Archives for category: Race

Race, Party, and the Consequences of Restricting Early Voting in Florida in the 2012 General Election

Political Research Quarterly

Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith

Abstract

In mid-2011, the Florida legislature reduced the state’s early voting period from fourteen days to eight and eliminated the final Sunday of early voting. We compare observed voting patterns in 2012 with those in the 2008 General Election and find that racial/ethnic minorities, registered Democrats, and those without party affiliation had significant early voting participation drops and that voters who cast ballots on the final Sunday in 2008 were disproportionately unlikely to cast a valid ballot in 2012. Florida’s decision to truncate early voting may have diminished participation rates of those already least likely to vote.

OnlineFirst: February 24, 2014

Available: Full Text (PDF)

Early Voting in Florida in the Aftermath of House Bill 1355
Michael C. Herron & Daniel A. Smith
April 15, 2013

My colleague, Michael Herron at Dartmouth, and I have just finished crunching the 2012 General Election statewide voter file.

We’ll have lots to report in the coming days about the racial and ethnic voter participation in the November election, including statewide and county breakdowns for early voting and absentee voting. We’ll also have some data to report on the rejection rates of provisional ballots and absentee ballots  across racial and ethnic groups.

But for now, one item that caught my eye this morning was the considerable inflation of supposed Latino voter participation in the 2012 General Election.

According to the 2012 CNN General Election Exit Polls for Florida, (a screen shot is here: Florida2012ExitPoll), Florida’s electorate was:

67% White

13% African American

17% Latino

Further analysis of the Florida exit polls conducted by the Pew Research Hispanic Center immediately after the election, “Latino Voters in the 2012 Election,” found that “Hispanics made up a growing share of voters in three of the key battleground states in yesterday’s election.” According to the report, “Hispanics made up 17% of the Florida electorate this year, up from 14% in 2008.”  The Pew Report continued:

The state’s growing non-Cuban population—especially growth in the Puerto Rican population in central Florida—contributed to the president’s improved showing among Hispanic voters. This year, according to the Florida exit poll, 34% of Hispanic voters were Cuban while 57% were non-Cuban. Among Cuban voters, the vote was split—49% supported Obama while 47% supported Romney. Among the state’s non-Cuban voters, Obama won 66% versus 34% for Romney.

Yet, when matched against the Florida Division of Election’s December 31, 2012 voter file, our analysis suggests that the 2012 exit poll estimates considerably over-inflate the actual Latino makeup Florida’s 2012 electorate.

In 2012, roughly 8.43 million Floridians cast ballots in the General Election.

According to our analysis of the state’s voter history file, a little more than 1 million citizens who self-identified on their voter registration cards as Latino voted in the 2012 election.  That’s only 12.5% of Florida’s 2012 electorate.

In contrast, nearly 14% of Florida’s 2012 actual electorate was African American, close to a full percentage point greater than the exit poll estimates.  White voters were similarly under-represented in the exit poll estimates, as slightly more than 68% of Florida’s 2012 electorate was white.  (Incidentally, Floridians who voted in the 2012 General Election and who identified as “Other” or “Multi-racial” on their voter registration cards tallied less than 2% of the vote in 2012.)

For now, I will leave it for others to interrogate why the 2012 Exit Polls considerably over-inflated Latino turnout in Florida, but I have some suspicions that I will offer down the road as time permits.

Dartmouth College’s Dr. Michael Herron and I have posted this paper analyzing the racial/ethnic and partisan composition of the early voters in Florida prior to the 2012 General Election.

In addition, we provide details about the voters who were forced to wait in line due to delays Saturday night in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, and who ended up casting their ballots after midnight, on Sunday, November 4, 2012.

 

Early Voting in Florida, 2012

Michael C. Herron & Daniel A. Smith
November 6, 2012

Abstract

In this paper we examine early voting patterns in the days preceding the 2012 General Election.
Drawing on the Florida statewide voter registration database (as of October 1, 2012) and 67
county-level early voting files made public by the Florida Department of State, we disaggregate
by party and by racial and ethnic group the 2.4 million votes cast in person before November 6,
2012. We find that early voting was heaviest on the final Saturday of early voting and that racial
and ethnic minorities, as well as individuals registered as Democrats and individuals registered
as “No Party Affiliation,” were disproportionately more likely than whites and Republicans,
respectively, to cast ballots on both the first Sunday and the final Saturday of early voting.
We also find that votes cast during the very early morning hours of Sunday, November 4, in
Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties—locations that suffered from exceedingly long lines
on Saturday, November 3—were disproportionately cast by black voters. Insofar as the longest
early voting lines appear to have occurred on the day in which minority voter turnout was the
greatest, it appears that minority voters, and in particular black voters, have borne heavily the
burden of House Bill 1355, a piece of election-reform legislation passed by the Florida state
legislature in 2011, which among other things reduced the early voting period in Florida from
14 to eight days and eliminated early voting on the final Sunday before a Tuesday election.

Judge Corrigan’s decision is available here:

Order 9242012

Here’s some more information about the 41 (out of the  2,625 people  flagged by the FL Secretary of State as  being “potential noncitizens”) who ended up being purged from the voter rolls.

Again, that’s 41 registered voters the FL SOS was able to  identify and purge as “potential noncitizens,” out of some 11.2 million eligible citizens on Florida’s voter rolls.

So, who are the 41 registered voters who were purged by the FL SOS (out of its list of 2,625 “potential noncitizens”). Of the 41 who were purged, the SOS had no record of 31 of them ever voting.   Six 6  were registered in 2008 and 6  were registered in 2010 & 2011.  Another 27 were registered to vote  between 1990 & 2007.  In fact, the FL SOS provided no information on the date when two of the suspected “noncitizens” it identified and subsequently purged where even registered to vote, much less ever voted, in the Sunshine State.

Of the 41 purged “potential noncitizens” identified by the FL SOS, 21 are at least 45 years old, 13 are women, and 21 are from Miami-Dade and Broward counties in south Florida.

Let’s take a closer look at the racial/ethic breakdown of the 1,599 “potential noncitizens” residing in Miami-Dade who were among the 2,625 people targeted by FL SOS.  Of those tagged as being a “potential noncitizen,” 1,214 are Hispanic, 152 are black, 75 are white, and 27 are Asian.

In all, the FL SOS purged just 15 of the 2,625 “potential noncitizens” it identified as living in Miami-Dade county.  That’s 15 wrongly registered voters out of more than 1.2 million citizens who are registered to vote in the county.

Of the 75 whites & 27 Asians identified  as “potential noncitizens” by FL SOS, none were purged from the rolls.  Of the 15 who were purged, 2 are African American & 11 are Hispanic.

With respect to the partisanship of the FL SOS’s flawed purge, the Miami-Dade list of “potential noncitizens” included 590 Democrats, 641 NPAs, and 354 Republicans.  Five of each were purged from the rolls by the FL SOS for being “potential noncitizens.”
Seems to me that’s an awful lot of false positives — citizens who were wrongly targeted and harassed by the Florida Secretary of State as being “potential noncitizens.”
The illegal purging of Florida’s registered voters must come to an end.

Well, it looks like the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center’s hard-hitting TV issue ads that ran in Colorado in 2008, calling out Ward Connerly for his deceptive effort to ban Affirmative Action, were spot-on.

New York Times has the latest in the alleged con-job he’s been running.

Here’s an excerpt from my 2005 Election Law Journal article with Elizabeth Garrett on “Veiled Political Actors” in ballot issue campaigns, which highlighted some of Connerly’s deceptive practices, which turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg :

Using 501(c)s to shield the identities of entities active in direct democracy is likely only to increase. The American Civil Rights Coalition
(ACRC) was established by Ward Connerly in 1997 following the passage of California’s Proposition 209, the successful 1996 anti-affirmative action initiative. The ACRC was the sponsor of Proposition 54, a racial privacy initiative that attempted to prohibit state and local governments from collecting data on or using classifications based on race, ethnicity, color, or national origin. According to campaign finance filings with the FPPC, ACRC contributed 94 percent ($1,570,400 of $1,671,958) of the total raised in 2001–02 by the ballot issue committee, Yes on Proposition 54/Racial Privacy Initiative Sponsored by American Civil Rights Coalition.112 The contributions made to ACRC were subsequently transferred to its sister ballot committee to help finance the paid signature-gathering effort to qualify the measure.113

Last week, the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, denied a complaint by Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning  challenging sections of the Voting Rights Act.  The Florida Secretary of State was seeking an expedited hearing on whether HB1355, Florida’s controversial legislation overhauling voting rights and election administration in the state, complied with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal preclearance for five Florida counties (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe).  Secretary of State Browning is requesting that the federal district court approve portions of the new law–specifically third party voter registration, out-of-­county address changes, petition signature verification, and early voting–rather than waiting for US Department of Justice’s preclearance.

Although on hold for the five counties awaiting US Justice Department preclearance, the Florida Division of Elections has been working with the Supervisors of Elections in the remaining 62 counties not covered by Section 5 of the VRA to implement the many new provisions under HB1355 (Chapter 2011-40) in anticipation of the January 31 Presidential Preference Primary.

However, under Florida law, the state must provide uniform standards for the proper and equitable implementation of the voter registration laws. It is the responsibility of the Florida Secretary of State, as unambiguously stated on the Florida Division of Elections website, “to ensure statewide uniformity in the interpretation of the election laws.”

But the uneven implementation of HB1355 continues, unabated.

Clearly, Florida’s dual election system is not treating all Floridians the same.  As the Brennan Center noted back in June:

  • The new voter registration regulations would be in force in some counties but not others, unfairly and unlawfully creating two separate sets of rules governing voter registration in different parts of the state.
  • Some counties would unfairly be left with a dramatically shorter early voting period than others, as the new law cuts the opportunity for early voting to fourteen days to eight
  • Floridians who moved recently would have varying difficulty voting depending on their new county of residence, as implementation of the new law would end Florida’s longstanding policy of allowing citizens who have recently moved to easily change their registration address on Election Day and vote normally at their poll site.

In denying the state’s request for an expedited hearing and decision, the federal district court’s decision to wait until May to hear oral arguments has virtually assured that the January 31 PPP will be conducted with two sets of election laws, which directly conflicts with existing Florida statutes. But of course, the blame doesn’t lie at the feet of the federal district court. It lies at the feet of the Republican-controlled legislature and the Office of the Secretary of State, who has a constituency of one: Governor Scott.

Again, the Brennan Center in a letter to Secretary Browning on behalf of several voting rights advocacy groups, nails it:

Under Florida statute § 97.012 and prior advisory opinions by the Division, the Secretary of State has a duty to ensure uniformity in the application, operation, and interpretation of the state’s election laws. Applying HB 1355’s extensive changes to the voting and voter registration process only in certain counties, but not in the five counties for which preclearance is required under the federal Voting Rights Act before implementing voting changes, clearly conflicts with this legal mandate.

We therefore request that you immediately advise all Supervisors of Elections that the provisions of H.B. 1355 are unenforceable until they can be applied uniformly in all Florida counties, as state law requires.

Of course, uneven implementation of voting and election laws also violates federal law.  In 2002, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). HAVA was Congress’s effort to clean up the mess in Florida resulting from the 2000 presidential recount.  In order for Florida and other states to receive the billions of dollars appropriated to improve the electoral process, state elections officials were required to implement numerous reforms mandated under HAVA.

Among its many provisions, HAVA requires that the states  “implement in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner, a single, uniform, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list defined, maintained, and administered at the state level.” By most all accounts, Florida achieved by the January 1, 2006 federal deadline, with the Florida Voter Registration System (FVRS).  The implementation of HB1355 in 62 counties, but not the other 5, is clearly in violation of HAVA.

Bush v. Gore may be dead (or at least dormant), but Florida’s Dual Election System may breathe some new life into it.

I’ve written a considerable amount about the negative impact HB1355 likely will have on early voting in Florida. But the regressive law also affects the ability of Florida citizens to register to vote.

The Republican-controlled legislature’s rationale for the law–steeped in the anti-democratic rhetoric of making voting a privilege, not a right–continues to conjur up vestiges of Jim Crowism. “We’re going to have a very tight election here next year, and we need to protect the integrity of the election,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala. “When we looked around, we saw a need for some tightening.”

With respect to the severe restrictions placed on “third parties” (including individual citizens) interested in helping fellow citizens to register to vote, Republican lawmakers are surely cognizant of the surge of African Americans who registered to vote in Florida prior to the 2008 general election.

As I write with my co-author, Stephanie Slade (who works for The Winston Group, a Republican pollster based in DC) in a recent article on the 2008 election in Florida, “Obama to Blame? African American Surge Voters and the Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Florida,”

Between December of 2007 and October of 2008, an additional 233,130 black Floridians registered to vote, a group of citizens we have referred to as the Obama-inspired African American surge. If these voters turned out at the same rate as the Florida electorate as a whole in the 2008 presidential election (74.6 percent), black surge voters would have constituted 173,915 of 8.39 million total votes cast for all the presidential candidates.

The numbers speak for themselves.

This spring, Republican lawmakers changed the rules to try to ensure that there will be no African American “surge voters” in 2012.

It will be up to the US Justice Department, as well as several interveners (including the ACLU, NAACP, and the League of Women Voters)–but ultimately the federal courts–to determine whether they ultimately succeed in their effort to suppress the vote in Florida.

In its amended complaint to receive declaratory judgment from a federal court that all sections of HB 1355 are entitled to preclearance under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Florida Secretary of State plays fast and loose with the facts.

With respect to the shrinking of the days permissible to vote early in Florida, the complaint states (on page 19) that:

The changes to the early voting statute contained in Section 39 were adopted to expand access to early voting and provide each supervisor of elections additional flexibility regarding the scheduling of early voting. The changes to the early voting statute contained in Section 39 were not adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority.

Both the motive behind the statute, HB 1355, as well as the empirical evidence regarding race and early voting in Florida, are quite clear, and do not jibe with the claims made in the Secretary of State’s complaint.

First, as I’ve noted previously, it’s well known that African Americans are more likely to vote early in Florida than whites. In the 2008 general election, 2.1 million Floridians voted early.  African Americans cast 22 percent of the early votes, even though they only comprised 13 percent of the total electorate.

The Republican-led Florida legislature was well aware of these statistics.  The early turnout of African Americans in 2008 undoubtedly inspired the effort by Republican lawmakers to compress early voting, in anticipation of the 2012 general election. Indeed, the Republican effort to suppress blacks from voting early was on full display during the floor debate on House Bill 1355 (known formally as the Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for House Bill 1355 (CS/CS/HB 1355)).

Defending the bill, Republican Senator Mike Bennett stated on the floor of the Florida Senate (as reported by PolitiFact):

Do you read the stories about the people in Africa? The people in the desert, who literally walk two and three hundred miles so they can have the opportunity to do what we do, and we want to make it more convenient? How much more convenient do you want to make it? Do we want to go to their house? Take the polling booth with us? This is a hard-fought privilege. This is something people die for. You want to make it convenient? The guy who died to give you that right, it was not convenient. Why would we make it any easier? I want ‘em to fight for it. I want ‘em to know what it’s like. I want them to go down there, and have to walk across town to go over and vote.

Although the total number of early voting hours remains fixed at 96 hours, they’re not the same hours. Previously, voters had two weeks to cast an early vote, from a Monday to the Sunday before Election Day.  Under HB 1355, the period is eight days long, running from Saturday through Saturday, but eliminating the final Sunday before election day.

The new restriction on early voting–specifically, cutting the early voting period from 14 to 8 days and eliminating voting on the Sunday prior to the general election–unquestionably targets African Americans. Not only were African Americans more likely to cast an early ballot than whites in 2008, they were also more likely to do it on the Sunday prior to election day.

Targeting African Americans was the intent of Republican lawmakers all along, and HB 1355 clearly violates the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and the same racially motivated efforts by lawmakers to suppress the vote by minorities that it intended to correct nearly half a century ago.

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