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Democrats lead in Florida and North Carolina ballot returns

Democrats are leading pre-election voting in Florida and North Carolina -- a stark reversal of 2016 trends in two key battleground states.

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Adam Levy, Ethan Cohen
Liz Stark, CNN
CNN — Democrats are leading pre-election voting in Florida and North Carolina -- a stark reversal of 2016 trends in two key battleground states.

In both states, Democrats make up 52% of the votes returned so far, up more than 10 points each compared to the same time four years ago. In 2016, Republicans led by much smaller margins among pre-election votes, accounting for roughly 40% of returns each at this point in the election cycle.

Early voting has skyrocketed this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but polling shows Republicans strongly prefer to vote in person on Election Day this year, which could account for the drop in the share of GOP pre-election votes compared to 2016 levels in Florida from 43% to 28% and North Carolina from 38% to 17%.

This detailed look at pre-election voting comes from Catalist, which provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and non-profit issue advocacy organizations. Catalist analyzed more than 5.2 million ballots cast in 29 states so far in 2020.

While the returns represent a small fraction of the expected number of ballots to be cast in 2020 -- President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton received about 130 million votes combined four years ago -- some states have reported the number of ballot returns have already set records.

The data does not predict the ultimate outcome of any race but offers insights and details about who is voting ahead of November 3.

Breakdowns of ballot returns by race show White voters currently comprise a majority of the early ballots cast in each of 13 of CNN's most competitive-rated states where data by race is available. Of these states, Georgia has the smallest share of ballots cast by White voters, at 58%. More than one-third of the ballots cast in Georgia so far are from Black voters, a key Democratic voting bloc, making up the largest share of ballots cast from Black voters in these key states.

Among 29 states where gender data is available, women have cast about 55% of the early ballots, and 45% have come from men. Most of CNN's key states have gender breakdowns similar to those overall numbers, but Wisconsin has a slightly larger share of ballots from women so far. About 57% of the ballots in the state have been cast by women.

Here is a deeper look at trends in key states.


Voters have returned about three times as may ballots as at this time in 2016.In Florida, Hispanic voters comprise about 9% of the ballots cast, up from 7% at this point in 2016.Black voters also represent a greater share of the returned ballots (11%) than they did four years ago (7%).White voters still account for the vast majority of pre-Election Day ballots cast, but the share is down from 2016 levels. White voters currently comprise about three-quarters of the ballots returned so far, compared to about 83% four years ago.


In Georgia, Black voters currently make up a greater share of voters who have cast their ballots early compared to 2016, comprising about 37% of those who've cast ballots so far, up from the 20% at this point four years ago.By comparison, White voters have cast a smaller share of pre-Election Day votes this cycle than they did four years ago. They comprise about 58% of the ballots returned so far, down from 76% at this point in 2016.Georgia's gender breakdown among early voters is more heavily male than it was at this point in 2016. This year, women have cast 56% of the ballots in Georgia so far, compared to 61% at this point four years ago.


Maine has not seen a major increase in ballots cast compared to the last presidential election so far, but the Democratic share of them has grown from 55% to 63%, while Republican share has dropped from 25% to 16%.


In Michigan, as ballot return levels continue to rise, the racial composition of early voters has remained nearly identical to 2016 levels at this point in the cycle.

White voters continue to account for the vast majority of early ballots cast at about 86%, while Black voters represent about 10% of ballots cast so far. This breakdown is almost the same as 2016, when 87% of pre-election ballots cast were from White voters and 10% from Black voters.

The gender breakdown is nearly identical in Michigan as it was at this point four years ago as well. Women are responsible for 55% of ballots cast this year -- four years ago at this time it was 56%.

North Carolina

Ballot returns in North Carolina are more than 10 times larger than this point in 2016.

The share of ballots returned from Black voters has also increased from 2016 levels. Currently, Black voters represent about 17% of ballots cast, compared to just 10% at this point four years ago.

Meanwhile, the share of White voters who have cast ballots so far has dropped from 2016 -- 77% now vs. 86% four years ago.


Even with a significant influx of pre-election day ballots this cycle, the racial composition of Wisconsin's early voters remains consistent with that of four years ago.

Like at this point in 2016, White voters account for an overwhelming majority of early ballots cast (89%), followed by Black voters (5%), Hispanic voters (3%) and Asian voters (2%).

Of all of CNN's key states reporting data, Wisconsin is the seeing the largest share of ballots returned from women. 57% of ballots returned in the state have come from women, and 42% have come from men. This is basically the same breakdown as at this point four years ago.

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