Saturday January 2nd… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Georgia On My Mind…The Crucial Runoff To Control The U.S. Senate
Dear Diary. I was elated with the results of the election last November, knowing that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would become your next U.S. President and Vice President this January. I put many notes on this important historic event on my November 4th post, the day after the election:
Frankly though, Trump and the Republicans did a lot better than expected since I thought that Democrats would take control of the Senate with a few seats to spare. The Republicans gained ten sears in the House of Representatives. Also, margins of victory were so low in crucial swing states that the election was contested for weeks. Today eleven Republican Senators will be contesting the election via the electoral college on January 6th in a last ditch effort to keep Trump in office, which I’m confident will fail.
On November 3rd, the day of the election, I had no idea that the fate of Biden’s power would be decided in my own backyard, with two future runoff elections for the U.S. Senate in my home state of Georgia. Biden can do a lot for environmental causes by executive fiat, but big programs stemming from Green New Deal ideas need our Congress to be passed. Mitch McConnell will thwart just about every one of Biden’s moves if he retains power as Senate Majority Leader should the Republicans just win one out of two of these Georgia races on this coming Tursday.
I have been encouraged to see a record 2.6 million people turn out for early voting in my home state, with long lines of folks waiting to vote. Polls have Warnock and Ossoff slightly ahead as of this Saturday.
Still, Georgia is a conservative state with a history of voting irregularities, so I have grave doubts that we can win two runoff elections here…and we will need both to get the change we desperately need in Washington. Here is more from the Washington Post on the state of the Georgia races as of this Saturday:
Why a strong early vote for Democrats in Georgia’s Senate runoffs doesn’t mean they’ll win
Jan. 1, 2021 at 4:00 a.m. PST
Races between Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D) as well as Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) will be decided on Jan. 5.
In the Georgia Senate runoff elections, some of the only data we have to analyze whether Republicans or Democrats have the advantage is who’s voting early.
Early voting started Dec. 14 in the two Jan. 5 runoffs between Sen. David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Raphael Warnock, which will decide control of the Senate. So far, at least 2.6 million voters have cast their ballots, which is already a turnout record for a statewide runoff in Georgia.
To date, Democrats seem to be in a slightly better position than they were at this point before the November election, thanks to Black turnout being a larger proportion of the early votes cast in the runoff.
But there are a number of reasons Democrats’ perceived advantage might not translate to victories on Jan. 5.
Early vote data doesn’t capture all voters
At any given moment, the early vote data is just a snapshot of who has voted so far. More people are going to vote, and partisan trends often shift significantly as the early-vote period goes on.
(There is a small exception here for states that conduct their entire election by mail — such as Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii. Nevada is also a bit of an exception because it has such high vote-by-mail participation. Given the early vote is the vote, or at least the vast majority of it, in Nevada, trends there can tell us more.)
Historically, only strong partisans, older voters, military and overseas voters voted by mail or early. But the pandemic and expansion of absentee voting has led many more Americans to vote early. These changes make it difficult to determine who else has not voted, and, especially, how many people are still going to vote.
Early voters in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections cast ballots in person at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
This was tricky to analyze even before the pandemic. In the 2016 presidential election, absentee votes led many to think that Hillary Clinton was favored to win the state of Iowa. Democrats’ early vote margin in the state had shrunk relative to 2012, but because Obama had won the state by nearly 6 percentage points, the Republican Election Day vote was not expected to be big enough to change the final outcome.
However, Donald Trump ended up winning Iowa comfortably, by more than 9 percentage points. The Election Day electorate had simply been underestimated. While in 2012, 44 percent of voters had voted absentee, in 2016 that number was only 41 percent, and the Republican strength among those voters swamped the Democratic early voting advantage.
Trends might not hold throughout an election
One way to mitigate the problem of overestimating early vote data is to look at historical trends. For example, if Republicans were more likely to vote by mail in the past, then maybe we can assume that they are more likely to vote by mail now too.
The problem with that is that trends change — and often suddenly. Historically, Republicans were more likely to vote by mail in Florida. In 2016, 40.5 percent of mail votes there came from Republicans, while 38.4 percent came from Democrats. However, after the unprecedented attacks on mail-in voting by President Trump, many Republicans decided to change how they voted. In 2020 only 31.1 percent of mail ballots were cast by Republicans, and 35 percent were cast by Democrats.
This large drop in vote-by-mail among Republicans is one of the reasons political analysts initially thought that Florida was going to be closer in the 2020 presidential race than it ended up being. While a drop in GOP participation in mail-in voting was expected, the surge in Republican day-of voting was substantially larger than expected, leading to Trump comfortably winning this swing state.
We don’t know who people are actually voting for
The third reason you should be careful when trying to infer much from early voting is probably the most obvious one: While you might know voters’ partisan affiliation, you don’t actually know who people voted for.
Demographic and party information is sometimes provided by the states (and sometimes by voter file vendors), but while that can be useful, it definitely doesn’t tell the entire story. This is especially true now as we are probably witnessing a political realignment in which Democrats are losing support from Hispanic voters, and possibly Black men, while gaining support among White voters with college degrees.
Education is quickly becoming a key factor, and that’s not something collected on voter registration forms. It’s a lot harder to model. While regional differences in education and turnout can give us some insight into whether people with or without bachelor’s degrees are voting, this type of ecological inference is also fraught.
Even using party registration (as we did above with Florida) isn’t as straightforward. Party registration, party affiliation (as in, which party one might feel closest to) and presidential vote preference aren’t necessarily always aligned, which can make it hard to use them to predict the final outcome.
What does this all mean for Georgia?
People wait in line on the first day of advance voting for Georgia’s Senate runoff elections in Evans, Ga., on Dec. 14 (Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle via AP)
In November, despite the pandemic, more Georgians voted early in person than by mail. It looks like that trend is continuing for the January runoffs, with proportionally even more Georgians voting in person than by mail.
This suggests that more people might vote on Jan. 5, the actual Election Day, as well. Since the early vote seems to favor Democrats, the Election Day vote will probably favor Republicans. The key question is how much better will Republicans do?
But even more generally, comparing the current numbers to those from October and November is problematic. Christmas and New Year’s mean there are a few days this time where early in-person voting won’t be possible. And we generally expect early voting to slow around the holidays.
This does not mean that you should discard early voting numbers, but it does mean that you should be careful when consuming them. The next time you read somewhere that Republicans need X percent of the early vote to be White so they can win, or that Democrats need Y percent of mail-in votes to come from voters under the age of 30, remember that there is a lot we don’t know about early vote data.
To my fellow Georgians, If you have not already voted by absentee ballot or stood in long lines to vote, please get out and cast your ballot for Reverend Warnock and Jon Ossoff January 5th. The planet is depending on you…no pressure.🙄
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)
First some 2020 climatology:
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton- “The Climate Guy”