Upcoming primaries, and the percentage of votes cast early in 2008:

State Primary Date Early Voting Rate in 2008
Florida 1/31/2012 54%
Arizona 2/28/2012 53%
Michigan 2/28/2012 25%
Georgia 3/6/2012 53%
Ohio 3/6/2012 30%
Tennessee 3/6/2012 60%
Vermont 3/6/2012 29%
Illinois 3/20/2012 22%
Wisconsin 4/3/2012 21%
Texas 4/3/2012 66%

It is surprisingly difficult to predict the percentage of ballots that will come in early, via in-person voting or no-excuse absentee ballots, in the upcoming primaries.  Many states have only recently begun to report individual voting histories that include the mode of ballot return, and even if they do have that information, even fewer provide the date.

At least one well-known data aggregator – Catalist – doesn’t capture the date of the ballot return on its permanent database, although that information is collected in real-time during election season.

Florida is a nice example: it does a wonderful job reporting early voting data, including the exact date that the ballot was cast. Individual no-excusse absentee records, however, are only available to registered party committees and candidate organizations.

To make things even more complicated, we know that Republican voters have historically tended to use no-excuse absentee ballots at a much higher rate than Democratic voters.

With all these caveats, the table reports the percentage of ballots that were cast prior to election day in the 2008 general election for selected upcoming states. Any state reporting less than 20% advance voting has been excluded. If you are trying to project backwards, most states now mail their domestic no-excuse ballots 45 days before the date of the election, the same time they are required to mail UOCAVA ballots.

Citizens who have registered to vote absentee can start to vote “in person” absentee in Missouri.

There aren’t a lot of Missouri absentee ballots cast–they are an “excuse required” state according to NCSL and according to our figures, 6.2% voted absentee in 2010 and 11% voted absentee in 2008.  We have not collected data on absentee voting in the primary (and can’t find it on Missouri’s website).

Orlando Sentinel: Whatever happens in the next few weeks, 630,000 absentee ballots are already in the mail. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are on these ballots.

The 2010 Report and datasets have been released by the EAC.

Regardless of what happens to the Election Assistance Commission, I hope Congress continues to require and fund the Election Administration and Voting Survey (as well as the NVRA and UOCAVA surveys.

All three provide invaluable insights into the conduct of American elections voting, the most fundamental act of democracy and citizenship. Without the national perspective provided by these three data reporting instruments, it becomes much more difficult to impossible to monitor, evaluate, and improve the democratic process, whether it be making sure everyone who is eligible has a chance to register; that uniformed personnel and overseas citizens have sufficient time to vote; or that each American citizen, regardless of state, county, or township, has a full and equal right to vote.

The domestic absentee mailing deadline–for many states, not tied to the 45 day window mandated by the MOVE Act for UOCAVA ballots–is starting to impact the presidential race. I’ve argued in the past that states have probably made this change to save money and ease administration, but the domestic absentee ballots could be mailed much closer to the date of the election.

Today’s Richmond Times Dispatch story reports that the deadline for Gingrich to get on the VA ballot is January 21, so that the absentee and the precinct place ballots are identical.  

A recent paper by Marc Meredity and Neil Maholtra in the Election Law Journal (this article has been designated as free content) showed how changes in the list of candidates–mainly candidates who withdraw after absentee ballots are printed and early votes are cast–can substantially alter voter decision making.  I don’t think the authors have thought about the reverse, candidates who may not be on an absentee ballot but do make it onto the polling place ballot!


I came across two stories about UOCAVA voting in Florida–the state now allows citizens to log on to a secure server, download a ballot, fill it out, and return it by fax or regular mail.
I don’t have much more information about the “federal grant” referred to in this newscast (check out the image on 1:02–stock footage from 2008 showing a McCain poster!) while their print story headline refers to “absentee” voting, not UOCAVA voting.
A proposal in the Maryland state legislature would allow the use of full vote by mail voting for special elections.
Proponents note that the bill could serve as a “pilot” to test the effects of VBM on turnout and on costs, which is a great idea. But if the proponents think they will save money for elections which previously had turnouts from 7-11%, they might want to refer to a report by the DC Board which examined a very similar issue.

Ann Sanner of the AP is reporting that efforts to repeal changes to Ohio’s election laws, including shortening the early voting period, have failed to gather enough signatures. Opponents fell only 9578 signatures short out of 231,150 required.

We need to invent a catchy phrase in the elections community to describe overblown allegations of voter fraud. As Lorraine Minnite has documented, most charges of fraud don’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s important that Americans have faith in the security and integrity of the ballot, but it’s just as important that overblown charges of “fraud” be challenged.

Take the latest series of charges and counter charges regarding voting irregularities in Indiana. Rick Hasen noted the “latest salvo” from the state GOP chair.

I am careful to use the word “irregularities” and not “election fraud” because, regardless of the rhetoric, even a cursory examination of the list of charges only reveals one case that rises to any level of concern: allegations regarding absentee ballot fraud for a single UOCAVA ballot. (I’ve been searching fruitlessly for the reasons why there are 65 counts in the indictment; some stories refer to absentee ballot “applications” while other stories note a single ballot in question.)

Let’s review the other cases of the “culture of corruption.” The one getting the most press is “hundreds of signatures to get Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the primary ballot in 2008.” Let’s be clear what is being claimed–that without these signatures, Obama and Clinton, two of the main contenders for the presidency, would not have been on the ballot. I am not going to excuse illegal signature gathering (in my state of Oregon, we eliminated most of this by banning payment by the signature), but what kind of state runs what kind of party primary which would exclude Obama and Clinton from the ballot?

But voter fraud? No. No one falsified a ballot, changed a vote, hacked a machine, etc.

The third and fourth charges both refer to illegal transportation of ballots – political candidates or campaign staff delivering absentee ballots from citizens to a county office. Again, if illegal, it obviously should be stopped, but once again, “mishandling ballots” is not vote fraud.

Case number 5? A single woman in South Bend said an unknown person called her and tried to tell her she could now vote by phone and didn’t need to vote on election day. The woman wisely ignored the caller and …. voted on election day.

The local television station titled the story “Possible voter fraud in South Bend”. The state GOP says “calls were made” even though only a single allegation surfaced. Yet there was no voter fraud and no one’s right to vote was denied. For all we know, the call emanated from Crank Yankers!

The final charge concerns a voter registration drive conducted by ACORN. In order to meet quotas and to get paid, canvassers falsified names and signatures. Illegal: yes. Voter fraud: no.

Some common themes emerge in the Indiana stories. First, except for the first case, where the facts are still emerging, there is not a single case of actual voting fraud. Second, registration and ballot handling errors are all lumped under the tendentious label “vote fraud.” Third, reporters can sometimes be awfully lazy! And fourth, most of what was alleged in Indiana can be eliminated by banning payment by the signature or by the registration card–something we banned in Oregon a number of years ago.