Another college voting controversy

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?

"Un-spinning" the early vote: No, this campaign is not that different; No, early voters don't regret their vote; No, most voters are not undecided. “Un-spinning” the early vote: No, this campaign is not that different; No, early voters don’t regret their vote; No, most voters are not undecided.

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.

The best estimate we have of the total numbers of ballots cast at this point is 6.5 million. This is take from McDonald’s daily update on twitter. screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-4-35-32-pm

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.

The impossibility of rigging a US election: WaPo story

Great Washington Post story by Sari Horowitz on the near impossibility of rigging an election.

Debunking the “Vote Rigging” Claims: Very Important Posting by Rick Hasen

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.

A Silver Lining from Trump Vote Rigging Claim: Republicans Repudiating Voter Fraud Myth
Posted on October 18, 2016 9:06 am by Rick Hasen
Here’s Jennifer Rubin in today’s WaPo:

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.

And then there’s the path of Mike RomanHans von Spakovsky, Kris Kobach, and others. That is the road that should not be taken.

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.

Posted in campaignsfraudulent fraud squadThe Voting Wars

“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.

Posted in chicaneryfraudulent fraud squadThe Voting Wars

 “Donald Trump says the election is ‘rigged.’ Here’s what his supporters think that means.
Posted on October 18, 2016 9:00 am by Rick Hasen

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.

Posted in campaignschicaneryfraudulent fraud squad 

“Election officials brace for fallout from Trump’s claims of a ‘rigged’ vote”
Posted on October 18, 2016 8:58 am by Rick Hasen

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.

Posted in campaignschicaneryfraudulent fraud squadThe Voting Wars

“Election Law Expert: Rigged Election ‘Extraordinarily Unlikely”
Posted on October 18, 2016 8:56 am by Rick Hasen
Ned Foley on NPR.

Posted in election administrationThe Voting Wars 

“McConnell, denounce Trump’s ‘rigged election’ comments”
Posted on October 18, 2016 8:53 am by Rick Hasen
Josh Douglas for CNN.

Posted in campaignschicanery 

“Trump’s Claims of ‘Rigged’ Election Could Hurt His Own Campaign, Research Shows”
Posted on October 18, 2016 8:52 am by Rick Hasen
Byron Tau for the WSJ:

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

  “Trump poses an unprecedented threat to the peaceful transition of power”
Posted on October 18, 2016 8:39 am by Rick Hasen
WaPo editorial:

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.

Posted in campaignschicanery

 “Shameful Silence on Donald Trump’s Lies About Vote-Rigging”
Posted on October 18, 2016 8:36 am by Rick Hasen
NYT editorial:

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.

Posted in campaignschicanery

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 chicaneryelection administrationfraudulent fraud squadThe 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
WaPo reports.
Posted in campaignschicaneryfraudulent fraud squadThe Voting Wars 

“Donald Trump’s ‘Rigged Election’ Claims Raise Historical Alarms”
Posted on October 17, 2016 4:27 pm by Rick Hasen
Zack Roth for NBC News.
Posted in chicaneryfraudulent fraud squadThe 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.

It concludes:

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 election administrationThe Voting Wars 

“Donald Trump’s Pants on Fire claim of ‘large scale voter fraud’”
Posted on October 17, 2016 3:11 pm by Rick Hasen
Politifact reports.

Posted in Uncategorized  

“‘No justification for concern about widespread voter fraud,’ Jon Husted says”
Posted on October 17, 2016 2:54 pm by Rick Hasen
The Columbus Dispatch reports.
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 campaignschicaneryfraudulent 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:

Donald J. Trump

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!

5:33 AM – 17 Oct 2016  



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)

If you’re worried about rigged elections, look at Trump’s tactics first

Posted in chicaneryfraudulent fraud squadThe Voting Wars

Florida election oddity: if you forget to sign your absentee ballot, you have a chance to fix. If the signature does not match, you do not

This lawsuit just filed in Florida.  Apparently, under Florida law (or current interpretation), if you fail to sign an absentee ballot, a postcard (? not clear in the Politico story) citizens have a chance to “cure” the error by coming in, providing proof of identity, and signing an affidavit.

But if your signature doesn’t match, either because it has changed (the focus of the lawsuit) but also presumably if the outside envelope has water damage, your pen leaks, any of a variety of problems, you have no similar chance.

What a strange law.  I don’t know the details in every state, but certainly in Oregon and Washington, if there is a problem with your signature (or your vote by mail ballot comes back undeliverable), a postcard is immediately generated and sent to you, and you have until 14 days after Election Day (in Oregon) to correct the error.

Florida already has a system in place to “cure” one set of ballots. What possible policy rationale is there for denying this to the relatively small number of ballots where signatures don’t match?


2016 Early Voting Calendar is up and running

Yes, late, yes, spreadsheet not yet in public release, yes, I get it.  This is a fast and furious election!

EVIC’s 2016 Early Voting Calendar is up and running.  As with past year’s, the calendar provides easy visual displays of balloting periods for all early votes (no-excuse absentee and early in-person) as well as visualizations for each mode of balloting.

We partnered with this year to coordinate some of our data collection, but we are responsible for everything published on the site.  Our focus is more on the time period for early voting, and less on the mechanisms by which an individual citizen requests and receives an early ballot.  Head on over to for that information.

One unique element in our calendar is that we have attempted to collect information on when no-excuse ballots are actually mailed.  In some cases, that’s required us to contact elections offices directly, and sometimes the answer has been “as soon as they are printed.”  We try to represent that timeline as best as possible.

I’m sure there are some miscodes and glitches still in the spreadsheet.  We’ll fix these as rapidly as we hear about them.

30 million plus absentee ballots are out .. and election “day” has begun

The 2016 election “day” has begun!

It is 46 days before Tuesday, November 8th and 25 million or more absentee ballots are in the mail for delivery to voters.

Why today?  The Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act, passed in 2010, mandated a 45 day transit time for overseas ballots.

In response, most states have also moved the time when they send domestic absentee ballots to correspond to the 45 day timeline.  The (unintended) consequence is that 30 million or more ballots hit the mails, on their way to voters, today and tomorrow.

The race is on!

In the 2012 election, data collected by the Election Assistance Commission showed that over 33 million domestic absentee ballots were transmitted and over 27 million were eventually returned and submitted for counting. (Due to incomplete reporting by states to the EAC’s Election Administration and Voting Survey, these are both underestimates.)

Some battleground totals from 2012:

State Ballots Trasmitted Ballots Returned
Arizona 1.9 million 1.5 million
Florida 2.8 million 2.3 million
Georgia 1.9 million 1.9 million
Iowa 739,000 684,000
Michigan 1.3 million 1.25 million
Ohio 1.3 million 1.25 million

To be clear, not all states mail their absentee ballots this week.  (I wish I could provide a precise list, but it’s quite difficult to obtain–many states respond to the question “when they are ready” or “it’s up to the counties.)


Voting problems, reporters, and the dog that didn’t bark

With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog election breakdowns and complaints  in the night-time our state or locality.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time election ran well.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident real story.”[2]

A great new initiative was just announced by ProPublica (hat tip to Rick Hasen). ElectionLand is described  as a national reporting initiative that will cover voting problems during the 2016 election.

Participants include Google News Lab, WNYC, UniVision, and a number of other national and regional news networks.  Reporters and organizations that sign up will receive:

  • Real-time alerts about problems happening at polling locations in your coverage area, including long lines, machine breakdowns, an uptick in provisional balloting, ballot confusion, fraudulent voting and more.
  • Inclusion and promotion of your election stories on social media and the Electionland liveblog.
  • Customizable alerts for real-time data about the candidates and races you care about, drawing on federal campaign finance data, congressional voting data, trending searches, and more.
  • Reporting recipes, tip sheets, and community calls.

This all sounds great but…  the focus here is all on voting problems.  Voting problems make for good copy. But do voting problems in some areas reflect on the typical voting experience?  Does the existence of problems in some areas mean that the system as a whole is functioning poorly?

The answer generally is “no.”   Lorraine Minnite demonstrated this six years ago in a book that should be required reading for any journalist who participates in ElectionLand.  Charles Stewart, Michael Sances, and I recently showed that charges of a “rigged” election erode American confidence in our election system even though the charges bear little resemblance to the realities of American election administration.

I hope that ElectionLand participants don’t take the easy route, focusing on stories about election breakdowns, snafus, and possibly even outright fraud–with over 10,000 jurisdictions and 150 million voters, there are surely going to be some problems–while ignoring an elections system that generally functions well.

The problems are problems, and they need to be fixed.  But let’s not reinforce the all too common belief that our system is permeated with fraud, beset by problems, and easily manipulated.  Unfortunately, that kind of story is seldom clickbait.


Why best practices are so important for absentee ballots: Austrian edition Why best practices are so important for absentee ballots: Austrian edition
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 11.54.47 AM

BPC Report on Voting by Mail

Those of you who follow my twitter feed or this blog have seen me engage in friendly debates with Doug Chapin and Tammy Patrick over best practices for absentee ballots and voting by mail.  It is always in a spirit of helping to figure out the best way to handle the growing number of absentee ballots in the United States and avoid election meltdowns.

This came to mind today as I read about the unprecedented decision by the Austrian highest court to order a new run-off election, apparently because of “irregularities” in how local election officials handled absentee ballots. According to testimony, absentee ballots were processed (which generally means signatures checked, ballots separated from secrecy envelopes, and ballots scanned or otherwise counted) on election day, and without proper monitors, rather than starting at 9 am the next morning, as required by law.

There was no evidence of purposeful manipulation and no indication that the irregularities changed the outcome.  Scientific analysis shows no evidence of election fraud.  Yet what the Court described as “sloppy management” led the jurists to overturn a national election at political moment where the European integration project is at risk.

Tammy, Doug, and I may have our friendly disagreements about some aspects of the vote by mail process, but we all agree that absentee ballots are subject to some unique risks because they leave the hands of government officials.  Slow counts because of archaic absentee ballot counting rules can needlessly create a space for conspiracy theories.  (I could be wrong, but I know of no American states at this point that don’t allow officials to start to at least begin to process the absentee ballots on or before Election Day, subject to appropriate scrutiny of course.)

I’m heartened to see a newly released Bipartisan Policy Center report, The New Realities of Voting By Mail in 2016.  It contains many excellent recommendations for voters, election officials, the USPS, and state legislators.  Many of these same recommendations could improve election integrity in other countries, where, according to the ACE Network, more than 20% of ballots are cast by mail (with totals much higher in many nations).