Election day is all about ballot cast at the polling place, right?
In fact, millions of absentee ballots will be arriving today at county elections offices. These ballots may have been delivered right on time by the postal service, or dropped off at a drop box, or hand carried into the local elections office.
In so called “postmark” states (Alaska, California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Utah), ballots need only be postmarked by November 8th (oddly enough, November 7th in Utah) and can arrive a few days to two weeks later.
Finally, in a few states, such as Arizona, Montana and California, you can even drop off your absentee ballot at the local polling place. (Editor’s Note: If anyone knows a comprehensive list of these states, I’d appreciate a link.)
These late arriving ballots can easily make the difference in close races.
In Multnomah County, OR, elections director Tim Scott estimates that anywhere from 110,000 to 150,000 ballots will arrive today–that’s more than 20% of the total registered voters in the county, so likely more than 30% of the final tally! Statewide, assuming total turnout of 80%, nearly 500,000 ballots that will be making their way into county offices today.
In Maricopa County, AZ, the second largest election jurisdiction in the country, over 100,000 ballots are typically dropped off on election day, according to Tammy Patrick of the Bipartisan Policy Center who worked in Maricopa for a number of years.
What happens to these absentee ballots? Are they counted immediately or are they counted at the close of polls? What about the absentee ballots that arrived prior to Election Day? I’ve received a flurry of questions about this today.
The quick answer is that in most states, absentee ballots are processed as they arrive. The ballots are scanned but not counted, and tallying doesn’t occur until Election Day (in some states, at the start of the business day, in some states, after the polls close. The “scanning” vs.”tallying” distinction is important–election officials can’t just walk into a room and glance at vote totals–because no totals exist. Totals are only calculated when a particular form or report is created.
This means that in most states, the first results will include absentee ballots that arrived prior to Election Day, but will almost certainly not include ballots that arrived on Election Day.
The late arriving ballots will generally not even begin to be processed until Wednesday. While this may frustrate politicians, their supporters, and Americans who want to see an announcement of the final results, the delay is necessary to assure the security and integrity of our elections system.
First, in many states, absentee ballots cannot be processed before the close of the polls because election officials have to check to make sure that no one has voted twice, once by absentee ballot and a second time at a polling place. This is the kind of security measure that exists in the American election system and is often ignored by those making unsubstantiated charges of “rigging.”
Next, the absentee ballots need to be processed. This involves a multistep
- Signatures need to be verified
- Ballots need to be separated from the outside envelope
- In some states, ballots need to be inspected (and potentially “remade”) so they can be read by the machines.
After all these steps are completed, the ballots can be scanned and the votes counted.
In most states, none of this will happen on election night, when election officials have already worked a very long and arduous day. Election officials need their beauty sleep, just like the rest of us!
And they’ll be working hard to provide full and accurate results for days and weeks after November 8th.
We have nearly final figures on the early voting totals in each state, and the ballot return rates continue to force us to reconsider many of our previous assumptions about who votes early and where early voting is most popular.
Early voting as a percent of the 2012 early vote, as shown in the first map, is blowing old totals out of the water. Charles Stewart has reported on the pace of early voting in North Carolina and Daniel Smith has been doing the same for Florida. Other states with extraordinarily high numbers compared to 2012 include Arizona (106%), Georgia (124%), Maryland (167%), and Nevada (109%). As I noted in an early posting, the Massachusetts and Minnesota numbers are misleading because they have relaxed their early voting laws.
These numbers are more impressive when viewed as a proportion of the total 2012 vote. This indicates higher turnout overall, or an electorate that is switching wholesale to early voting. In either case, it means that in the states that rank high on this list (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington), it’s not going to be enough any more to have an election day GOTV operation.
Election day is rapidly becoming election week(s) in many parts of the country.
A couple quick posts before I head off to class. Let’s start with the most up to date EV rates compared to 2012 rates. These can be heavily influenced by changes in state laws, as in Massachusetts, so interpret with caution.
(This post co-written by Paul Gronke and Brian Hamel, Department of Political Science, UCLA)
Even the prospects of ghosts, goblins, Russian hackers, and Wikileaked emails don’t seem to be able to stem the tide of early voters in 2016. It’s truly a historically early early vote total nationwide. (Take that sentence, Doug!)
Five days ago, we reported that in a number of key battleground states, close to 50% of all early votes cast in 2012 had already been cast in 2016. With less than a week till Election Day, these numbers continue to climb
The highest rate is in Louisiana, where the total early votes cast this cycle have already exceeded the total cast in 2012 over six more days of balloting. Sec’y Tom Schedler talked about this last week at the Bipartisan Policy Center. This may be a result of good election planning. After all, if the Tigers beat ‘Bama this Saturday, there could be a few folks who won’t wake up until after Election Day! Something unique is happening in the Bayou State.
Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee are also showing very high ballot return numbers, at or exceeding 80% of the 2012 totals.
Overall, twenty-nine states have racked up more than half as many early votes as were cast over the full early voting period. For many states last week, these totals only included no-excuse, vote by mail ballots, but now millions of more voters are heading to early in-person voting locations in most major battleground states.
Out of Politico’s eleven battleground states, in fact, only New Hampshire and Pennsylvania don’t report more than half of the early vote has already been cast (if we use 2012 as a baseline). This is going to create a huge problem for Donald Trump if, as some sources report, his early vote targeting operation lags Hillary Clinton’s.
The numbers look even more forbidding for Trump if you look at the early vote totals as a percentage of the total 2012 vote. These numbers have to be viewed with a bit of caution; state registration totals will have grown and shrunk during this period, and 2012 voter turnout is obviously an imperfect predictor of 2016 total. However, these numbers aren’t going to have moved that much, and more importantly, the relative position of states will have changed even less.
In Florida, nearly a requirement for a Trump victory, early votes exceed 44% of all votes cast in 2012. In Nevada, not a key to a Trump victory, but a state that Harry Reid wants to deliver for Clinton, 45% of the 2012 total has already been cast. In Tennessee, things are looking brighter for Trump–over half of the 2012 totals are in the books, although we have no data on the partisan breakdown of these ballots.
Michael McDonald notes that only in Nevada do the party ballot return totals indicate a clear Democratic advantage, and the election electorate will break for Trump (it has to if more Democratic votes are cast early). Still, this may mean that Clinton can redeploy her targeting resources in Florida and other states in a way that Trump may not be able to.
These stunning figures could be the result of a number of factors, including voters simply responding to the convenience of early voting, the intensity of the campaign, the distinctiveness of the candidates, increased attention from the campaigns and parties on early voting mobilization, or any combination of the three. What is clear, however, is that early voting could be a key indicator of who is winning the horse race.
Data courtesy of Michael McDonald and the United States Election project.
Early ballots are flowing in rapidly to local election officials throughout the country. As of October 26, according to Michael McDonald of the United States Election Project, over 12 million ballots have been processed.
This is a stunning figure, given that we are 13 days away from Election Day and 10 days before a number of key battleground states end early in-person voting. (You can find the whole early voting “schedule” on our Early Voting Calendar)
Even more surprising is how many early votes have already been cast as a percentage of all early votes cast in 2012. To illustrate this, we used McDonald’s data and display early voting rates (darker red indicate a larger percentage of early ballots cast in 2016 as a percentage of all early ballots cast four years ago).
As shown, in a number of states, these figures approach or even exceed 50%. This is particularly true of a number of key battleground states. For example, in Florida, Iowa, and Virginia, 42.5%, 49.9%, and 49.2%, respectively, of 2012 early ballots have already been cast in 2016. We also see one of the largest shares in Arizona (50.7%), a traditionally red state where Clinton and Trump are in a statistical dead heat and where Clinton recently placed a $2 million ad buy .
These figures suggest that early voting is becoming an increasingly important aspect of American elections. Observers have long noted the sheer convenience of early voting, and the trend over just four years suggests that voters are responding to the convenience of these options.
Indeed, these trends are likely to structure campaign strategy over the final few weeks, as campaigns look to early voting returns—and the partisan breakdown of these returns—before deploying their resources. Stay tuned for more data and commentary on early voting in 2016!
This one in Green Bay, WI. At least it doesn’t concern Packers fans!
The local clerk cites “partisan advantage,” among other reasons, why she refused to establish a satellite early voting location at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. It doesn’t help her out when the person requesting the location is a local Green Bay Democrat.
I’ve written in the past about ongoing conflict over an early voting location in Boone, NC, located at the student center at Appalachian State University, where I taught for two years. The ASU location also leaned heavily Democratic relative to the surrounding county, but in the Boone case, the student center also was the hub of a county-wide bus system, had ample parking, and was within easy walking distance of downtown. The county offices, in contrast, had little parking and were served by fewer bus lines.
The ASU location, in summary, was actually an excellent location!
This is a hard one! Not sure what the right call is on this location. Anyone with more information on the ground?
Journalists are hungry at this point for any information that might give them some special insight into the eventual outcome in November, and early voting seems particularly valuable because, unlike a poll, early voting reflects, obviously, actual voting. What’s much less clear is what we can conclude from early turnout at this juncture. As Michael McDonald warns routinely in his blog posts, these are early indicators, and may reflect changes in campaign mobilization, changes in state and local practices, along with voter interest and enthusiasm.
We have, for example, no research that I know of that correlates absentee ballot requests, returns, and eventual vote totals in a state. Comparisons between 2016, 2012, and 2008 seldom take into account in a systematic way spending rates and mobilization efforts by campaigns. Speculation about these things may make for good copy, but I don’t spend a lot of time poring over these numbers.
I am quite willing to speak to reporters, however, on the topic of “voter regret,” and whether early voting is “bad” because of the dynamic nature of “this year’s campaign.” These questions come in predictably just about this time, when the early vote totals really start to pile up, and reporters are on full alert, filing multiple stories about the campaign.
Here’s the basic math: only a relatively small percentage of total votes have been cast at this point (two weeks out from Election Day). And a relatively small percentage of registered voters (and an even smaller number of likely voters) are truly undecided at this late stage. This translates into a tiny theoretical percentage of voters who will cast an early vote and who are likely to change their vote, ignoring in that calculation lots of research indicating that most early voters are decided voters who are not going to be swayed by information provided over the next two weeks.
This sounds like a big number, but we expect over 130 million ballots to be cast in 2016. The early vote totals to date are about 5% of the total expected. Three days ago (October 21), it was less than 4%. Five days ago, the total was under 2%. That bears repeating: 20 days before the election, less than 2% of ballots were cast early.
Now, let’s see how many voters are really likely to be undecided at this stage of the campaign. According to Lynn Vavreck, a YouGov conducted three weeks ago found just 8% of registered voters were undecided. These undecided “… are less interested in politics and the news, less partisan, and less likely to hold opinions on issues dominating campaign discussions. Essentially, they think less about politics.” A HuffPollster study conducted a week ago found a somewhat higher percentage of undecided, 14%, yet Natalie Jackson found little space for movement within this segment.
Now we can put everything together. Who are these “early” early voters? Are they voters who will change their minds? All the evidence we have accumulated from past elections says “no.” Few early voters report that they regretted their choice, and most early voters report that they made up their minds relatively early. They tended to be more ideological and partisan than the average voter. Now, we have never had a study that samples early voters on the fly, after they cast their ballot, and follow up later on. Instead, we have to rely on post-election reports, and there may be some rationalization going on.
Nonetheless, as much as it may disappoint reporters, for the vast majority of citizens, the campaign is essentially over. It’s possible that there may be a late breaking scandal, or late breaking information, or a late breaking event that could move millions of citizens to reevaluate these two candidates who have been in the klieg lights for nine months. Every reporter is dying to break this year’s October surprise. But those surprises almost never occur, and given how strongly voters feel about these two candidates, there is very little that will move voters at this point.
Election “day” has begun! Enjoy the ride.
Great Washington Post story by Sari Horowitz on the near impossibility of rigging an election.
Very important posting by Rick Hasen, pulling together many links and stories debunking the “vote rigging” claims coming out of the Trump campaign. Rick deserves all the credit for assembling this valuable list of resources; I am posting here only so that there is a permanent link for reporters, advocates, and academics.
Claims of massive fraud and efforts to discredit the election system are preposterous on their face, but injurious to our democratic system. Long before Trump arrived on the scene Republicans helped manufacture an environment in which the talk show/Breitbart/Sean Hannity set actually thinks massive fraud is possible. Republicans insistent on ensuring the integrity of the election system with voter ID requirements (which are overwhelmingly popular with voters) too often made it sound as if impersonation and double voting are commonplace. They are not. For example, in Florida in 2014 the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher turned over 14 names of people who possibly voted twice. Roughly 400,000 people voted in the county that year.
As the Associated Press reported, a 2012 study found millions of out of date voter registrations or people registered in multiple states, but “the report cited no evidence that those errors had contributed to any significant voter fraud. Instead, it pointed to estimates that at least 51 million U.S. citizens are eligible but not registered to vote.” (If you’ve moved from one state to another you likely did not “unregister” in your former state of residence; that’s not fraud.) Contrary to Trump’s latest hysteria, “Most experts say voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S., with one study by a Loyola Law School professor finding just 31 known cases of impersonation fraud out of 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections between 2000 and 2014.”
When I was on the News Hour yesterday, Al Cardenas of the Republican Party of Florida was adamant that massive voter fraud is not a problem.
There have been responsible Republicans on this for years, and more coming on line now, like Mark Braden, John Fortier, Chris Ashby, Rob Kelner, Ohio SOS John Husted, and others.
Let’s hope after this election we see a turning point for the GOP, which can start with recognizing that voter fraud is an isolated problem not a massive one, and end with a repudiation of laws, such as very strict state voter identification laws, which make it harder to vote but do nothing to prevent fraud or instill voter confidence. Doing so is not only the right thing for Republicans to do, it is in their self-interest. Expanding and appealing to an electorate which is not old and white is the only way for GOP survival on a national scale.
“Controversial Republican Mike Roman to run Donald Trump’s ‘election protection’”
Posted on October 18, 2016 9:04 am by Rick Hasen
Must-read from Ben Jacobs of The Guardian:
Donald Trump’s “election protection” effort will be run by Mike Roman, a Republican operative best known for promoting a video of apparent voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers outside a polling place in 2008.
Roman is to oversee poll-watching efforts as Trump undertakes an unprecedented effort by a major party nominee by calling into question the legitimacy of the popular vote weeks before election day….
Multiple sources have confirmed to the Guardian that Roman, who also previously ran the Koch network’s now defunct internal intelligence agency, will oversee the Trump campaign’s efforts to monitor polling places for any signs of voter fraud.
Roman is best known for his role in promoting a video that showed two members of the New Black Panthers – a fringe group that claims descent from the 1960s radicals – standing outside a Philadelphia polling place dressed in uniforms, with one carrying a nightstick. Police are called and the two men leave.
At a campaign rally here Monday evening, Dave Radtke, 66, said he expects Democrats will load people on buses in Chicago and bring them to Wisconsin to vote, where legal residents are allowed to register on Election Day. Josh Eilers, 22, said he expects Democrats will go to Chicago and pay homeless people to vote for Hillary Clinton, something that he says happens “way too much.” Sue Rosenthal, 74, said “something seems off” with early voting programs in large cities that she says allow a stream of people to have access to voting machines ahead of Election Day. Gene A. Wheaton, 68, said the Democrats will use “any means necessary” to win, so he worries about “the stealth thing that they can do electronically or some other way to really either erase somebody’s valid vote or get a bunch of people in secretly voting to load it up for the other side.”
Trump supporters were insistent that such fraud is rampant and that major media outlets are conspiring to hide the issue. While many said they are glad that Wisconsin now requires an identification to vote, they said polls need more security measures.
Donald Trump’s escalating effort to undermine the presidential election as “rigged” has alarmed government officials administering the vote as well as Democratic and Republican leaders, who are anxiously preparing for the possibility of unrest or even violence on Election Day and for an extended battle over the integrity of the outcome.
Hillary Clinton’s advisers are privately worried that Trump’s calls for his supporters to stand watch at polling places in cities such as Philadelphia for any hint of fraud will result in intimidation tactics that might threaten her supporters and suppress the votes of African Americans and other minorities.
The Democratic nominee’s campaign is recruiting and training hundreds of lawyers to fan out across the country, protecting people’s right to vote and documenting any signs of foul play, according to several people with knowledge of the plans.
But his rhetoric could also have the impact of hurting his own campaign, according to some of the latest research into the topic.
In one experiment conducted by Adam Seth Levine of Cornell University and Robyn L. Stiles of Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication, different groups of voters were given different messages in an online ad touting voter registration — including “Registering is quick, easy, & free,” “Wealthy buying elections,” or “The system is rigged.”
Researchers found that the negative messages like “Wealthy buying elections” and “The system is rigged” were less effective in generating clicks than a more positive message like “registering is quick, easy, and free.”
This is also why in recent days we have seen the Clinton team pivoting to a message that voting is easy from one talking about Republicans trying to make it more difficult to vote.
Posted in campaigns
Now, for the first time in modern history, a major-party candidate rejects both sides of that equation. If he loses, Donald Trump says, it will be due to cheating that makes the result illegitimate. If he wins, he will imprison his defeated opponent.
Many Americans may not have given much thought to what a breathtaking departure this represents, because until now we have had the luxury of never having to think about such things. We have been able to take for granted the quadrennial peaceful transition of power. We watch from a distance when political parties in one foreign country or another take up arms after losing an election. We look, as at something that could never happen here, when a foreign leader sends an opponent to jail or into exile. This can happen in Zimbabwe, we think, or Russia, or Cambodia, but not here. Not in the United States.
Instead of disavowing this absurdity outright, Republican leaders sit by in spineless silence. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, are the two most powerful Republicans in the country and should be willing to put the national interest above their own. Both know full well that there is no “rigging,” and yet between them they have managed one tepid response to Mr. Trump’s outrageous accusations: “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results,” Mr. Ryan’s spokeswoman said, “and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.”
This is like standing back while an arsonist pours gasoline all over your house, then expressing confidence that the fire department will get there in time.
PBS News Hour Interview with Me and Al Cardenas on Trump Vote-Rigging Claims
Posted on October 17, 2016 7:19 pm by Rick Hasen
Posted in chicanery, election administration, fraudulent fraud squad, The Voting Wars
“Election officials, Clinton team brace for fallout from Trump’s ‘rigged’ claims”
Posted on October 17, 2016 4:31 pm by Rick Hasen
Posted in campaigns, chicanery, fraudulent fraud squad, The Voting Wars
“Trump claims without evidence that the election is rigged, but officials say that’s not how voting works”
Posted on October 17, 2016 4:19 pm by Rick Hasen
The LA Times reports.
Posted in Uncategorized
“Voter Fraud; It would be literally insane to try to steal an election in the way Donald Trump is alleging.”
Posted on October 17, 2016 3:16 pm by Rick Hasen
I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:
In recent days, Donald Trump has been aggressively pushing the idea that the election is about to be stolen from him through voter fraud and dirty tricks. The Republican candidate, though, has not been a paragon of clarity when it comes to how the election is being rigged against him—Monday morning he tweeted that Hillary Clinton allegedly being fed questions before a Democratic primary debate was a kind of “voter fraud!” Here’s what we know, though, about what he’s said and why his claims that the election is being stolen have no basis whatsoever in reality.
Finally, vote-counting at county offices and elsewhere is a transparent act, with Republicans, Democrats, and good government groups watching the counting. When voting anomalies occur, generally because of human error, they are quickly caught and publicized on Twitter, and then corrected. Most election administrators doing the tabulating and reporting are dedicated public servants who want the process to be as transparent as possible to promote public confidence—not a cadre of Clinton-backing globalists who have secretly infiltrated the most local level of Democratic participation for just this moment.As the Columbus Dispatch reported of the prospect of rigging Ohio’s elections: “ ‘It would take Mission Impossible,’ said Terry Casey, a Republican consultant in Columbus who sat on the Franklin County Board of Elections for 14 years and is a former chairman of the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners.”
None of this of course will convince die-hard Trump supporters and some Republican voters who have been primed to believe Democrats are regularly stealing elections. I hope they won’t get violent or intimidate voters on Election Day, as is seeming increasingly—and frighteningly—likely. For those of us living on planet Earth, we should dismiss Trump’s claims of vote-rigging as the rantings of someone who is either too stupid to know how voting works or too disingenuous to tell the truth.
Posted in Uncategorized
“Election officials scoff at Trump’s claim of ‘rigged’ vote”
Posted on October 17, 2016 2:54 pm by Rick Hasen
Reid Wilson reports for The Hill.
Posted in Uncategorized
“Trump says the election could be rigged. Here’s why it won’t be.”
Posted on October 17, 2016 12:04 pm by Rick Hasen
I spoke with Alex Cohen of KPCC’s Take Two.
Posted in campaigns, chicanery, fraudulent fraud squad
There He Goes Again Dep’t; A Collection of My Responses to Trump’s Irresponsible Vote Rigging Rhetoric
Posted on October 17, 2016 8:49 am by Rick Hasen
This morning Donald Trump tweeted the following:
Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!
I responded with a 15-tweet tweetstorm.
Some of my earlier posts and articles on this topic:
(Literally) Waking Up to the Danger of Trump’s Vote Rigging Comments to Democracy
Trump’s Irresponsible Vote-Rigging Statements Literally Putting Our Democracy at RiskDonald Trump’s Dangerous Vote Rigging Comments Follow Years of Republican Voter Fraud Hysteria (TPM)