Friday, October 3, 2014

"Reversal of Fortune" in NC's Mail-In Ballot Numbers?

As we're getting close to putting another week of early mail-in absentee balloting in North Carolina into the record book, there's a movie title that comes to mind that was raised by a long-time observer of the Old North State's politics: 'Reversal of Fortune.'

Through yesterday (Thursday, Oct. 2), the number of requested mail-in ballots stood at 22,674, an increase of nine percent over the previous day's total.

Among those ballots requested and sent out through October 2nd, the percentages have tracked consistently: 41% going to registered Democrats, 35% to registered Republicans, and 24% to registered unaffiliated voters.  If you consider that the eligible pool of all registered voters in North Carolina is 42% registered Democrats, 30% registered Republicans, and 27% registered unaffiliated, Democrats are close to their average, Republicans are overperforming their numbers, and unaffiliated voters are slightly underperforming.

Requests by female voters are still at 56% of the requested ballots, with white voters at 83% and black votes at 12%.

Among those voters who have returned their ballots and have had them accepted, 4,237 are banked votes at this point, for a return rate of 19% from the requested number of ballots.

Registered Democrats are continuing their trends of being the plurality of votes coming in, with 44% of the accepted ballots coming from Democrats to 35% from registered Republicans and unaffiliated votes are at 21%.  This is a 'reversal' from 2010's numbers, where registered Republicans (at this point out from Election Day) were 44% of returned ballots and Democrats were 37% of returned ballots; unaffiliated voters were 18%.

Women are 53% of the returned and accepted ballots, with whites at 83% and black voters at 14%.

This performance by registered Democrats certainly can't be translated into 'assured votes' for their party's candidates, especially at the U.S. Senate level, but it does give Democrats, as Cameron Joseph of The Hill wrote about this morning, hope that NC's race can be a positive in what has become a toss-up election cycle for control of the upper chamber.

Finally, the next update will come Monday when we get today's numbers from over the weekend. Hope all have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

33 Days To Go

The numbers regarding North Carolina's mail-in absentee balloting continue to tick up, with requesting adding another 8% to Tuesday's totals, bringing the requested number of ballots so far to over 20,000.  Out of these 20,000 plus ballots, 3,870 have been returned and accepted (19% return rate so far).

Yesterday's sent out ballots still show a cumulative healthy lead for registered Democratic voters (at 41%) to registered GOP voters (at 35%) and unaffiliated voters at 24%.  Women are at 55%, which raises an interesting point that I'll get to later.  White voters are 83% while black voters are 12%.

In terms of returned and accepted ballots: 

Of the 3,870 returned and accepted ballots so far, 44% are from registered Democrats, 35% from registered Republicans, and 20% from registered unaffiliated voters.

While women voters are 55% of the requested ballots, they are currently 53% of the returned and accepted ballots.  An article in today's Washington Post notes the "war for the female vote" and Greg Sargent notes that Democratic strategists are using the 53% threshold of females within the electorate, and if those females support Democratic candidates, then Democratic senatorial candidates may see "their chances of winning improve." By both the requested and returned/accepted ballots so far, in North Carolina at least, it appears the first part of this campaign strategy is working in the Tar Heel state for Democrats. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The More We Add, the More It Stays the Same

It appears that the more requested and returned/accepted ballots we add to the pile of votes for North Carolina's general election in November, the more the trend stays the same.

As of today's data file by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, 19,274 ballots have been requested for the general election, an increase of 6 percent over yesterday's totals.

Registered Democrats continue their lead of requested ballots, at 41% to registered GOP voters at 36%, with registered unaffiliated voters at 24%. In terms of percentage increases from yesterday, registered Republicans are cutting into the Democrat's lead, with an increase of 7% for GOP requests compared to an increase of 5% for Democrats; unaffiliated requests increased 6%.

Female voters are 55% of the requested ballots, with white voters at 83% and black voters at 12%.

Of the 3,490 ballots that have been returned and accepted as votes (18% of the requested number), 45% of them are from registered Democrats, 35% from registered Republicans, and 20% from registered unaffiliated voters.

Women are 53% of the returned and accepted ballots, while white voters are 81% and black voters are 14% of the accepted ballots.

While we have to be careful of 'assuming' these are locked in votes for either party, it has generally been accepted assumptions that self-identified Republicans will vote 92-95% of the time for their party's candidates, while (nationally, at least) self-identified Democrats will vote at the same margin for their candidates. It is important to note, however, that among older registered Democrats in the Old North State, they belong to a special class of voters: while they may still be registered Democrats, many of them who live in the rural parts of the state are really Republican voters (a legacy of the old-time conservative Southern Democrat strain who realigned themselves to voting Republican).  The average age of the returned and accepted ballots so far is 64 years old.

Still, as I've indicated before, mail-in balloting has traditionally been a Republican-favored voting method, so with all of the above said, it should be cautiously optimistic that Democrats have the advantage so far.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Entering 5 Weeks Out to NC's General Election

As we enter five weeks out from the general election in North Carolina, I've assembled the usual data regarding the mail-in ballots (both those sent out/requested and those that have been returned & accepted), and have added another clarified chart to track those ballots sent out in 2010 to compare against this year's sent out absentee ballots.

First, the sent out/requested ballots: the trend for requested ballots continues to show registered Democratic strength when it comes to these traditional Republican-favored voting method.

Of the 18,186 ballots sent out so far, 41 percent are to registered Democratic voters, 35 percent to registered Republican voters, and 24 percent to registered unaffiliated voters.  Women are 55 percent of the sent ballots, while white voters are 83 percent and black voters are 12 percent.

In comparing these sent ballots to 2010's mid-term election, there is an unique exception that has to be taken into account. According to legendary NC General Assembly guru Gerry Cohen, 2010 mail-in ballots were automatically sent to military and overseas voters who had voted in 2008.  Between 2010 and 2014, there was a change in federal law that not longer required automatic mail-out of ballots to these folks.  Thus, the 2010 numbers would be inflated compared to the 2014 numbers, unless you delineate the 'civilian' only numbers as a basis of comparison, which I do in the following graphic.

I also give the remainder of this week's comparable 2010 numbers (36-32 days out from the election) to give some idea of what was seen in 2010 for this coming week.  As noted, registered Republicans have basically hit where they were this time in 2010 (88 votes ahead of 2010's date); but for Democrats, they are substantially ahead of where they were this time four years ago (2,759 votes), along with unaffiliated voters as well (1,448 votes ahead).

In terms of returned and accepted mail-in ballots (thus, actual votes), we won't know the vote totals so far, but we do know who sent them in:

Among the 3,146 ballots (17% of the requested ballots have been returned):

  • 45 percent are from registered Democrats
  • 35 percent are from registered Republicans
  • 20 percent are from registered unaffiliated voters
  • 53 percent from women
  • 46 percent from men
  • 81 percent from white voters
  • 14 percent from black voters
  • 5 percent from 'other' racial-category voters
In comparing the returned & accepted ballots from this year against the 2010 comparable numbers (again, based on the days out from Election Day):

All categories of registered voters are substantially ahead of their 2010 numbers, but again, it is the Democratic registered voters who are substantially ahead of their own 2010 numbers and ahead of Republican-registered voters, who were leading at this point in 2010.  

It's been now a week now, and the trends continue in mail-in ballots that we have been seeing, which leads me to start to be more convinced that the Democratic ground-game has seen a substantial amount of energy and enthusiasm, whether done through operations like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's focus to organize on the ground or through the sheer enthusiasm by average Democratic voters.  

As of this date, with five weeks to go to the big day, this trend is too noticeable not to be taken seriously by all campaigns.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

North Carolina Going Purple?

Had the good fortunate to be on WFAE's Charlotte Talks talking about the rise of independent/unaffiliated voters in North Carolina. You can listen to the show here and here's the answer to Michael Tomsic's question about the role of unaffiliated registered voters participating in this past May's primary election: 18% if you take both primaries together, 22% in GOP primary, 12% in Democratic primary.

Also, here's a blog post on unaffiliated voters in NC that I wrote up for the show. For some reason, chart 3 isn't loading properly, so here it is as well:

36 Days and Counting to NC's General Election

We're now down to 36 days and counting to the general election in North Carolina, and the continued trend of registered Democrats requesting and returning their mail-in absentee ballots holds.

Of the 16,849 requested ballots sent out:

  • registered Democrats are 41%
  • registered Republicans are 35%
  • registered unaffiliated voters are 23%
  • female voters are 55%
  • white voters are 83%
  • black voters are 12%
In comparison to the 2010 election cycle, and using the days 43-39 out from Election Day for both years, we see a drop-off in comparing this year's to 2010, but Democrats should be pleased with their advantage over Republicans at this point in requested ballots:

From these 16,849 ballots requested so far this year, 2,653 ballots (16% of requested) have been returned and accepted as votes for the general election.

Of these returned and accepted ballots:

  • registered Democrats are 46%
  • registered Republicans are 34%
  • registered Unaffiliated are 20%
  • women are 53%, men are 46%
  • white voters are 80%
  • black voters are 15%
In comparing this year's cumulative returned and accepted mail-in ballots by party registration to the same days prior to the 2010 general election, the trends over the past few days have continued.

From the 40th day to the 39th day, registered Democrats increased their total 10%, while registered unaffiliated voters increased 9% and registered Republicans increased their total 6% (note: days 38 and 37 are Saturday and Sunday) (addendum: Days 38 and 37 are Saturday and Sunday, with no processing done until we get closer to Election Day, thus the flat lines on 38 & 37)

One question that has arisen in looking at these numbers has been, are these voters who voted via mail-in ballots in 2010 or did these North Carolinians use other voting methods to cast their ballots in 2010?  

By matching up the voters' records of how they cast ballots in 2010 to this year's mail-in ballots, we see a significant majority of early voters so far did not use mail-in, but either in-person (absentee or on Election Day).  It will be interesting to continue to watch this aspect of the data.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interesting comparisons between voting methods in 2010 and 2014

In looking deeper into the mail-in ballots requests so far this year, one of the questions that has been surrounding this data is, "how did the voters, who are requesting mail-in ballots this year, cast their ballots in 2010's election?"  With the new voting laws (currently under legal challenge) having shortened the in-person absentee voting (in terms of days, but not hours), would the likelihood be that some voters who used in-person absentee voting or even waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots utilize mail-in absentee balloting this year?

Among the 16,849 requested ballots so far this year, I was able to merge that data with the 2010 voter history data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections and connect this year's voters' records with their 2010 voting records.

From these data, we're seeing a shift by voters to utilizing mail-in absentee balloting: four years ago, 60 percent of this year's voters (who are voting by mail) were either in-person absentee voters, in-person on Election Day, or some other method of casting their ballots.

For each of the registered party affiliation, here are the breakdowns:

For registered Democrats:

For registered Republicans:

For registered unaffiliated voters:

One other interesting trend: I compared the voters' registration to a party in 2010 to what their party registration is in 2014.

While registered Democrats saw 86 voters change their registration from being Democrat in 2010 to something else in 2014 (30 switched to GOP and 56 to unaffiliated) and registered Republicans saw 216 change from being GOP in 2010 to something else in 2014 (145 switched to Democratic registration and 71 to unaffiliated), it was unaffiliated voters who saw the biggest number of 'defections' from their ranks: 341, with 197 going to register Democratic and 144 to registered Republican.