As the campaign turns to Florida, absentee and early in person voting will be the lede for the next few days.
As those of you who follow this area know, tracking early ballots in Florida is a frustrating exercise (both Michael McDonald and I have written about this in the past).
The state makes freely available at the state website detailed early in person returns including individual vote reports. This is what allowed us to post turnout rates by race, age, etc in previous elections.
No-excuse returns, however, remain restricted to campaigns and candidates, and there is no good reason why. In the past, I’ve been told that this is because of concerns over election day crime – after all, if you knew the address of someone who’d voted absentee, you could rob them on election day. Wait, I respond, you now have no-excuse absentee voting…
All my posts recently about no-excuse absentee ballots in Florida have relied in news reports and analysis of the Miami-Dade returns. Miami-Dade, Orange, and Pinellas all make their data easily accessible. Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, and Duval lag behind.
|Early in-person||File Location||Current turnout|
|Miami-Dade||Miami Dade Elections Main Page||47,108|
|Broward||Can’t find it||–|
|Palm Beach||Can’t find it||–|
|Hillsborough||Can’t find it||–|
|Orange||Orange County elections||9,251|
|Pinellas||Current elections page||41,230|
|Duval||Can’t find it||–|
I recognize the time pressures operating on local elections officials and I’m not trying to make more work for them. The frustrating thing is that the data are readily accessible at the state elections website, you just can’t get in to see them. And the local counties generate daily reports, some simply don’t post them.
Why does this matter? It matters to anyone who is trying to follow the election, report on the election, and mobilize citizens to participate in the election. For example, what does it mean when 41,230 absentee ballots have been returned in Pinellas and 47,108 in Miami-Dade, which is 2.5 times larger? (By the way, there are 220,024 registered Republicans in Pinellas and 367,298 in Miami-Dade, so it’s not all a difference of partisanship.)
Keeping this gate closed only benefits well-funded parties and candidates, and there isn’t any clear legal justification for embargoing the the information.
On the positive side, the names of the files follow regular patterns, so someone with more staff and programming skills than me could unpack these files (mainly PDFs) on a daily basis and track the returns.