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Despite Pre-Election Democratic Gains, Florida Law Makes Race Harder To Predict

Nov 4, 2014
Originally published on November 4, 2014 4:06 pm

Florida Democrats have managed to narrow an early Republican lead in the number of ballots cast before Election Day. The numbers appear to favor Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist—at first glance. But  a state election-law change makes this election’s outcome harder to predict.

In 2010, Republicans headed into Election Day with about a 12 percent edge in ballots already cast, and Republican Rick Scott just eked out a win against Democrat Alex Sink. This time around, Democrats have closed that pre-election vote gap to just about 3 percent. That could bode well for Democrat Charlie Crist. But University of Florida Political Scientist Michael McDonald says there’s a catch that makes this race harder to call.

“Most election observers, like myself, are looking at these numbers and saying, ‘Well yes, the Democrats are doing better than what they did in 2010,' but this change of the law throws a monkey wrench into an apples-to-apples comparison," he says. 

That change is the option for voters to automatically receive mail-in ballots for all future elections if they choose. McDonald says that means Democrats who opted in to the automatic mail-in subscription could be bucking historical trends this year. So, he says, as poll after poll have shown, it’s still anybody’s race. 

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