Oregon Turnout as of 11/2

Oregon Turnout as of 11/2

Since at least last Monday, the Oregon Secretary of State’s website has published turnout numbers for the upcoming midterm. For whatever reason, however, they did not publish any data over the weekend, leaving me (and potentially many campaign managers) frustrated by the lack of information. Turnout is, probably, the most important issue in midterm elections, and leaving so many in the dark during such a crucial moment in the election is really unfortunate.

Thankfully, however, the office once again published their data earlier today. As in an earlier post, I’ve rank ordered the counties by overall turnout, democratic turnout, and republican turnout:


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The black vote in NC: Should Democrats Worry?

The black vote in NC: Should Democrats Worry?

On Wednesday, the NYTimes wrote about the democratic party’s most recent attempt to get out the black vote this midterm. In North Carolina, the party has pushed an aggressive and racially charged ad campaign to remind their constituents why voting this election matters so much. While some may view this as a risky move, the NC democrats may need it. The article notes that, for democrats to have any chance this election, the black share of the electorate must increase from 19% (the share in 2010) to 21%.

Is their plan working? The below figure shows the percent early in-person black and nonblack turnout relative to all NC registrants in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

Figure 1

Figure 1

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Turnout in OR: Ranking the Counties

Turnout in OR: Ranking the Counties

Oregon ballots are being returned in droves. As the Oregonian reported earlier today, one in five voters have already returned their ballots. The piece briefly mentions that return raters are higher in smaller counties, but doesn’t go any further. So, I quickly rank ordered the counties with respect to return rates for democrats, republicans, and all voters:

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Unexpected Early Voting Results: Good tides for Hagan in NC

Unexpected Early Voting Results: Good tides for Hagan in NC

There were two structural–as opposed to political–reasons to worry about Senator Kay Hagan’s (D.) chances of winning reelection this midterm. The first? It’s a midterm election! This means lower turnout due to less educated voters foregoing the election. The quasi-technical term “less educated voters” usually means young voters and minority voters–the people who just so happen to vote for democrats.

The second? New election legislation in North Carolina has dramatically changed the voting landscape. One consequence is that the first week of early voting was cut off, which means that there are fewer days to use North Carolina’s very popular one-stop voting mode (in 2012, over 40% of voters returned their ballots before Election Day). It seemed unlikely, given this change, that early turnout would be as high as it could be, which would, in yet another way, hurt Hagan’s chances.

So: Bad tidings for Hagan, who also faces a tough challenge from her republican opponent Thom Tillis. 538’s forecast for this race has Hagan winning, but only by a hair, and the vote share is well within the margin of error.

Bad tides, maybe. But the first few days of early voting may tell a very different story. Check out figure 1, which presents the proportion of democrats, republicans, and unaffiliated voters who turned out in both 2010 and 2014. Two points stand out. First, voters in NC are turning out early at a much faster rate this year than in 2010. So much faster, in fact, that, with eight days until Election Day, the proportion of democrats to vote early this year is already the same as the proportion to vote eight days out in 2010. Again, that’s with five fewer days to vote (I made the same point in my previous post).

Now, republicans and unaffiliated voters aren’t too far behind, so clearly voters, in general, aren’t too perturbed by the change in the number of early voting days. But let’s consider what it means that (a) democrats are turning out at a fast rate this year, and (b) that their fast turnout rate is faster than the rate republicans and unaffiliated voters are turning out.


Figure 1

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Early Voting in NC: First Impressions

Early Voting in NC: First Impressions

Early voting in North Carolina began on Thursday (October 23rd), and continues until Saturday, November 1st. One of this year’s most competitive Senate elections, between Senator Kay Hagan (D) and her opponent Thom Tillis, may come down to the state’s early returns (early voting in NC being incredibly popular). On top of that, the legality of major (and controversial) new election legislation in North Carolina–legislation that, among other changes, cut the first week off of early voting–may come down to a decision by the Supreme Court. Both reasons make knowing how the early returns look this election especially important.

After only two days of early voting, there isn’t much to say about the results. I want to show two quick graphs, however, that may augur next week’s results. The first graph shows the proportion of democrats, republicans, and unaffiliated voters that have already returned their ballots.


ncabs_proportion_inperson_byparty copy

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Anticipating North Carolina's Early Vote

Anticipating North Carolina’s Early Vote

In North Carolina, voters must decide whether to replace democratic senator Kay Hagan with her republican opponent, Thom Tillis. Hagan, who was elected in 2008 with 53% of the vote, once again faces a difficult challenge. Per an October 11th SurveyUSA poll, Hagan leads by just three points, and 538 reports that only one poll has ever had her ahead of Tillis by more than six points. Some consider this one of the most competitive races in 2014, and it’s in one of the nation’s most purple states. In such a close race, every vote counts.

On top of that, the state’s legislature has made significant (and restrictive) changes to North Carolina’s election law, and we’ll want to know how these changes (which it now appears will remain in effect for the current election) affect turnout as we anticipate a possible Supreme Court hearing and decision.

We can better understand both the current Senate race and the new election legislation if we look at early and by-mail absentee voting in North Carolina. Not only does the state have an active “one-stop” (early) and by-mail voting electorate, the new legislation affects (among many other changes) early voting (by cutting a week off the early voting period and codifying early voting hours) and the ability for traditionally democratic voters (young and minority voters) to turnout (by, to name just two examples, eliminating same day voter registration and paid voter registration drives).

These facts about the NC election landscape mean that if we compare early and absentee voting numbers from the past to the 2014 numbers as they become available, we can anticipate in real-time whether Hagan should be worried about her chances of success, and whether the consequences of the new legislation are as restrictive as some suspect. Early voting in NC begins on October 23rd, and while absentee by-mail began on September 5th, there are still too few returned ballots to draw conclusions from the returns.

Over the next few days, I’ll point out a few trends that we should keep our eyes on. Unless otherwise noted, my data comes from the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ website. Continue reading

EVIC's 2014 Early Voting Calendar and Spreadsheet

EVIC’s 2014 Early Voting Calendar and Spreadsheet

If you follow EVIC you already know that early and absentee voting laws and policies are complex and vary widely across the fifty states. That’s why EVIC publishes an early and absentee voting calendar and spreadsheet for every general election.

This year, we’ve updated our products and hope the additional information encourages further dialogue about how these rules affect voters. So, make sure to try out all the new bells and whistles. Below, we explain what our information means and provide some basic context. If you’re worried that we misrepresent any state’s election law or policy, do not hesitate to let us know and post below.

Finally, EVIC wants to thank Jonathan Harvey and Tony Moreno, from Reed College CIS, who helped program and design the new calendar. I also want to thank Alex Arpaia, who helped gather the early and absentee voting data.

More information below the split.

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New Voter Information App

The Voting Information Project just released a new app that should make life easier for voters in all states. New technology already helps voters, poll workers, election administrators deal with the mayhem of elections, and it seems inevitable that the role of handheld devices will only increase in the coming years.

The app works only on Apple products now, but should be ready for Android devices by Election Day. Check out a post about the app from PEW’s news page here. If you happen to use the device, let us know in the comments how it works!

Early Voting Reforms Continue Apace in Florida

Early Voting Reforms Continue Apace in Florida


On May 21st, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida signed into law CS/HB 7103. The bill includes changes to absentee voting laws, to requirements for the quality of voting technology, to the word limits of constitutional amendments, and to many other areas of election administration that are both visible and invisible to the voting public.

At EVIC, we are following the changes made to early voting. Some view HB 7103 as a victory for early voting advocates and a defeat for Republicans (try this article, or this one, or this one), because HB 7103 is considered a redaction of HB 1355, a controversial piece of legislation that some argue caused over 200,000 to not vote in 2012 and created  6-9 hour lines for those who stuck around. Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith claim that Democratic, African American, Hispanic, young, and first-time voters were disproportionally impacted by the HB 1355. Other survey results don’t speak directly to the impact on minority groups, but do show that lines in Florida were longer than anywhere else in the country.

Will HB 7103 make things better?  Why did 13 Democrats in the Florida State Senate oppose the bill? The devil is in the details, and these details may derail the hopes of early voting advocates (here is a PDF of the HB 7103).

Let’s start with section 13 (pg. 24-26 of the PDF)–where we find the most significant changes to early voting:

“The supervisor [of elections] may also designate any city hall, permanent public library facility, fairground, civic center, courthouse, county commission building, stadium, convention center, government-owned senior center, or government-owned community center as early voting sites” (lines 681-686)

“a supervisor may designate one early voting site per election in an area of the county that does not have any of the eligible early voting locations” (689-691)

“Each county shall, at a minimum, operate the same total number of early voting sites for a general election which the county operated for the 2012 general election” (694-697)

“Early voting shall begin on the 10th day before an election that contains state or federal races and end on the 3rd day before the election, and shall be provided for no less than 8 hours and no more than 12 hours per day at each site during the applicable period” (700-704)

“In addition, early voting may be offered at the discretion of the supervisor of elections on the 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, or 2nd day before an election that contains state or federal races for at least 8 hours per day, but not more than 12 hours per day” (704-708)

The first provision means that there will may be greater use of satellite early voting locations, and as Bob Stein has shown, this would increase the use of early voting and voter turnout overall.  An increase in the minimum number of early voting hours per day could make it easier to vote early for some citizens.  Discretionary authority to offer early voting on additional days returns the state to the situation prior to HB1355.

However, discretionary authority is not mandated requirements.  Only time will tell if county supervisors will take advantage of the ability to offer early voting for more days and at more places.  The bill contains no additional funding for local officials, so how likely is it that counties will pay for early voting out of their own budgets?  It’s possible that early voting could be very accessible in wealthy counties and relatively inaccessible in poorer counties, creating the same kind of racial and ethnic disparities Herron and Smith point to in 2012.

Is this the only change to early voting in Florida?  There is one more provision that caught our eye.  From section 19 of 7103:

“The supervisor of elections shall upload into the county’s election management system by 7 p.m. on the day before the election the results of all early voting and absentee ballots that have been canvassed and tabulated by the end of the early voting period. Pursuant to ss. 101.5614(9), 101.657, and 101.68(2), the tabulation of votes cast or the results of such uploads may not be made public before the close of the polls on election day” (1100-1107)

If we are reading this correctly, this is a major change in Florida election law, and early in-person and absentee ballot returns are not going to be made available for public scrutiny until after the election.  If this is an accurate reading, vote mobilization efforts in Florida will be substantially harmed, since campaigns will no longer be able to track who has already returned their ballots.  It may be that we are misreading the intent of the term “tabulation” which refers to actual candidate totals and not information on voter turnout. We look forward to hearing that we have misinterpreted this provision.

CORRECTION: We are very pleased to learn that Section 19 of 7103 does not impact election reporting. A state election official from Florida has let us know that the provision instead requires supervisors of elections to internally upload early voting decisions prior to Election Day. Glad to hear about the correction!

NY Times Article: Absentee Voting and Its Discontents

A front-page piece in the NY Times by Adam Liptak focuses on one of the more serious consequences of the rise in absentee voting.

First, absentee votes are more likely to fall prey to innocuous mistakes that lead to rejections. The article notes that “election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting”.

Second, fraud is both theoretically easier to commit through absentee voting, and there have been more documented instances of absentee voting fraud in the last several years than in person voting fraud. Several of the most notable instances of absentee voting fraud are included in the article.

The article does not withhold the irony that those who focus on making voting more efficient and fraud less likely for in person voting may be missing the point.  The reality on the ground is that absentee voting is a growing phenomenon and is much more fertile ground for potential fraud and ballot mistakes

The article is a fine read. It touches for a moment upon the essential tension between the “elemental promises of democracy” that are questioned when voting can no longer be trusted, and the democratizing effects of a balloting system that makes voting available to so many more people. Since absentee voting appears to be a permanent fixture in US elections for the time being, this is a tension we need to continue dealing with

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