We’re delighted to announce that EVIC Director Paul Gronke is taking over from Dan Lowenstein and Rick Hasen as co-editor at the Election Law Journal. He will sharing these duties with Daniel Tokaji, Professor of Law at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

The full announcement, also found in the next issue of the Journal, is attached.

This month’s Canvass on election counts, including quotes from yours truly! 

A story in today’s Arizona Daily Star was brought to my attention today by some colleagues.  The money quote is here:

Of the 1.7 million ballots cast, nearly 300,000 were early ballots that weren’t early after all, but folks dropping them off in unprecedented numbers at their polling places, which then triggered a new round of verification to make sure the ballots were authentic. There were another 84,000 provisional ballots that had some problems with registration or identification.

These strike me as really big numbers: 17% of ALL ballots in AZ were no-excuse ballots that dropped off at a precinct place on election day?

More than half of Arizonans cast early ballots, so this translates into at least 35% of no-excuse ballots dropped off at a precinct place on election day, a number that is a low estimate since it divides the no-excuse ballots by ALL early votes, including early in person (the SoS website does not discriminate between the two modes).

These would be shockingly high figures, if they were right. In comparison, Los Angeles County reported to me that 14.9% of all no-excuse absentee ballots cast in 2008 were dropped off at a precinct place on election day, and those ballots constituted 3.6% of the total ballots cast. As I have reported in the past, 15%-30% of ballots in Oregon are hand-delivered (or arrive through the mail) at county offices or a library drop box on election day, but these are not local precinct polling places.

A bit of detective work has revealed that the story cannot possibly be accurate, unless there has been a massive population shift in Arizona and Maricopa no longer constitutes more than half the state.

According to Maricopa, they sent out 866,440 no-excuse ballots and the return rate was 77% (approximately 667,000 returned). Of the 665,065, 117129 were returned to a polling place on election day, or 17.6%, a figure similar to what Los Angeles County experiences.

That leaves less than 400,000 additional early votes cast in the state, according to the SoS office.  It just doesn’t seem realistic that over half of those were no-excuse ballots returned on election day.

Why does this matter? It does for two reasons.

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This story in the Corvallis Gazette Times caught my eye.  State Sen. Frank Morse wants to ban third party delivery of ballots. 

This time in Ashland, OR:

 http://blog.oregonlive.com/mapesonpolitics/2010/11/late_surge_of_ashland_votes_tu.html

The lesson?  Never count your votes until the votes are counted.  And “early” early voters are very likely to be very different from “late” early voters.

We knew it would not take long for a candidate to claim a final surge missed by early voters.

Florida 2008 PPP, Early In-PersonFlorida 2010 General, Early In-Person Votes

Comparisons between rates of early voting in different election cycles are fraught with peril – in general, it’s important to compare this year to past midterm elections. That said, looking at the 2010 and 2008 numbers in Florida reveals a pretty impressive showing for Republicans.

Democratic voters are far below their 2008 turnout rate, which is precisely what we’d expect for a midterm election. The Republican rate, however, is not far off that of the 2008 presidential election!

These are just early in-person data*, but this makes the strong Republican turnout even more remarkable: Typically, Democrats take advantage of early in-person voting at much higher rates.

*Absentee-by-mail returns, which account for around 50% of Florida’s early voting, are restricted to political parties.

Michael McDonald has published his pre-election forecast of early vote at 28% of the total vote.

This strikes me as far too low; early voting constituted 15% in 2000, 20% in 2002, 22% in 2004, 25% in 2006, and 33% in 2008. It strikes me as very unlikely that the percent of ballots cast early would decline so substantially from 2008, even with the noted enthusiasm gap among Democrats.

I’ll similarly stick out my neck and project the percent of early ballots at 33%, the same as in 2008.

I think I see where Michael is getting his estimate – he shows approximately 18 million early ballots thus far (although there are some noticeable gaps in state reporting, and we don’t have the hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots in CA that will be dropped off today), and is comparing that to his overall turnout estimate of 40 million.

Michael and I differ on two points.  First, he still reports on his webpage the early voting totals in 2008 as 30%, relying on the CPS. I think the much more reliable AP numbers peg the percent of early vote as 32.6%  Second, I think he is projecting a decline in percent voting early, as witnessed from 2004 to 2006.  I suspect to see less of a drop, as a few more states adopted relaxed early voting laws, and as many more Americans got used to voting early in 2008.

Unfortunately, Michael and I were never able to settle this bet in 2008 because of the lack of reliable data on early votes. Hopefully, he can buy my that bottle of whiskey in 2010!   

The turnout numbers for Oregon, with four more days to go, are in, and it looks like Republican and Unaffiliated voters are returning their ballots at a higher clip than Democrats.

The two graphics below compare the turnout in 2006, with a line demarcating the Friday before Election Day, with the ballots processed thus far in 2010. Democrats are running 4,000 above 2006, small enough to be accounted for by population changes. 22,000 more GOP ballots have been returned than at this same point in 2006, and nearly 14,000 more Unaffiliated ballots have come back. The result is a partisan return advantage of only 18% in 2010, compared to a 25% gap at this same point in 2006. I’ve been hearing talk of major GOTV efforts occurring this weekend in many Democratically leaning areas of the state, and this explains why.

I have been communicating with friends and colleagues in Washington about how quickly ballots arrive and are counted in the state.   The figures are fascinating, and if it is true that the Washington race may end up being crucial in determining control of the Senate, then the national media has better be prepared to wait for results.

Past history has been that 10% of WA voters return their vote by mail ballots immediately upon receipt. 30-40% of the ballots are returned by the Friday before the election (as of today, 38% of the ballots have been processed), and by Monday, approximately 50% of ballots will have been cast.

The remaining 50% come in Tuesday through Friday. And because Washington is a big military state, UOCAVA ballots arrive for weeks.

The 8pm returns from Washington will be meaningless.  Firm conclusions about the Washington Senate race will not be possible until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.  And it’s quite possible that we’ll have to wait the full 21 days until Washington certifies its results.

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