Republican early ballot turnout down, but the GOP is expected to surge on Election Day
GOP and independent turnout poised to make or break Democratic chances in Arizona’s 2022 midterm election
Democrats are leading turnout among early voters, but analysts expect Republicans to decimate that deficit when they show up to vote in-person on Election Day.
“Republicans are underperforming right now compared to historic norms, but that’s because they’re going to show up on Election Day,” Paul Bentz, a pollster and political consultant at HighGround Public Affairs, told the Arizona Mirror. “I don’t expect a suppressed voter turnout. I expect a significant amount of Republican enthusiasm on Election Day.”
Sam Almy, a political consultant and data analyst for Democratic consulting firm Uplift Campaigns, said the intensity of GOP turnout on Election Day is difficult to predict, but the strong Democratic early voting turnout gives that party’s statewide candidates a solid chance to win races.
“I think what the good news is here is that Democratic turnout is on par with 2018, and earlier in the year a lot of the thought was Democrats are going to get crushed this year,” he said.
As of Monday, some 1.4 million ballots had been returned statewide ahead of Tuesday’s midterm election. So far, registered Democrats have returned 579,000 ballots and 560,000 registered Republicans have returned their ballots, as have 370,000 voters who are unaffiliated with the two main parties, according to data compiled by Democratic consulting firm Uplift Campaigns.
That means about 36.5% of Arizona’s 4.1 million registered voters have already cast their ballots. Nearly 46% of Democrats, 39% of Republicans and 26% of unaffiliated voters have voted.
The turnout advantage for Democrats is a stark departure from 2018, the last midterm elections — before voting by mail became a lightning rod for Republicans in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s demonization of it in 2020.
Democratic early voting turnout is slightly lower this year compared to four years ago — 46.5% in 2018 compared to 45.6% this year — but the number of GOP early ballots received by elections officials has cratered. In 2018, more than half of Republican voters had cast their ballots by the day before the election, but less than 39% did this year.
“It’s highly likely that we’ll see close races, and races where Democrats are winning, but when the Election Day ballots are counted, in particular, those will definitely trend Republican,” Bentz said.
It’s hard to predict for sure how many Republicans will show up to the polls on Tuesday, but Bentz expects an overall voter turnout similar to the last midterm in 2018, at around 65%.
And there are still plenty of Republican voters who cast a ballot in the last four elections and still haven’t voted in this one. That history is a strong indicator that they will vote in this election.
Around 200,000 registered Republican voters have voted in the last four Arizona elections but had not cast a ballot yet in this election, as of Saturday, compared to 95,000 Democrats and 76,000 independents, according to data from Uplift.
Of those who had yet to vote, as of Friday, 14% were Republicans who had voted in at least three of the last four elections.
Bentz said he expects at least 1 million Republicans to vote in this election in Arizona, meaning more than 400,000 Republicans will likely cast their votes in person on Election Day.
Both Bentz and Almy agreed that independent voter turnout could make a significant difference in the outcome of Arizona races. Roughly 33% of Arizona voters, about 1.4 million people, are not affiliated with either major party.
Political polls have generally shown that independent voters have favored the Democratic candidates, making their turnout vital to victory for Democratic candidates.
“We expect that if the Independents show up, they’ll trend more toward the Democratic candidates, but the question is, will they actually show up?” Bentz said, adding that no Republican candidates have been polling with more than 40% approval from independent voters.
Of the Arizonans who are registered but didn’t vote in the last four elections, independent voters made up the majority, at 275,000, compared to 96,000 Republicans and 109,000 Democrats, according to Uplift.
Phoenix Democratic strategist Rodd McLeod said he believes that Democratic candidates still have a chance to win all the big statewide races.
“Turnout looks good for us so far, but it’s not over until it’s over,” McLeod said. “I don’t think anybody knows what’s actually going to happen.”
He added that enthusiasm is high coming from both Republican and Democratic voters.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.