One week ahead of the deadline to request an absentee ballot in Pennsylvania, Democrats are significantly outpacing Republicans in ballot requests in what may be the most crucial state in a presidential election that is leaning more heavily on mail ballots than ever before because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The early numbers do not necessarily provide a window into what the final election result will be. In most years, Democrats lead in early voting and Republicans vote more on Election Day — a pattern that may be exacerbated now that the Republican presidential candidate is telling people not to be afraid of the coronavirus and the Democratic candidate is seldom holding rallies in an effort to comply with social distancing recommendations.
But the disparity is still stark. With 2.82 million mail ballots requested in Pennsylvania, Democrats have requested more than 1.8 million to Republicans’ just over 700,000. Almost 316,000 mail ballots have been requested by those categorized as “other” by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State.
“There are more ways to vote in Pennsylvania than ever before and it’s clear that Democrats are enthusiastic about voting for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and our candidates up and down the ballot,” Brendan Welch, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, told Fox News. Welch said that people filling out mail ballots should use blue or black ink to fill them out, ensure they use their secrecy envelope and sign their voter declarations.
Welch also said voters should not delay sending in their ballots. Centre County, Pa., Commissioner Mike Pipe also told Fox News voters should “waste no time in getting their ballots back to us,” but said that a Monday night Supreme Court decision allowing ballots received by the government up to three days after Election Day to be counted should help with any people who request their ballots around the Oct. 27 deadline.
According to the U.S. Elections Project, the difference between Republicans and Democrats among votes returned is even more significant — Democrats have returned over 660,000 ballots and Republicans just over 160,000.
Democrats in many other states are also leading in absentee and early voting totals.
But Republicans, meanwhile, point to a different statistic they say shows they may have the advantage once votes are counted on Nov. 3. Since 2016, Republicans through persistent effort have closed the voter registration gap in Pennsylvania by over 165,000. That shrinks the Democrats’ previous advantage in registered voters by significantly more than Trump’s sub-50,000 vote margin of victory in 2016.
“We’ve put a major emphasis on voter registration since the 2016 election. And we have shrunk the Democratic registration advantage by 166,800-plus,” Lawrence Tabas, the Pennsylvania Republican Party chairman, told Fox News in a previous interview. “And you’ve got to keep in perspective [Trump] only won by [about] 44,500 [votes in 2016] … you see the enormity. It’s almost four times what he won by.”
In Pennsylvania, about 40% of all mail ballots requested have already been returned with two weeks to go until Election Day. If that number continues to tick up closer to 100% over the next two weeks it could potentially diffuse any concern about whether ballots received up to three days after the presidential election as allowed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — as long as they are sent by Election Day — could sway the result in the all-important state.