Archives for category: Florida

My talk to the Alachua Dems 2015, about the multiple electorates in Florida, as well as in Gainesville, in general, midterm, and local elections.

My latest with Michael Herron:

Herron, Michael C. and Daniel A. Smith. 2015. “Precinct Closing Times in Florida During the 2012 General Election,” Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 14(3): 220-238.


The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act has spurred a search for measures of election performance that extend beyond race-based registration and turnout rates. We contribute to this endeavor by studying patterns of precinct congestion in Florida during the 2012 General Election. With precinct closing times as proxies for congestion, our study covers 5,302 total Election Day precincts in Florida. We show that there was tremendous variance in closing times in Florida on Election Day in 2012 and that precincts with greater proportions of Hispanic voters closed disproportionately late. This finding holds even controlling for the number of pollworkers per precinct. Broadly speaking, voting place congestion in the 2012 General Election appears not to have affected all Floridians equally, and most notably the post-Shelby electoral environment in the United States continues to reflect racial disparities. With the loss of the Voting Rights Act’s retrogression standard, our analysis illustrates how precinct congestion data can be used to assess whether different racial/ethnic groups face different barriers to voting.

Had a great time today talking about voter turnout with the participants in the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership, Government and Policy Day. Thanks to Adrian Taylor  for inviting me!  I’ve posted my slides here: GNV Chamber Smith 2015.

Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times provides the inside story on how on we decode the Florida Legislature’s unconstitutional Congressional gerrymander.

Data sleuths decoded Florida’s redistricting conspiracy

Mary Ellen KlasMary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Saturday, September 5, 2015 10:00am

TALLAHASSEE — The legal team that uncovered the shadow redistricting process that invalidated Florida’s congressional and Senate districts didn’t rely just on maps and cloak-and-dagger emails to prove that legislators broke the law.

The best clues came in the form of data — millions of census blocks — delivered electronically and found in the files of political operatives who fought for two years to shield it.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in July that lawmakers were guilty of violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution and ordered them to redraw the congressional map.

It was a landmark ruling that declared the entire process had been “tainted with improper political intent” — a verdict so broad that it prompted an admission from the state Senate that lawmakers had violated the Constitution when they drew the Senate redistricting plan in 2012. The Legislature has scheduled a special session in October to start over on that map.

But the breakthrough for the legal team — lawyers for the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, a coalition of Democrat-leaning voters and their redistricting experts — came just days before the May 19, 2014, trial on the congressional map was set to begin.


The first place the challengers looked for clues was in the House’s batch of seven proposed congressional maps in November 2011.

Daniel Smith, an elections expert and University of Florida political science professor, was among the experts hired by the League of Women voters in 2012 to analyze the redistricting maps drawn by the Legislature for evidence that the process had been used to favor incumbents or political parties.

Moonlighting and working from home, Smith examined what made the House’s drafts different, looking for shifts that would tilt the 27 available congressional seats more Republican.

“The mapmakers in Tallahassee — either the state legislative staff or Republican operatives — were literally going down to the census block level and figuring out what the performance of a district was by moving people in or out of key districts,” he said. “Each map exposed the decisions by leadership.”

He found that to help U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Haven, the maps moved Democrats out of his district and into Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s sprawling north-south district.

“Dan Webster’s residence was actually in Corrine Brown’s district but that was because there were so many Democrats in that census block and precinct that his house came with it,” Smith said. “The final map tipped the minority voters in Brown’s district for the first time over 50 percent plus.”

But the data showed that mapmakers went beyond saturating Brown’s district with black voters. “They also sought other Democratic-performing white census blocks to pack into that district,” he said. “It made sure those Democrats were not in the adjacent competitive district.”

As Smith compared 400,000 census blocks on each of nearly 100 maps, he found “a unique aggregation of census blocks” that didn’t exist in the 2002 congressional map used by lawmakers as their baseline. Yet these pieces existed “across different maps — from maps drawn prior to any public map, all the way to the final adopted map,” he said.

One map, titled “Perfect Pieces” by Reichelderfer, “contained the fundamental structure for subsequent maps introduced by the Florida House,” Smith wrote in his analysis.

Legislative lawyers tried to block Smith’s report from being entered into evidence at trial, and the plaintiffs never called Smith as a witness. But Smith said the conclusions were unavoidable: The similarity between Reichelderfer’s maps and the ones enacted by legislators “can’t be a coincidence. There has to be some grander coordination going on.”


Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said when he invalidated the congressional map in 2014 that the operatives “might have successfully concealed their scheme and their actions from the public had it not been for the (challengers’) determined efforts to uncover it in this case.”

For King, the head of a six-member law firm who had never before handled a redistricting lawsuit, the case was like “piecing together a puzzle.”

“It’s just like any other case except you’ve got maps,” King said. “The maps tell a story and you’ve got to interpret them.”

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at Follow @MaryEllenKlas.

Early voting is underway in the runoff election for Mayor of the City of Jacksonville.  According to a report by the Florida Times Union, only 4,275 ballots were cast on Monday (yesterday), the first day of early voting, in the 18 early voting sites located across Duval County.

In the 2011 mayoral runoff election, strong turnout by African Americans during the two weeks of early voting helped to tip the scales for Alvin Brown who won his first term as Jacksonville’s mayor.

African Americans in Duval County — even more so than the rest of Florida — have become habituated to vote early. Facing an array of obstacles limiting their ability to cast a vote on a Tuesday—the traditional election day even in municipal elections—or remaining dubious about having their absentee ballots count, thousands of African Americans in Jacksonville have taken advantage of the convenience of voting early, which was enacted by a Republican legislature and signed into law in 2004 by Governor Jeb Bush. In the 2011 Jacksonville municipal election, black voters in Duval County were especially likely to vote on the final Sunday before Election Day, taking their Souls to the Polls.

In 2011, African Americans made up roughly 28% of the registered voters in Duval County (about the same today), with white registered voters comprising about 62% of the county’s voter rolls (today, whites make up about 60% of the county’s electorate).  Jacksonville African Americans, however, were disproportionately more likely to go early to the polls to vote in the 2011 municipal election when compared to other racial or ethnic groups.

Figure 1, below, plots the daily composition (that is, the fraction of early voters on each day that is of a particular race/ethnicity) of the early voting electorate in the 2011 Jacksonville mayoral contest.  It reveals that African Americans relied much more heavily on early voting, Of the approximately 38,000 registered voters in Duval County who voted early over the two-week early voting period prior to Election Day (May 17, 2011), African Americans cast roughly 34% of the early votes, even though they comprised just 28% of the electorate.

Figure 1: Racial and Ethnic Composition (Percentage) of Early Voters in Duval County, May 2011 Mayoral Runoff Election


What is most notable from Figure 1 is the huge spike in early votes by African Americans on the final day of early voting, Sunday, May 15, 2011. In fact, on that final Sunday of early voting, even though they comprised less than a third of registered voters, more African Americans came to the polls to vote in the Jacksonville runoff election than did whites.

Early voting has just started; it runs through May 17.  I suspect we’ll see a surge of early voters — especially African Americans — in the days to come, especially the final Sunday of early voting, Sunday May 17, 2015.

Details about where and when early voting is available can be found on the Duval County Supervisor of Elections website.

Just finished cranking out some crosstabs for my coauthor Seth McKee at Texas Tech, and thought I’d share the actual age breakdown of the 2014 Florida electorate. Let’s just say Florida’s voters were A LOT older than the official exit poll suggests.  Here’s CNN’s exit poll estimates for voters, by age, in the 2014 General Election:


The exit poll is WAY off with regard to the estimate of younger voters turning out in 2014. According the Florida voter file, of the 6 million or so who turned out to vote, just over 8% were between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, a far cry from the 14% estimate of the exit poll.  Roughly 16% of actual voters who turned out were 30-44 years old, again, considerably less than the exit poll estimate of 19%.

So, does the exit poll over-estimate the turnout of 45-64 year olds? Actually, no.  According to the official voter file, less than 40% of the actual Florida electorate was in that age bracket, less than the exit poll estimate of 42%.

How is this possible?

The exit poll severely under-estimated the percentage of the electorate that was 65 and over. According to the exit poll, one quarter of the electorate in 2014 was 65 years old or older, when in fact the statewide voter file indicates that nearly 36% of the electorate was 65 or older.

The  generation gap is alive and well in Florida, especially with regard to turnout in midterm elections, a fact missed by the 2014 General Election exit poll.

Teaming up with my colleague, Michael McDonald <@ElectProject>, and my great team of @UF undergrad and graduate students for this Knight Foundation News Challenge!
More here:

Not sure why the fascination about Jeb not voting in the 2008 presidential election ( via @NYTPolitics). Here’s the voting record of John Ellis Bush according the the Florida voter file, 1996-2012.

“PRI” “A” 3/12/1996
“PRI” “Y” 9/3/1996
“PRI” “Y” 10/1/1996
“GEN” “Y” 11/5/1996
“PRI” “Y” 9/1/1998
“GEN” “Y” 11/3/1998
“OTH” “Y” 7/29/1999
“PRI” “A” 3/14/2000
“PRI” “A” 9/5/2000
“PRI” “A” 10/3/2000
“GEN” “A” 11/7/2000
“OTH” “A” 4/10/2001
“OTH” “A” 6/12/2001
“PRI” “A” 9/10/2002
“GEN” “Y” 11/5/2002
“PRI” “A” 3/9/2004
“PRI” “A” 8/31/2004
“GEN” “A” 11/2/2004
“OTH” “A” 3/8/2005
“OTH” “A” 4/12/2005
“PRI” “A” 9/5/2006
“GEN” “A” 11/7/2006
“PPP” “Y” 1/29/2008
“PRI” “E” 8/26/2008
“PRI” “E” 8/24/2010
“GEN” “A” 11/2/2010
“OTH” “Y” 3/15/2011
“PRI” “A” 5/24/2011
“GEN” “A” 6/28/2011
“PPP” “A” 1/31/2012
“PRI” “A” 8/14/2012
“GEN” “A” 11/6/2012

Because, as Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley correctly noted on Monday to Steve Bousquet, “The data provided to us by the Florida Department of State lacked complete, credible and accurate data.”

Yup. Couldn’t agree more.

Here’s my Expert Report in the case, Arcia v. Detzner.

Read it here


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