantage. Others believe that the President is creating the idea of wide spread fraud as a potential excuse in case he loses the election. But none of this makes any sense to me because in all my campaign experiences, absentee voting has always benefited the Republican candidate.

In general, traditional Republican voters are better educated and consequently, more likely to use this less taxing method. This may not apply as much in the age of the Trump voter, where many are less educated than traditional Republicans and they may rely more on in-person voting. That’s speculative, of course.

So to satisfy my curiosity, I researched Florida’s past election data and found some mail-in ballot data with actual mail-in ballots cast by party affiliation in three general election cycles: 2014, 2016 and 2018. These election cycles include two non-presidential elections and one presidential one.

The data is broken down in to four categories, Republican, Democratic, No-Party Affiliation (NPA) and Other voters. Since my purpose is to find if one of the two major parties has some kind of partisan advantage, I have eliminated both NPA and other party mail votes from this analysis.

In 2016, the Republican state-wide mail vote total was 1,108,053 and the Democratic mail votes were 1,049,809, a 58,244 Republican vote advantage in the presidential election, graphically shown below.

In 2016, the Republican candidate (Trump) should have had a 2.8% vote advantage if both Democrats and Republicans voted the party line and NPA’s and other non-partisan voters split evenly between the two candidates. If you may recall, Trump beat Clinton by only 1.2% in Florida.

In the 2014 general election, the number of Republican mail ballots cast was 833,420, and by Democrats 705,752, a 127,668 more Republican mail votes, as shown below.

In this year, the Republican candidates could have had 8% more partisan support based on the Republican mail ballots. And finally, we have the 2018 general election when both the Florida Senate and House were on the ballot.

The Republican mail vote advantage here was the smallest of the three election cycles since it featured only state House and Senate races. Republican mail ballots cast were 1,080,808 versus 1,026,600 Democratic ballots, or 54,208 ballot difference, but still a 4% advantage.

This short analysis of three election cycles clearly demonstrates that Florida Democrats have no advantage when mail ballots are employed. Actually, the opposite is true. Republican candidates should benefit from an aggressive mail-in ballot campaign.

Florida maybe the most important state in the country. In fact since 1928, no Republican presidential candidate has won the presidency without winning Florida. Even Trump himself may have won Florida based on the partisan mail votes alone.

So why is he complaining about mail ballots when obviously the facts, at least in Florida, don’t support that Democrats benefit from this voting option?

It is possible his campaign found that mail ballots benefit the Democrats in other swing states. It is also possible the campaign hasn’t done any research on this subject at all. Or, that Donald Trump just believes this idea that Democrats benefit more from mail-in ballots and, God forbid, no one should contradict him.

If you have an idea, please post it in the comments section and I’ll share it with all readers. Be safe…

By Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a pollster and media advisor, and was for fifteen years an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Kane is founder of the polling firm USAPoll and served as the Director of the Florida Voter Poll. His political clients have included both Republican and Democratic candidates, including the Republican Party of Florida, and both the Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel newspapers. At the University of Florida, Professor Kane taught graduate level courses in political science on Survey Research, Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in America, Political Campaigning, and Political Behavior. In addition to his professional and academic career, Jim Kane has been actively involved in local and state policy decisions. He was elected to the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Board (1978-1982) and the Port Everglades Authority (1988-1994). Kane also served as an appointed member of the Broward County Planning Council (1995-2003), Broward County Management Review Committee (Chair, 1990-1991), Broward County Consumer Protection Board (1976-1982), and the Broward County School Board Consultants Review Committee (1986-1990).

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