Saturday, October 29, 2016

NC Absentee Ballots Reach 1.5M as of 10-29-16

With the second full day of expanded early voting locations and hours in North Carolina, voters are obviously very interested in doing two things: voting and thus being done with this election. North Carolina's overall absentee ballots continues to run ahead of where the state was four years ago, with interesting differences within the voting method and party registration. 

All Absentee Ballots:

Through Friday, October 28th, which is the eight full day of absentee in-person voting (along with absentee mail-in voting), the cumulative total absentee ballots for North Carolina stands at 1,561,390; this includes all requested mail-in ballots and in-person ballots (see here for a brief explanation of my analysis process). 

This 1.5 million of requested absentee ballots represents an increase of 5.4 percent over the same day cumulative totals of all absentee ballots in 2012:

Of the 1.5 million absentee ballots, registered Democrats are 43 percent, registered Republicans are 31 percent, registered unaffiliated voters are 25 percent, and registered Libertarians are less than one percent. By voting method, the party registration breakdowns show advantages to the two major parties in different voting methods:

In looking at this 1.5 million by party registration and comparing it to 2012's same day totals by party:

In comparison to each party's total ballots in 2012 to this date, registered Democrats are 4.8 percent behind their same day totals, registered Republicans are 2.2 percent ahead, and registered unaffiliated voters are 35.5 percent ahead of their same-day totals from four years ago.

In looking at all absentee ballots by gender, women continue to be 56 percent of the ballots, with 48 percent of female voters registered Democrats, 29 percent registered Republicans, and 23 percent registered unaffiliated.

Among male voters, 38 percent are registered Democrats, 34 percent registered Republicans, and 27 percent registered unaffiliated.

In looking at all absentee voters so far by their racial classification and the voting method (mail-in versus in-person):

Of both methods of voting, whites are 72 percent, while blacks are 22 percent. In comparison to 2012's daily cumulative percentages by race, whites are over-performing (the green solid line over the green dotted line) while black voters are under-performing from four years ago (the orange solid line versus the orange dotted line).

The over-performance by white voters lead to me to do an interesting analysis last weekend to see the trends of white voters by their party registration. The next chart is the updated version of the past week of voting:

Compared to four years ago, white Republicans are performing at a lower percentage than they did four years ago, while white Democrats, having a slight over-performance for the past week, has leveled off to their 2012 pattern and white unaffiliated voters are continuing a strong pattern of over-performance. 

Accepted Ballots:

Of these 1.5 million ballots, the first pass is to determine which of these mail-in and in-person absentee ballots have been reviewed and "accepted" by the boards of elections as votes for the November 8 general election. Among the two voting methods (mail-in and in-person):

Among this 1.5 million ballots, the returned and accepted absentee ballots total 1,454,186 of both mail-in and in-person voting methods:

With the party registration among the two methods of absentee voting again showing partisan differences:

Accepted Absentee In-Person Ballots:

In comparison to the same day cumulative totals for all in-person accepted absentee ballots, this year's in-person absentee ballots are running eight percent ahead of where they were in 2012.

In terms of party registration of accepted in-person absentee ballots compared to four years ago:

Registered Democrats are five percent behind their 2012 same day totals, registered Republicans are 12 percent ahead of their same day totals, and registered unaffiliated voters are beating both partisans in performance, at 39 percent ahead of their 2012 same day totals.

Isolating this last week plus of in-person absentee ballots:

And then the party percentages of each day (days 9-17) and comparing 2012's to 2016's:

Next, in looking at race within party registration of the absentee accepted in-person ballots:

and comparing the 2012 daily percentages by race:

If black voters are going to turn out, then historically this week will be the key weekend to test whether they do in comparison to 2012's daily percentages. 

Next, if this year's accepted in-person absentee voters were registered in 2012, what method did they vote by?

Next, a common set of analyses I do based on region (urban, suburban, and rural county voters), native vs. those born outside of North Carolina, and generation cohorts, all by party registration:

Absentee by Mail-In Ballots:

The second method of voting absentee in North Carolina is by mail. The cumulative total accepted absentee mail-in ballots for this year is running behind 2012's same day totals; this year's total is only 83 percent of where the totals stood four years ago:

As noted above, the party registration break-down is 41 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic, and 26 percent unaffiliated.

Registered Republicans, however, are significantly behind their 2012 same-day totals in this voting method:

Registered Republicans are only 64 percent of where they were four years ago on this same day (down nearly 23,000 accepted absentee mail-in ballots), while registered Democrats are 98 percent of where they were four years ago and registered unaffiliated voters are 111 percent of where they were in 2012 on the same day. 

The outstanding ballots broken down by party registration is:

Some New Analyses:

Finally, I was interested in two areas of analysis: first, the 'propensity' of this year's absentee ballot voters and if they participated in past elections, and second, the rise of the unaffiliated voter in this early voting. 

First, I took the voting records and matched the current absentee voter pool against whether they had voted in the past four general elections (2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014), and then broke it down by party registration:

Of this year's absentee ballot voters (all at this point and both mail-in & in-person), 46 percent of the voters had participated in the past four elections by casting ballots. In isolating just those voters who have voted in-person so far:

Nearly half (49 percent) of all voters who have cast accepted absentee in-person ballots so far participated in the past four general elections. I then ran the same analysis but for only the past two presidential elections (2008 and 2012):

Finally, I was interested in the rise of the unaffiliated voter and if they had participated in the state's March 2016 presidential primary election in one of the two party primaries (in North Carolina, unaffiliated voters can select which party they wish to vote in during a primary election).

Out of 391K unaffiliated voters who have cast any type of absentee ballot so far, 50 percent of them cast ballots in the March 2016 primary election: of those 55 percent cast ballots in the Republican primary, while 45 percent cast in the Democratic primary. 

The following charts present both the raw numbers and in percentages by generational cohort:

If one considers this a 'crude' proxy for how unaffiliated voters may be breaking, one could read into that unaffiliated voters might be breaking slightly to the Republican side. But there are a LOT of factors that could make this a very weak form of a proxy to see how these unaffiliated voters are breaking, let along there's another nearly 200K voters who didn't vote in the March 2016 primary and thus no indication. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

An explainer on analyzing North Carolina's absentee (a.k.a., "early") ballots

It may be helpful to describe the process and the information that comes out of the daily absentee ballot analysis that I have been posting, which some would describe as 'early' (because this type of voting comes 'early' in terms of before Election Day, which the NC State Board of Elections would classify in-person absentee voting as 'early').

First, the data comes from the North Carolina State Board of Elections "Data Download" section (go to "ENRS", then scroll down to the file "" (A WARNING: this is a huge file that is zipped, and unloading it makes it even bigger).

Upon opening that file in SPSS, I do a couple of things to first 'clean up the data.' First, I record the "Return Status" for "Accepted" and code that as a 1. This allows me to isolate the records for just accepted ballots, which are counted for the November 8th election.

Next, I run an identification for duplicate cases using the "County Description" and "Voter Registration" number, with a filter for "Accepted" and based on "Sent Date." Sometimes a voter will submit a ballot that is defective in some way, and the county board of elections will reissue a ballot to the voter. This identifies the duplicates in the data file so that the same voter is only counted once (insert "rigged election" joke here). Those duplicate records are then deleted.

Then, I recode the fields to create numeric identifiers for voter party, generation, and type of ballot, either a mail-in ballot or in-person ballot.

Then, I can begin running different analyses on the types of ballots, which is important to understand. North Carolina has two types of absentee ballots.

The first type of absentee ballots are mail-in ballots, which can be requested by mail, in-person, fax, or electronic delivery. Those are requested, sent out by the county board of elections, and then have to be returned and reviewed as "accepted" ballots.

The second type of absentee ballots that North Carolina uses is in-person ballots, in which a voter goes to a voting site and requests a ballot, just as if it's election day. The voter fills out the ballot, then submits it 'early' before election day.

Sometimes these two types of ballots aren't "accepted," for a variety of reasons: spoiled, no witness signature, no voter signature, etc.  I post each type of ballot and the various categories that the ballots are in: accepted, spoiled, etc.

So, when you have the cleaned-up data file, you may have all of the ballots--sent out mail-in ballots, returned mail-in ballots that are 'accepted' or 'rejected', in-person ballots that are 'accepted' or 'rejected,' all with a requested, sent, and returned dates.

The first number that I use when I create the analysis is to look at the two different types of ballots--whether sent, returned, or accepted--and see how many there are; that's the overall ballots that are in North Carolina. I usually use the 'sent' date for this analysis, simply to make it comparable to the 2012 absentee ballot data that I use for comparison purposes. I also use the 'return' date, especially for analyzing mail-in accepted ballots.

Then, I analyze each type of ballots (mail-in or in-person) for the ones that have been 'accepted'; remember, that in the case of mail-in ballots, there are still outstanding ballots that haven't been returned and evaluated to be accepted.

Next, I begin the different types of analysis--by gender, race, age/generation, native/born-out-of-state, region (urban, suburban, rural) and most importantly, party registration for all of the ballots and then for each type of ballot (mail-in or in-person).

After that, I merge this data with the voter registration data and information on whether the voter voted in a past election, like 2012. This information is based on matching both files using the county description and the voter registration number within both files.

While others are using different methods and categories for classifying the absentee ballots, my main approach is broken down into: all ballots, the types of ballots based on date sent, and the accepted ballots using the return dates.

NC Absentee Ballots Move Ahead of 2012's Same Day Totals

With the expansion of both early voting locations and hours yesterday, North Carolina's absentee ballots (including both mail-in and in-person methods) has moved ahead of the same day totals from four years ago.

A total of 1.3 million ballots have been requested by North Carolina voters, the bulk of which are the in-person ballot method:

In comparison to 2012's same day total of 1,289,930, this represents an increase of 2 percent for this year's ballot totals over the same day four years ago.

In terms of the total ballots by party registration:

(corrected graph to capture Day 12)

Registered Democrats are 44 percent of the total ballots so far, with registered Republicans at 31 percent and registered unaffiliated voters at 25 percent. However, both registered partisan groups are below their same-day totals from 2012: registered Democrats are 7 percent behind, while registered Republicans are 2 percent behind. The surprise this year continues to be registered unaffiliated voters, who are running 32 percent ahead of where they were this same day four years ago.

In comparing the performance among voters by race to 2012's same day totals, white voters continue to over-perform their percentages from four years ago, while black voters are under-performing their same-day percentages from 2012.

Currently, whites are 72 percent of the total ballots, with blacks at 22 percent and all other races/unknown at 6 percent. White voters are 10 percent ahead of where they were from four years ago on this same day, while black voters are 20 percent behind and all other races/unknown are 30 percent ahead of where they were four years ago. An important day may be this coming Saturday for minority voters in North Carolina; more on that just below.

Women continue to be 56 percent of all absentee ballots (both mail-in and in-person):

Of female voters, 49 percent are registered Democrats, 29 percent are registered Republicans, and 22 percent are registered unaffiliated. Among male voters, 39 percent are registered Democrats, 34 percent registered Republicans, and 27 percent registered unaffiliated.

Of these 1.3 million requested ballots, 1.2 million have been returned and accepted as votes for the November 8 general election:

Of the 1.2 million accepted ballots, the party registration break-down is:

Moving on to the bulk of the ballots, in-person, the party registration break-down and performance compared to 2012's same-day totals show advantages to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

Registered Democrats are 47 percent of the accepted in-person ballots, with registered Republicans at 29 percent and registered unaffiliated voters at 24 percent.

In the first eight days of in-person voting, registered unaffiliated voters are 35 percent ahead of where they were four years on this same day; not surprising since the majority of new voters coming into the voter pool has been overwhelmingly registering as unaffiliated.

Registered Republicans are 7 percent ahead of their same-day totals for in-person voting, while registered Democrats are 8 percent behind their numbers from four years ago.

The racial composition of accepted in-person ballots by party registration is:

2016's daily percentages of accepted in-person voting, compared against 2012's same-day percentages, demonstrate the lack of black voting participation so far.

This could be attributable to the reductions in key counties, like Guilford, of the first week of early voting to one location and limited hours. The other aspect that this could speak to is a lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic presidential candidate, something that the Clinton campaign is trying to address in visits like yesterday's to Winston-Salem with Michelle Obama. This Saturday's numbers should show a significant boast if the black percentage is to return to nearer its 2012 numbers.

Among the accepted in-person ballot voters, the break-down of whether they were registered in 2012 and, if so, did they vote is:

The number of voters who used absentee in-person voting from four years ago has been slightly dropping over the past week, while new voters (since 2012) has been increasing.

In looking at the patterns among region (urban, suburban, rural counties), native born vs. born-out-of-state voters, and the generational cohorts, all by party registration:

With the expansion of early voting locations and hours, urban counties have bounced back up from yesterday's percentage of 51 to 53 percent of the in-person ballots.

Those voters born out of North Carolina are still dominating the in-person absentee pool.

And Millennials have increased from 13 percent yesterday to 14 percent today, indicating a slight increase in younger voters casting in-person ballots.

Finally, the mail-in ballots are continuing to show the same patterns as the past few days. Registered Republicans are 40 percent of the total mail-in ballots, with registered Democrats at 31 percent and registered unaffiliated voters at 29 percent.

Among the accepted mail-in ballots, Republicans are 41 percent, Democrats 33 percent, and unaffiliated at 26 percent. The accepted rates are 48 percent for Democrats, 47 percent for Republicans, 42 percent for unaffiliated, and 46 percent overall.

However, registered Republicans are significantly behind their 2012 same-day totals for accepted mail-in ballots:

Overall, this year's returned and accepted mail-in ballots are 82 percent of where the numbers stood four years ago this same day, with registered Republicans at 64 percent of their same-day numbers, registered Democrats at 98 percent, and registered unaffiliated voters at 111 percent.