ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A record number of Americans voted early in these midterm elections, close to 40 million people by the estimate of our next guest.
Tom Bonier is a Democratic strategist and CEO of the data firm TargetSmart. Thanks for joining us here in the studio.
TOM BONIER: Thanks for having me here.
SHAPIRO: If that estimate is correct - nearly 40 million early voters - how would that compare to previous midterm elections?
BONIER: It's a record by far. In 2014, the last midterm election, we saw about 23 million people vote.
BONIER: So we're close to - in fact, it's much closer to a presidential year. In 2016, the early vote was about 47 million votes. So we're creeping up on that.
SHAPIRO: When you dig into that total number, we know that typically midterm election voters tend to be older and whiter than in a presidential election year. What do the demographics look like in the people who have already voted early this year?
BONIER: That's right. So we're learning a lot from that demographics. So in 2014, about three quarters of the early votes were cast by voters over the age of 50. That number has actually dropped by more than 7 points, being replaced primarily by voters under the age of 30, who have seen the biggest surge in early voting.
Younger voters tend not to vote in midterm elections, period - very low turnout historically for younger voters in the midterm elections. But not only are they voting, they're voting early. They've come out over the last couple of weeks, and their vote share has increased hugely, from about five - 5 percent of the electorate to almost 9 percent.
SHAPIRO: And are you seeing the racial balance shift, too?
BONIER: We are. We're seeing big surges, especially with Latino voters. We've seen their numbers almost triple in terms of the numbers. There are about a million Latino voters who voted in 2014 early, and that number is up closer to 2.7 million in this election.
BONIER: It's remarkable.
SHAPIRO: Real boom. Are there specific states or races where you're seeing early-vote numbers that are dramatically far from the norm, even by the standards of this pretty extraordinary year?
BONIER: We are. Yeah, I mean, so we certainly expected to see a surge. 2014 was a low watermark in turnout. I think it set a 72-year low. So we did expect to see an increase. But there are some states where we're seeing increases even bigger than anyone predicted. Texas is the biggest. Almost 5.9 million people have voted in Texas so far. In the 2014 midterm election, 4.7 million people voted in total...
BONIER: ...Including Election Day.
SHAPIRO: So the early voting matches the total voting from four years ago.
BONIER: It exceeds it by - by a lot. So it's, again, quite remarkable.
SHAPIRO: What does the early vote tell us about who may be voting today? Can we make inferences between the two?
BONIER: So it's difficult to say. In 2016, we certainly fell into the trap where the early vote was quite positive for Democrats. The Election Day vote was different. A lot of that was people who would have voted on Election Day anyhow just came out early. So this year, looking at these lower-propensity younger voters, Latino voters, African-American voters is - is more telling.
But again, we expect potentially more than 60 million additional votes to be cast today. So there's still a lot of questions to be answered.
SHAPIRO: Is some of this just a shift in the availability of knowledge about early voting?
BONIER: Somewhat. Certainly, some states have gone forwards in terms of making access to early voting more open. Some states have actually gone in the wrong direction, states like North Carolina and Ohio, they have - that have made it more difficult. But certainly, there have been changes since 2014 that have impacted the early vote.
SHAPIRO: Democratic strategist Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, speaking with us about the remarkable increase in the number of early voters this year. Thanks so much for joining us.
BONIER: Thanks for having me on.
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