Monday, August 4, 2014

In the Begetting

With election day tomorrow, a common question right now pertains to my projection of turnout.

I'm very good at nailing the turnout number the day after the election.

Actually, before the election, fine-tuning each day based on advance voting, I'm generally not that far off with my estimate the night before the election.

Many variables, though, come in to play.  It's trendy right now to discuss predictive modeling techniques to forecast turnout, number of machines needed, and the right potion to ensure that lines at the polls are reasonable.

In fact, I want our staff to become better at logically predicting turnout, because forecasting volume, to me, is the precursor to everything election administer-ey.

I'm thinking the turnout for the August 5 election will be somewhere between 17 and 20 percent, closer to 17 than 20.

(I hate talking about turnout, generally, though because I'm always worried that a public turnout estimate will impact voting behavior.  Some may come or stay at home because they worry that the polls will be busy; others may not want to go to a party that doesn't have anyone there and, counter-intuitively, may not come to vote if they think no one else is.)

(If you haven't picked up this by now by reading this blog or this post you may never pick it up, but coming up with Backup Plans A, B, C, D, E, F, G, Gg, H, H1, H2, Hn, I, etc., induces a constant neurosis and tendency to over-think the most simplistic items).

Anyway, back to the 17 percent.  378,000 voters times .17, divided by 183 polling locations, and voila, there you go, forecasting, right?

No, especially in this election when Republicans cast a Republican ballot, Democrats cast a Democratic ballot, Libertarians cast an Unaffiliated ballot, and Unaffiliated voters can cast an Unaffiliated, or Republican, or Democratic ballot.

Further, while every polling place will feature some competitive countywide races, not every House race, for instance, features two candidates.  Turnout likely will be lower at those locations.  Some polling places will have a combination of precincts with super competitive races and precincts with less competition.

So, toss all that in with your Soup Stone, and what's the turnout again?

Turn to history, some may say.  The key to the future is found in the past.

But, what past?  2010, the last time there was a county commission chair primary?  Turnout in that election was 22.9 percent.  There was an extremely competitive primary for an open U.S. Senate seat that year, with both campaigns pushing advance voting extensively.

About 5,000 voters in that election didn't cast a vote for the county commission chair race, but the "turnout" in that race still was more than 21 percent.

Hmmmm, how about 2012?  Turnout that year was 17.33 percent with no U.S. Senate race and no county commission chair race.

2014 will be higher, right?

Well, look at these numbers through the weekend:

Monday Morning Before Election in:                          2014            2012              2010
Ballots Issued                                                               24,738         26,285           33,118
Ballots Returned
(includes in-person and by mail)                                18,150        18,245           23,805

In-Person Advance (included in numbers above)        9,163           9,254            12,337

So, 2014 is tracking just 95 fewer ballots than in 2012.

You'll see that it's pretty common in an August election to have many ballots mailed out that are not returned.  Many come back undeliverable, not just from the permanent list but also from people who recently requested a ballot.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--people move.

Although we don't have updated numbers through today yet for ballots returned (2012's number jumped to 20,767), the in-person advance numbers from today close our total out to be 9,512--compared to 9,486 in 2012.

So, what does that mean?  Are we surging?  33 percent more voters cast ballots in person today than in the last day of 2012.

The new in-person gain puts 2014 now 22 ballots ahead of 2012.

2012, though, had tons of energy.  Redistricting led to a later filing season and plenty of rookie candidates that made nearly all races competitive.

2012, really, is nothing like 2014.  But, the numbers are nearly identical.

Dismissed as coincidence?

I'm just getting started, kids, but in the interest of time for the three people who have made it this far, I'll stop the post here.  The point is, simply, that all of these variables have to be considered when looking at turnout.

And turnout begets staffing, which begets number of machines, which begets number of locations, which begets the number of printed ballots, which begets the need for advance voting locations.

I'm not exactly sure that I have the "begets" in the correct order, but I am correct that one number begets another, and the best number I can give for August 5 turnout is 18, with homage to today's surge.

We'll see in a week.

What?  The election is tomorrow, you say.

Yes, but tomorrow's turnout percent doesn't include provisional ballots.  Those counted are added to the turnout at the canvass on Monday.  Those not counted aren't in the turnout percentages at all.

And, so, another variable was just beget.

(A new one, by the way, is emerging in terms of facility availability, shown below).

Suitcases staged for supply delivery last week, but....
More and more facilities don't want
deliveries until Monday, a whole
new problem with polling places.  Our
setup teams each delivered to a location
today as well as the delivery company.


Unknown said...

I have seen some comments on Facebook concerning issues with poll observers allegedly breaking laws in yesterday's election. Are you investigating this? I didn't notice anything suspicious at my polling place in Olathe, but I have noticed a number of apparent voter intimidation techniques being employed in places like our local DMV where a sign says in large letters "IT IS ILLEGAL TO VOTE" and you can only read the part that says "if you are not a citizen of the United States" once you get right up close to the sign. These things are outrageous, as is the continual changing of polling locations. I've been living in Johnson County for less than 2 years, and I definitely feel that my right to vote is being actively thwarted by the right wing folks in power here.

Election Diary said...

Well, first, thank you for reading this :-)

Yes, this was activity isolated in 3 polling locations. The poll agent should have been three feet from the table, not three feet from the registration book. Poll agents are responsible for knowing this law, so the onus is on them, but our election workers in at least one of the locations apparently was confused, and I went to that location to correct the issue. I am concerned about this DMV sign. Of course it is illegal to vote unless persons are citizens, but they are in the registration game there, not the voting game. Again, it is also illegal to register without being a citizen but this messaging seems odd. Is this at the Olathe or Mission location?