Multnomah County, OR is hoping to avoid traffic congestion during the ballot drop off period by establishing official drop boxes around the county.
As I’ve posted previously and written in my academic work, between 15-25% of Oregon ballots, on average, are NOT voted “early” but are dropped off on election day. In the past, this has created a small traffic jam at the county elections office, and official hope to avoid it this year.
I am calling out my co-bloggers here to list the top three questions that they will be asked this campaign season.
For me, the list is pretty easy, and is reflected in today’s story by Adam Nagourney in the NY Times.
- “Who will be the first in the nation to cast a ballot?”
If we put aside UOCAVA voters, some of whom may have already have ballots in hand, the list here is pretty interesting. My crack research director, James Hicks, is close to assembling a nationwide “map” of early voting in the 2008 contest, and we’ll post this on electionline.org (and announce it here) as soon as it is done. Here is James’s email to Adam: KY requires its absentee (and regular) ballots to be printed by 9/15; these are mailed beginning 9/16—this makes Kentucky the earliest I’ve seen. 45-day absentee mailing states include ID, VA, DE, AL, MA.
- “How many voters will cast early ballots?”
This one always requires a bit of explanation, because while we have a good sense of WHERE citizens cast their ballots, we don’t have a good sense of WHEN. In my home state of Oregon, I’ve often heard remarks that “everyone” votes early, whereas in fact between 15-25% of citizens take their ballots in to the county office on election day. County recorders in California have to deal with 100’s of thousands of “absentee” ballots that are dropped off in precincts on election day.
That being said, I made my call of 33% in the NY Times story and I’m sticking by it!
- “How does early voting affect the campaigns?”
I am not going to go into detail here. Every reporter takes their own unique spin on this question, but there is no doubt that the quick answer is: “Hugely.”
So Michael and Thad, you’re up next. What are the top three questions you will be asked this election season?
Not exactly a blog, but the EAC has gotten a lot better about using technology to make their hearings and meetings public.
I went to their website today and found this set of notes from Commissioner Donetta Davidson and Matt Weil on early voting in Florida.
For those who don’t know already, the big innovation in Florida this year is the requirement that ballots be printed on demand. Conny McCormack was down there as well, and I’ll see if Conny wants to put up a guest posting on the blog.
Ned Foley raises some excellent issues to watch in the lead up to Ohio’s presidential primary on March 4th.
I’d like to highlight two issues, both of which occurred in California, and are likely to reoccur in Ohio, in part due to the unintended consequences of decertification of electronic machines, the move to paper ballots, and the use of a central count.
(I received some criticism from the California Secretary of State’s office for raising these issues in California. Let me be clear: I’m not implying anything other than the best motives on the part of Secretaries of State who want to move to paper ballots. But, as was clear in California, and as Ned points out in Ohio, this move results in some major administrative challenges, and it’s not clear that some counties have the capacity, and they certainly have not received the funding, to deal with these challenges.)
But back to Ned’s essay:
- Central Counts:
Ned worries about ballot transport issues related to central counts. An additional worry is that central counts will likely result in higher rates of residual votes (erroneous over and under votes) and consequently voter disenfranchisement.
This is because the voter’s ballot is not run through the optical scanner at the precinct (and errors flagged), but ballots are just accumulated in a box. This problem may not be evident in the presidential primary because if there is only one race on the ballot, but will surely crop up in November.
- Absentee Voting:
Ned is concerned about the spike on no-excuse absentee balloting, raising the issue of abusive practices. I add an administrative burden: if the number of absentee ballots doubles or triples, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions that aggressively promoted this mode of balloting, then local offices can easily be overwhelmed with processing this paper, resulting in delays in the count.
I don’t know if the rates of absentee usage in Ohio are anywhere near the 40-50% in California, but when you are talking about hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots, there is the sheer physical challenge of storing the envelopes, checking the signatures, opening the ballots, and getting them through the readers.
A brief update from Utah County. I’m not sure on the technology–perhaps Thad can clarify. The gist is that many local cities in Utah County still use paper ballots, and many had too few early voting locations in the 2006 election. As a result, only 1% of voters cast early ballots (much lower than I would have predicted, based on the demographics, rural character, and high average turnout in the state).
However, because the upcoming election is a special election, the county will administer the ballots, use electronic machines, and provide more early voting locations. The election administrator is predicting a 10% early voting rate.
Thad, care to let us know what the “voucher” reference is?