I have been slashing away at the North Carolina absentee ballot file tonight, just to show the students what kind of ballot tracking goes in under the early voting regime.
One thing I stress at this point: there is not a lot to be learned. I know reporters love to see these early numbers as indicators of something about the campaign, but we are talking about only 134,00o total ballot requests, and as you can see by the figure, only about a quarter have been returned.
The total expected turnout in North Carolina is well over four million.
In short, this ain’t a lot of ballots. The pictures are pretty, but there is not a lot you can conclude.
P.S. To my Political Science 311 students: you’ll be generating these graphs after break!
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
Nice story by Jeff Zeleny. Sorry I missed his phone call! I love Michael McDonald, but “studies early voting.” Um….
- Reuters reports on the continuing legal battles over early voting, even as citizens begin to cast their ballots. Amid court challenges, early voting begins in U.S. election [Gronke comments: Along with Hasen and Persily, though speaking only for myself, both parties are fighting hard but this is unlikely to make much of a difference.]
- Ohio officials have mailed out no-excuse absentee ballots statewide and are urging citizens to return them on a timely basis. Cuyahoga County officials encourage early voting to avoid long lines on Election Day [Gronke comments: a natural experiment in action!]
- Kentucky SoS Alison Grimes endorses a bill that will allow overseas citizens and members of the military to return absentee ballots by email. Grimes proposes letting overseas troops vote by email [Gronke comments: if voting by email is quicker and more secure for the troops, why not allow this for everyone?]