“Residual Votes in the 2020 Election in Georgia”
David Cottrell, Felix E. Herron, Michael C. Herron, and Daniel A. Smith
The 2020 General Election took place against the backdrop of a pandemic and numerous claims about incipient voter fraud and election malfeasance. No state’s presidential race was closer than Georgia’s, where a hand recount of the presidential contest is planned. As an initial post-election audit of the 2020 election in Georgia, we analyze residual vote rates in statewide races. A race’s residual vote rate combines the rates at which ballots contain undervotes (abstentions) and overvotes (which occur when voters cast more than the allowed number of votes in a race). Anomalously high residual vote rates can be indicative of underlying election administration problems, like ballot design flaws. Our analysis of residual vote rates in Georgia uncovers nothing anomalous in the presidential race, a notable result given this race’s closeness. We do, however, nd an unusually high overvote rate in Georgia’s special election for a seat in the United States Senate. This high overvote rate is concentrated in Gwinnett County and appears to reflect the county’s two-column ballot design that led roughly 4,000 voters to select more than one candidate for senate in the special election, in the process rendering invalid their votes in this contest.
The full paper is available here.
Anna Baringer, Michael C. Herron, and Daniel A. Smith, available here.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its concomitant need for social distancing have increased the attractiveness of voting by mail. This form of voting is nonetheless not a panacea for election administration in the time of a public health crisis, as a widespread move to ballots cast by voting by mail risks exacerbating existing inequities in mail-in ballot rejection rates across voters and jurisdictions. This motivates our examination of the roughly 9.6 million and 8.2 million ballots cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections in Florida, respectively, including over 2.6 million vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots cast in each. Using a selection model that analyzes all ballots cast and those VBM ballots not counted in Florida in these two elections, we find that younger voters, voters not registered with a major political party, and voters in need of assistance when voting are disproportionately likely to have their VBM ballots not count. We also find disproportionately high rejection rates of mail ballots cast by Hispanic voters, out-of-state voters, and military dependents in the 2018 general election. Lastly, we find significant variation in the rejection rates of VBM ballots cast across Florida’s 67 counties in the 2018 election, suggesting a non-uniformity in the way local election officials verify these ballots. As interest in expanding mail voting swells as a consequence of the novel coronavirus, protecting the rights of all voters to participate in electoral politics requires a characterization of the correlates of VBM ballot rejection with an eye toward considering how disparities in ballot rejection rates might be rectified.
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