I’ve been puzzling over a story by Adam Smith in the Tampa Bay Times that ran a couple of days ago. According to analysis done by the Florida Chamber of Commerce‘s “data people,” over on-quarter of all the Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots (née, Absentee Ballots) cast as of last Thursday were done so by voters who had never voted in any of the last four primary elections (which, I assume, they mean the primaries in August 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014).
These figures struck me as odd, if not implausible.
So I ran the numbers. My figures are a little more recent than the Chamber’s, as I’m analyzing VBMs received by SOEs through yesterday (Saturday, August 27).
As of yesterday, some 1.11m VBM had been received by the state’s 67 SOEs.
Of those 1.11m, SOEs have received 13.2k VBM ballots cast by voters who’ve registered since January 1 of this year; they received another 20.5k cast by voters who registered in 2015.
These new voters had no chance of casting ballots in the 2014 August primary election, and thus, there’s no reason why they should be included in the Chamber’s analysis, much less be assumed to be “unlikely voters.”
Indeed, over 13k of the 20.5k who registered in 2015 and who’ve voted VBM this August primary had voted in the March 15 Presidential Preference Primary earlier this year. Although they’ve recently registered, I’d be hard-pressed to classify these presidential primary voters as “unlikely voters” this general primary election.
Furthermore, of the 1.11m VBM received so far, 635.9k have been cast by voters who voted in the 2014 August primary. That’s 57.3% of the total, and that’s not even excluding from any analysis the more than 33.7k who’ve already voted VBM who couldn’t have cast ballots two years ago because they weren’t registered. Take them out of the equation, and nearly 60% of the VBMs cast so far in this primary were cast by those who were eligible to vote in the 2014 August primary).
By my count, some 286.8k VBM ballots received by SOEs thus far have been cast by voters who skipped the previous four August primaries. Perhaps the Chamber’s “data people” were on to something. This does seem like a pretty high figure at first glance.
But upon closer inspection, of these VBM August 2016 primary voters, less than half — some 131.1k — were actually registered on the books back in January, 2008, and thus eligible to partake in all four of the August primaries underpinning the Chamber’s analysis. Thus, these are the truly “unlikely voters.” But they account for only 12% of the VBMs cast thus far in this primary election, and not “more than a quarter” of all VBMs, as Adam Smith reports.
Contrary to the Chamber’s analysis, then, three-fifths of the VBM ballots received by SOEs thus far have been cast by VERY regular primary voters, not “‘new’ primary voters.”