Working paper on Sarasota undervote

Michael Herron passed the following link to a working paper coauthored by himself, Laurin Frisina, James Honaker, and Jeff Lewis, on the Sarasota County undervote, “Ballot Formats, Touchscreens and Undervotes: A Study of the 2006 Midterm Elections in Florida.”

Here’s the abstract from Michael’s email message:

The 2006 midterm elections in Florida have focused attention on
undervotes, ballots on which no vote is recorded on a particular
contest. This interest was sparked by the high undervote rate—more
than 18,000 total undervotes out of 240,000 ballots cast—in
Florida’s 13th Congressional District race, a race that, as of this
paper’s writing, was decided by 369 votes. Using precinct-level voting
returns, we show that the high undervote rate in the 13th
Congressional District race was almost certainly caused by the way
that one county’s (Sarasota’s) electronic touchscreen voting machines
placed the 13th Congressional District race above the Florida Governor
election on a single screen. We buttress this claim by showing that
extraordinarily high undervote rates were also observed in the Florida
Attorney General race in Charlotte and Lee Counties, places where that
race appeared below the Governor race on the same screen. Using a
statistical imputation model to identify and allocate excess
undervotes, we find that there is a roughly 90 percent chance that the
much-discussed Sarasota undervotes were pivotal in the very close 13th
Congressional District race. Greater study and attention should be
paid to how alternatives are presented to voters when touchscreen
voting machines are employed.

I’ve not had a chance yet to read the paper myself, but do appreciate the fact that again social scientists are moving quickly to study these problems and to disseminate their work!