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Opinion

Bets and ballots

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the press on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday. Credit: AP

Daily Point

Don’t count Trump out yet

If you’re a Joe Biden supporter enjoying his polling lead over President Donald Trump but worried about a repeat of 2016, when Trump overcame a polling deficit to beat Hillary Clinton, consider this: Some sportsbooks that handle political betting say 2016 is indeed playing out again in at least one respect. The late money is coming in on Trump.

Nearly 70% of the money wagered overall at BetOnline.ag has been on Trump, currently an 8/5 underdog whose probability of winning is 38.46%, according to the sportsbook. Biden is the 5/9 favorite, with a 64.28% probability of winning.

"Over the last 72 hours, we’ve taken a ton of money on Trump," BetOnline’s Sportsbook Brand Manager Dave Mason said in a statement. "We saw this same scenario playing out in 2016 when all the polls and models had Clinton around the 70% projection to be elected, while all the bets were coming in on the underdog Trump. Needless to say, the books took a bath on that election outcome."

Mason said a Trump victory in 2020 would mean a low-seven-figure loss for BetOnline, while a Biden victory would bring a mid-six-figure win.

The spurt of Trump betting comes amid a lively Twitter discussion about who actually is laying that money. Among the theories:

  • It’s people betting purely on emotion or biases.
  • It’s Biden supporters hedging their preference and happy to lose the money if Biden wins.
  • It’s traditional sports bettors who skew male and are less educated.
  • It’s adrenaline junkies who always bet on longshots.
  • It’s people overlearning the lessons of 2016.

And no, there’s no market for betting on which of those explanations is correct.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

Local early voting numbers remain strong

Even in bad weather, Long Island voters are turning out to cast their ballots. In Nassau County, the early vote totals were 147,028 as of Thursday night, with almost 120,000 absentee ballots returned, according to data from Nassau Democratic elections commissioner Jim Scheuerman.

Some of those absentee ballots might be for people who ultimately decided to vote early, and thus their absentees will eventually be pulled. But keeping in mind that possible small overcount, that’s about 40% of the county’s 2016 presidential election total. And Friday and weekend early voting are yet to come, along with more absentee ballots arriving and then votes from those who go to the polls on Election Day.

The numbers in Nassau continue to appear hedged toward Democrats, with the number of Democratic voters exceeding the Republican and unaffiliated totals combined thus far.

Of course, the patterns on Election Day could be different, given the Democratic predilection for early forms of voting.

Meanwhile in Suffolk, totals were 84,037 early votes and about 130,000 absentee returns by the end of the day Thursday. The breakdown in Democrats voting was larger than that of Republicans and unaffiliated together. With the same caveat as above, the Suffolk absentee and early vote tallies combine for just over 30% of the 2016 presidential total in the county.

In Nassau, Scheuerman says overall, he thinks there will be a big turnout when the votes are tallied. "We had over 20k people vote yesterday on a rainy day," he wrote in a text to The Point, adding that he thought the county could end up with around 700,000 votes "when all is said and done."

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Not what we were waiting for

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Final Point

Tremendous turnout a challenge to minor parties

When New York adopted several election reforms this year, changes to how parties qualify for the ballot were among the most contentious topics.

A Iaw passed in 1935 granted automatic ballot access, meaning the parties could host candidates on their lines, to any party that garnered 50,000 votes in gubernatorial elections. That status was good for four years, until the next vote for governor.

The new rules require a party to earn 130,000 votes or 2% of the votes cast, whichever is higher. And now the parties must qualify every two years, in both presidential and gubernatorial races. For example, if fewer than 6.5 million people vote, the threshold is 130,000, but if 7.5 million vote, it’s 150,000, and if 9 million vote, it’s 180,000.

In 2016, 7,721,442 voted in the presidential contest. If that turnout is repeated, the qualifying number would be 154,429 votes to get a ride for the next two years. But expanded early and absentee voting numbers imply the turnout could be record-setting. Even in New York, where former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to crush President Donald Trump, the passion of this fight might deter voters from making a contrarian choice because they want the tally for their preferred major candidate as high as possible.

The Working Families Party dealt with this by putting Biden on its ticket, after its 2016 cross-endorsement of Hillary Clinton garnered 140,043 votes, enough to keep the party alive. The Conservative Party, which tallied 292,392 with Trump last time out, has him filling its line again.

But the Greens (Howie Hawkins), Libertarians (Jo Jorgenson) and Independence Party (Brock Pierce) are going with their own candidates, even though they know it might not work out.

Nationally, Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the United States Elections Project, is predicting a record turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of eligible voters, the highest rate in a century. If 65% of New York's 13 million registered voters turn out, that would mean 8,450,000 votes and a ballot-access threshold of 169,000.

The Conservatives, who got 292,392 votes with Trump the last time, are likely to be fine. However, the Independence Party got 119,160, the Greens got 107,935, the Libertarians got 57,438 and the Working Families Party got 140,043.

So are the minor parties that picked an ideologically sympathetic candidate rather than grabbing the coattails of Biden or Trump at risk?

The Greens and Libertarians truly are ideological, and their bylaws make it almost impossible to use fusion voting to cross-endorse. The WFP and Conservatives, at opposite ends of the spectrum, nearly always go with a Democrat and a Republican, respectively, to get their ballot access.

But the Independence Party has pursued both strategies at different times. This year, the plan is to get behind former actor and tech billionaire Brock Pierce now, to build support for another, broader Pierce run in 2024, to which both Pierce and Independence Party chairman Frank MacKay say they are committed.

"If we go down, this is the way we wanted to go down," MacKay said of his man, on the ballot in 16 states. "With a candidate we believe in, seeking what we seek."

To that end, MacKay says he’s targeting voters who aren’t committed to either major party, via text, email and social media. And a poll released by Siena College Wednesday shows it might be enough, with Pierce pulling in 2% while Jorgenson and Hawkins are getting just 1% each.

"In a year when voters on the left and right may feel they need to go with Biden or Trump to show support, the Greens and Libertarians might have a disadvantage we don’t," MacKay said. "Brock is the right guy to do this with."

One of the stated aims of the electoral rules changes was pushing small parties to put up singular opponents who represent that party’s goals and letting them sink or swim. This time around is shaping up to be an intriguing test-run for which strategy will pay richer dividends in an unusually intense general election.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

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