Tag Archives: Absentee Ballots

Early Voting & Returned Absentees Across Maryland

Today, Seventh State expands its coverage of pre-Election Day voting to include returned absentee ballots as well as early voting. Yesterday was the biggest day so far for early voting as 91,480 voters across the state went to early voting centers.

At the end of the sixth day of early voting, 11.7% of registered Marylanders have participated in early voting. Today’s first graph shows the share in each county who had cast ballots early at the close of yesterday’s early voting. While almost 25% of voters in Talbotians have done their civic duty via early voting, under 5% of Alleganyites have done the same.

The share of registered voters who have returned absentee ballots is much smaller. As the following graph reveals, only 1.4% of Marylanders have returned absentee ballots.

Just 37.6% of absentee ballots mailed have been returned, so that figure will surely rise. Even if every single absentee ballot is returned, that would account for 3.6% of all registered voters – a much lower share than ballots cast via early voting.

Talbot is strong in absentees as well as early voting but Montgomery leads the class with 2.3% of registered voters having returned absentee ballots. Charles is the lowest with just 0.8% of registered voters having done the same.

Three of the four jurisdictions at the low end of people voting by absentee ballot are majority black or close to majority black (Prince George’s, Baltimore City and Charles). Heavily white Harford is the fourth county in this lowest group. There are also no heated executive races in these four counties.

The final graph shows the combination of early voters and absentees to give an overall sense of pre-election turnout. Overall, 13.0% of registered Marylanders have already cast ballots.

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A Pattern in the Absentee Ballots?

By Adam Pagnucco.

All eyes in political MoCo are on the County Executive race, which will be decided by absentee and provisional ballots.  After the first absentee canvass, Marc Elrich’s lead over David Blair has declined from 492 votes to 149 votes, guaranteeing an absolute squeaker of a finish.  Lots of folks are asking why.  A preliminary analysis of absentee voting data suggests one reason: for the most part, candidates endorsed by MCEA, of whom Elrich is one, are performing slightly less well in absentee voting than in early voting and election day voting.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which represents MCPS teachers, has historically been the most powerful interest group in MoCo elections.  Its political program has combined mail and poll coverage where its mighty Apple Ballot is distributed.  This year, its mail program has been partially diverted to the Governor’s race (where the union helped pay for three mailers on behalf of Ben Jealous) and Congress District 6 (where the union sent three mailers for Aruna Miller).  Its remaining mailers were one for its State Legislative District 16 endorsees (one of whom was teacher Samir Paul), one for its Council At-Large endorsees (one of whom was teacher Chris Wilhelm) and one with the Apple Ballot itself.  The latter mailer was the only one to include Marc Elrich, who was endorsed late.  In past years in which races for Governor and Congress were not an issue, MCEA’s mail program was entirely focused on state legislative and county races.

Alterations to the mail program may explain variations in absentee ballot voting.  People who vote early, on election day and through provisional ballots may encounter Apple Ballot poll coverage.  And it’s not just MCEA who distributes it; candidates who are featured on it often distribute it too.  But absentee voters do not go to a polling place.  They must be contacted through other means.  As stated above, MCEA’s mailers were drawn into races for Congress and Governor and if the union has a robust digital program, we have not seen it.  All of this means that absentee voters in General Assembly and county-level races are less likely to be influenced by the Apple.

The table below shows sixteen close performances in county races between Apple-endorsed and non-Apple candidates.  (We excluded incumbents to remove any incumbent effect on absentee voting.)  In each race, the margin between the two in election and early voting results is shown alongside the margin in the first absentee canvass.  (Both sets of results are unofficial and there will be another absentee canvass.)  In eleven of these sixteen races, Apple-endorsed candidate performance declined in absentee voting.

Now some of these races have other things going on.  In Congress District 6, Aruna Miller benefited from MCEA’s three mailers and her performance actually rose a tiny bit among absentees.  In the gubernatorial race, a clear outlier, Rushern Baker may have benefited from the Washington Post’s strong endorsement.  (This year, the Post did not endorse in Congressional or state legislative races.)  David Blair got not one, but two Post endorsements.  Elrich’s late endorsement from MCEA handicapped his ability to publicize it, which may have impacted absentee voters.  And so on.

The Apple Ballot is arguably the best endorsement in the county.  Blair would already have won the Executive race if Elrich had not received it.  But the data above, however tentative it is, suggests a pattern: the Apple has been slightly less effective in absentee voting.  The median performance drop is 1.4 points.  The mean performance drop excluding the outlier race for Governor is 1.3 points.  So let’s round it in rough terms to a point-and-a-half decline.  That’s not enough to affect most races but it is having an impact on the razor-thin contests for County Executive and House 16.  MCEA should consider this in designing its future political programs.

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County Exec Race Going to Be Extremely Tight

Yesterday, Adam Pagnucco explained that David Blair needs to win the outstanding ballots by 6.2% in order to pass Marc Elrich in the final vote tally. The absentee ballots counted yesterday suggest that this is entirely possible.

Yesterday, 3793 absentee ballots were counted. Among those voters, 3292 participated in the Democratic primary. Fewer voters tend to cast votes as one goes down the ballot, a phenomenon known as roll-off. In the Democratic primary for county executive, 3140 cast valid votes.

Blair lead Elrich by 7.1% among the absentees counted, which allowed him to pick up a net 223 votes and close the gap with Elrich to 269 votes. Substantial numbers of absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted.

Why the difference between election day and absentee voters? It could be a number of factors. One reason might be if Blair had a better absentee voter program than Elrich. Once an absentee ballot is requested, it’s vital for campaigns to contact a voter in order to try to obtain their vote. Another explanation might be that voters who made decisions prior to election day tended to vote differently than those who cast ballots on the day itself.

In any case, it now looks like the final count may be exceedingly close. We’ll almost certainly have to wait for provisional ballots to be counted, after Independence Day. Provisional ballots may show a different pattern than for absentee ballots, but that is a wild card and we don’t know how voters affected by the MVA screw-up tended to vote compared to the whole electorate. (It turns out the number of registered voters affected has crept up again and now reached 90,000.)

Even when the count is finalized, I could well imagine the losing campaign requesting a recount.

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