Monday, October 28, 2013

Harris County's swollen EV turnout

Early voting totals remain at historically high levels.  Whether this portends a wave election will have to wait for election day turnout, as both Kuff and Greg in the comments suggest that it's not liable to be as big as it may seem.  A bit from the end of that post is worth repeating.

Note the huge shift in 2008 to majority early voting, which has continued in the two subsequent elections. You may recall that this shift was perceived at the time to be a portent of things to come, which led to some irrationally exuberant predictions about final turnout. Turnout was up from the previous Presidential election, but not nearly as much as many of us thought it would be. The vast majority of the early voters were the old reliables, and the net effect was that by Election Day itself, we’d run short of people who still needed to vote.

Do I know this for sure? No, of course not. I do expect turnout will be up from 2011, but I don’t believe we’re seeing anything unexpected. One other piece of evidence I have for this belief comes from the analyses that Kyle Johnston does on the early vote rosters. Here’s the 2009 version, and the version from the first five days of 2013 EV. The first thing that stands out to me is that in 2009, 92% of the early vote overall was cast by people who had voted in at least 2 of the last 3 municipal election. For the first five EV days of 2013, it’s 90%. In other words, it’s the old reliables voting. They’re just voting earlier.

... Other useful tidbits from Johnston’s analysis is that so far about 70% of the total Harris County vote has come from City of Houston voters; in 2009, the figure was 72% for all early votes. In other words, non-Houston voting is up a smidge, perhaps thanks to the Astrodome, but not much. The racial breakdown of the vote has some people talking about runoff prospects in the Mayor’s race. I’ll just say that unlike city/county and past voting history, racial data is not directly available but must be derived inferentially. Doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate, just inexact.

As for Johnston, he might be accurate about the rest, but I just can't place any faith in his analysis -- in fact I wouldn't even call it that -- of guessing voters' ethnicity based on name.

Projecting that, and then their voting inclination, is frankly nothing but a SWAG.  Anecdotally there's all kinds of evidence that easily refutes the premise; my brother Neil Aquino is no Latino and city council candidate David Robinson isn't quite African American, for two examples.  My wife is Cuban but nothing about her name gives that away.  But the main problem with his data, as Johnston himself notes, is that redistricting changed ... well, pretty much everything.

Today, as early polls opened on the 12-hour cycle for the final week, we finally began to see the far-flung suburban areas (read: Republican) start to pick up the pace.  I am much more comfortable projecting voting patterns based on geography than anything else.

Voting in this year's municipal election is up, it may be way up, and whether that is behavior modification or something else is a question we'll just have to wait until the end of Election Day to answer.  The real news is that the photo ID requirement has possibly energized early turnout, and for that we may very well have Greg Abbott and the rest of the GOP to thank.

What a kick in the head that will be if it goes against them.

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