I’ve had a very productive conversation with the Florida Division of Elections regarding my earlier post, below.
Statutorily (Section 98.0981, F.S.), Florida counties are not required to compile and upload their complete voter history for the March 31, 2016 PPP until April 28, 2016. As such, the complete PPP individual-level voter histories that the counties provide to the FVRS will not be reflected until the April 30, 2016 statewide voter extract. Of course, most of the counties did voluntarily report their PPP data to the FVRS in time to be captured in the March 31, 2016 voter history file. A handful of counties, though, voluntarily uploaded only partial voter histories for the PPP, which I document below.
The month-long delay by some counties (even though permitted statutorily) in uploading their voter histories seems to be somewhat problematic. It can lead to an asynchronized archiving of official voting state data.
For example, in counties where SOEs immediately report individuals’ vote histories in their counties, a contemporaneous snapshot of turnout is possible. On the other hand, in counties where SOEs legally delay their reporting, it is possible that the vote histories of registered voters who turned out might be mis-assigned. If a registered voter who cast a ballot in one county in the PPP moves to another county and re-registers in that county, the PPP vote history that is uploaded to the FVRS by the voter’s previous county will appear to have been cast in the voter’s new county, not the actual county in which the PPP was cast.
I’ll have more to say on the issue later.
But I want to reemphasize that my post last night was intended to be a cautionary tale to those who utilize these data, not an indictment of the FDOS of the SOEs or Secretary Detzner.
There are some problems with the March 31, 2016 statewide Voter History File not syncing with the official vote totals. Nothing serious, I hope. But nothing new, either…
I was going to start cranking out a simple analysis of who turned out to vote in the March 15, 2016 Presidential Preference Primary, but it looks like some county Supervisors of Elections did not successfully upload their official results, which were due to the Division no later than noon on Sunday, March 27, 2016.
According to an announcement issued by the Florida Division of Elections, voter turnout in the 2016 Presidential Preference Primary (as of 3/27/2016) was 46.23%. The Division reports that 4,089,516 votes were cast (out of the total number of active registered Republicans and Democrats (8,845,892) as of the registration deadline).
This official vote is slightly different from the FDOE’s “2016 Presidential Preference Primary March 15, 2016, Official Election Results” website, which reports that the total votes cast was 4,164,001. There’s no explanation from FDOE why the totals are not the same, but I can certainly understand why they may differ. Really, why quibble over a couple (OK, several) thousand votes cast in Florida?
What is more disconcerting, however, is that these two totals are far greater than what is recorded in the March 31, 2016 Voter History File. The Voter History File reports the method of voting of all those who who cast ballots in the election. A quick sum finds only 3,408,945 ballots appear to have been cast by individual voters.
What accounts for the 755,056 missing from in Voter History File (if we compare it to the “Official Election Results” website)?
A quick analysis reveals that several counties have not properly uploaded their individual vote histories to the statewide Florida Voter History File, maintained by the Bureau of Voter Registration Services (BVRS).
Here’s a quick and dirty scatter-plot of the total votes cast in the PPP 2016, with the Voter History File on Y-Axis and the “Official Election Results” on the X-Axis.
As is pretty clear, 7 counties have failed to synchronize their own individual-level records with the BVRS’s statewide Voter History File: Collier, Sarasota, Polk, Brevard, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, and Broward.The discrepancies are not small. Brevard, Broward, Hillsborough, and Polk counties report precisely zero (0) votes were cast on Election Day. Other counties, too, failed to sync their own records with the BVRS’s Vote History File, but they’re too small to see on the scatter-plot. These additional counties with zero (0) votes cast include Desoto, Franklin, Glades, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Layfayette, and Taylor. Other counties, too, have obvious problems: Collier reports one (1) Election Day vote was cast; Palm Beach reports 126 votes were cast on Election Day; Sarasota, 48 cast on Election Day.
Clearly, there’s a syncing issue with these counties.
Data uploaded by the counties and synced with the BVRS database by many other counties looks pretty clean. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the totals only differ by 5,674 votes (compared to the 134,045 missing individual-level votes in neighboring Broward). Orange county’s total is only off by 2,338 votes cast. Hamilton County’s total votes cast are spot-on: 2,451 and 2,451. Pasco County, whose SOE Brian Corley heads the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections (FSASE), recorded 103,987 votes cast in the Voter History File, and 103,722 on the Official Election Results webpage, a difference of only 265 votes cast.
To be sure, this is not the first time I’ve discovered these kinds of discrepancies with the official vote tally and what is reported in the BVRS’s voter files. For an article (see footnote 8) on early voting patterns in Florida that I wrote with Michael Herron (as well as several other articles), we found major discrepancies in the December 31, 2012 Vote History File. After discussing the issue with the counties that had syncing problems, it was finally corrected in the March 31, 2013 file.
I’m sure FDOE and the county SOEs will get to the bottom of this in due time. But until then, data-hounds should be very weary about using the statewide Vote History File for any analyses.
Which is good, as this data-hound has some papers to revise and final papers to grade!