It’s a little over two weeks into Philadelphia’s early voting period, and we now know that 155,838 people have voted, and about 40 percent of the requested mail ballots have already been returned.
Election officials can’t start counting those early votes until Election Day morning, but because the voter file information is public, and so is information about who specifically has voted, it’s possible to make some inferences about where things stand based on statistics.
The polling and targeting firm TargetSmart has a great new website breaking down the different variables for several different states, counties and congressional districts based on publicly available voter information from state voter files.
The site is being updated regularly with new information about who has voted. Let’s take a look at some of the big trends the data show about who’s cast their ballots already.
1. Early voting skews even more Democrat-heavy than our voter registration breakdown
TargetSmart’s “Party Score Rollup” is more of a partisanship prediction model than voter registration alone would give you, so it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but the early trend is that Democratic voters are overwhelmingly represented among early voters, even outpacing their lopsided voter registration advantage as a fraction of turnout.
Registered Democrats account for about 76 percent of Philadelphia voters, while Republicans make up 11.5 percent, and unaffiliated voters are just 9.4 percent. In 2020, Democratic constituencies make up about 93 percent of the voters in Philadelphia so far, according to TargetSmart.
What the data tells us: Across Pennsylvania, Democratic-leaning voters are also the most motivated.
2. The early voting electorate skews white, but it’s much closer to city demographics than we might have expected after the primary
In the primary, Black voters were much more likely to vote in-person than by mail, and they still are voting by mail at lower rates than white voters so far, but in the general election, the demographic voting trends come a little closer to mirroring the city’s racial makeup.
As of the most recent American Community Survey estimate, white residents make up about 44.8 percent of the city’s population, Black residents make up 43.6 percent, Latinx residents make up 15.2 percent, and Asian residents make up 7.8 percent.
White voters are voting early in excess of their demographic share by about 7 percentage points, while Black voters are undershooting theirs by about 5 points, Latinx voters are undershooting by 11.9 points, and Asian voters are under by 5.7 points.
Mike Johnson, data director for PA AFL-CIO, found that much of the racial difference observed in mail voting patterns in the primary were less explanatory compared to educational attainment.
3. Early voting is being driven by women
Another notable thing about the early voting stats so far is the extent to which women are participating compared to men. Women make up 56.7 percent of the early voters in Philly, while men make up 41.9 percent.
As an aside, one thing to keep in mind about the past-year percentages is that they don’t mean much since Pennsylvania only adopted a no-fault absentee voting system starting in 2020.
4. Seniors love early voting
Seniors always vote in large numbers and at high rates, so this finding isn’t particularly surprising, but due to our relative lack of experience with the new early voting options in PA, it’s been an open question as to how much seniors would embrace these new options rather than stick with familiar habits. So far, voters in the 65-plus bracket have cast about 39 percent of total votes.
5. Urban areas of the state are early-voting the most
Partly this is just about where Democratic voters live, but it’s interesting nonetheless, because most PA residents live in suburbs, so the fact that more urban areas of the state are punching above their weight suggests there’s more happening here.
One plausible explanation is that denser places are able to support many more in-person early voting options in closer proximity to where people live, whereas lower-density places can’t support quite as many.
In Philly many people are able to access an early-voting location just by walking there, so in addition to there being more opportunities around, there’s less friction in accessing them.
Note: The Percent Returned figure you see here and elsewhere is misleading, as it includes both the percent of “traditional” mail ballots returned and 100 percent of all mail votes cast early at satellite election offices. Consequently, more than 60 percent of mail ballots requested have yet to be sent back.
Jon Geeting is the director of engagement at Philadelphia 3.0, a political action committee that supports efforts to reform and modernize City Hall. To receive these voting updates by email, sign up here.
It’s election season in Philadelphia. Are you all set to vote?
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