Florida Absentee Ballot Update: 592.8k cast in #2016 PPP

Absentee ballots received by SOEs on Saturday are now in the hopper. Nearly 600k Floridians have already voted, including 310.5k Republicans and 267.8k Democrats.  Of the 592.8k, the state’s SOEs have recorded 4,516 as having a “voter error”; this is down from Friday’s total of 4,700, which apparently means some SOEs took a closer look at some of the absentee ballots being processed, changing many that previously had a “voter error” over the weekend. Of course, all absentee ballots deemed by SOEs staff await the final judgment of the county’s three-member Canvassing Board, which can accept them for counting or reject them as “illegal.” As for those absentee ballots without signatures, according to the latest figures some 3,332 absentee ballot voters failed to sign the back of the envelope. Some 395 ballots in last Friday’s totals were classified as having “voter error” have been reclassified as “voted”; another 58 that lacked a signature apparently were “cured” by a voter coming in and signing the back of the flagged envelope.

Younger voters continue to eschew voting absentee ballots relative to the rest of registered voters. This is likely a good thing, given their greater likelihood of screwing up by not having their signature match what’s on the voter file (see my  prior post).  Less than 3% of all absentee ballot processed thus far are by voters under the age of 30; 71.5% have been cast by those over 60 years of age.  Over 3% of absentee ballots cast by voters under 30 have a “voter error,” compared to less than .6% of those 60 and older.  The rate of older and younger voters who have forgotten to sign their envelopes is comparable, though.Today also marks the first day of early in-person voting in 17 counties, as I tweeted earlier today.

Latest Absentee Ballot Figures from Florida; 44% of GOP ballots cast by those who skipped 2012 PPP

As of Friday, February 26, 2016, the state’s 67 Supervisors of Elections have tallied more than 579.6k absentee ballots. Of those, SOEs have flagged 4,700 as having a “voting error,” which means they’ll await final judgment of whether to be counted or “rejected as illegal” by a county’s three-member  Canvassing Board. Another 3,336 absentee ballots have arrived at SOEs offices with no signature on the back of the absentee ballot envelope. Voters have until 5pm on Election Day to “cure” such ballots.

Now, for the party breakdown. Republicans have cast 303,673 recorded absentee ballots; 98.7% of them are valid, .81% have a voter error, and .49% lack a signature.  Democrats have cast 261,441 recorded absentee ballots thus far; 98.6% are valid, .78% have a voter error, and .67% don’t have a signature. The voter error for the 12,355 NPAs who have mailed back their absentee ballots is nearly twice as high (1.35%) as those cast by Republican and Democrats, but of course, once counted, they won’t count towards a GOP or Democratic candidate, as independents (and third-party registrants) are excluded from Florida’s closed primary system.

As a percentage of the state’s nearly 12 million active voters, more than 7% of the state’s 4.23m active Republicans have cast ballots, and nearly 6% of the state’s 4.54m active Democrats have already voted for a presidential nominee.

Thus far, on the Republican side at least, it appears that quite a few Republicans who didn’t participate four years ago in the January 31, Presidential Preference Primary, won by Mitt Romney, are making sure their voices are being heard in 2016. Nearly 131k Republicans who skipped the 2012 PPP have already voted, which is nearly 44% of the total Republican votes cast thus far. These low propensity voters–who were registered as GOP 4 years ago but weren’t compelled to vote for other non-establishment candidates, such as Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul or Herman Cain, to name a few of the GOP contenders that year–may be a good sign for Donald Trump.

 

 

Fewer NPAs & more Hispanics Register in final days before FL Presidential Primary Book closing

There was a slight uptick in the number of active registered voters in Florida immediately prior to the registration deadline to be eligible for the March 15 primary. From January 31 through February 16, 2016, the voter rolls grew by 62,318 voters. Certainly the number of newly registered voters was higher than 62k, given that the voter rolls are dynamic; Supervisors of Elections regularly remove voters from the rolls, including those who are deceased, move out of state, or are convicted of felonies. Under federal law (NVRA), SOEs should not be removing inactive voters during this period of time, given the immediacy of the March 15 presidential primary.

Is the increase in total registrations distributed evenly across racial and ethnic groups? No.

Hispanics now comprise 14.88% of the electorate, up .04% from the percentage of Hispanics in the January 31, 2016 active voter file. On the other hand, blacks now comprise 13.31% of the active voters, down from 13.34% of the January 31 active electorate. The percentage of the Florida electorate that is whites is also down, from 65.74% to 65.71% of the electorate.

These are pretty steep changes for just a 15 day window of new voter registrations, and likely reflects broader demographic changes in the state (more younger Hispanics eligible to register to vote) and general attrition rates from the voter file of white and black registered voters who have been removed from the statewide voter file.

What about these last-minute changes across the parties? Some interesting patterns emerge.

Registrants (with the possible exception of Jeb Bush) are generally not likely to change their racial or ethnic categorization on a voter registration form. But current registrants might very well might change their party registration ahead of a closed primary contest if they plan on voting.  This is especially true of No Party Affiliates (NPAs), who are excluded from voting in party primaries in Florida.

This very well might explain the drop in total NPA registrations in Florida over the two week period prior to the February 16 registration cutoff, from 2.892m to 2.878m active NPA voters. The decline of 13.6k registered voters is not Huuuuge in the grand scheme of things, but it is significant, given the general trend in the Sunshine State of more voters registering as NPAs over the past two decades.

It bears noting that nearly all of the decline in NPA registered voters appears to be due to the decline in white NPAs; the total number of registered Hispanic NPAs, and even black NPAs, increased over the two-week period.

Although there is certainly the possibility of an ecological fallacy at play when interpreting these aggregate numbers as a sign of NPAs engaged in last-minute party-switching, there was an uptick in the number of Republican active registered voters, nearly 50k from January 31 through February 16, to 4.276m. Democrats also increased their rolls, but less by than 30k, to 4.570m for the Presidential Preference Primary book closing.

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