Latest article in Political Behavior on early voting in North Carolina in 2016

Hannah L. Walker, Michael C. Herron, Daniel A. Smith, “Early Voting Changes and Voter Turnout: North Carolina in the 2016 General Election,” Political Behavior (Online June 25, 2018).

Available here.

Abstract

North Carolina offers its residents the opportunity to cast early in-person (EIP) ballots prior to Election Day, a practice known locally as “One-Stop” voting. Following a successful legal challenge to the state’s controversial 2013 Voter Information and Verification Act, North Carolina’s 100 counties were given wide discretion over the hours and locations of EIP voting for the 2016 General Election. This discretion yielded a patchwork of election practices across the state, providing us with a set of natural experiments to study the effect of changes in early voting hours on voter turnout. Drawing on individual-level voting records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, our research design matches voters on race, party, and geography. We find little evidence that changes to early opportunities in North Carolina had uniform effects on voter turnout. Nonetheless, we do identify areas in the presidential battleground state where voters appear to have reacted to local changes in early voting availability, albeit not always in directions consistent with the existing literature. We suspect that effects of changes to early voting rules are conditional on local conditions, and future research on the effects of election law changes on turnout should explore these conditions in detail.

 

Turnout in Florida by Race/Ethnicity

White voter turnout in Florida from 2012 to 2016 jumped by nearly 4 percentage points, from 73.1% of active voters casting ballots in 2012, to 77.1% of active voters casting ballots in 2016.

Black turnout, which was a major concern for Democrats with President Obama no longer on the ballot, was down by 3.3 percentage points, from 72.3% to 69.0% of active voters.

Hispanic turnout, which saw a dramatic increase from 2012 to 2016 during the early voting period in Florida, was up overall, from 63.1% of active voters casting ballots in 2012, to 68.9% in 2016.

Overall in 2016, Florida’s electorate was less white in 2016 than four years ago.  Whites comprised 68.4% of the electorate in 2012; in 2016, they comprised 66.8% of voters. The difference, not surprisingly, is due to Hispanics making up a greater share of the electorate, from just 12.5% in 2012 to 14.8% in 2016.

It is erroneous to conclude that higher Hispanic turnout in Florida led to greater support for Trump. This is a classic example of an ecological inference fallacy, as others have shown at the precinct level in Miami-Dade County, and as my colleagues and I will be investigating more thoroughly statewide (and by method of vote cast) in the coming days.

Florida’s 2016 General Election Turnout by Party & Race/Ethnicity, by Method of Vote

Roughly 9.59m Floridians turned out to vote in the 2016 General Election, or 74% of the state’s 12.96m active voters.

Of the Floridians who turned out in 2016, 28.4% cast a valid vote-by-mail, 40.4% cast a valid early in-person ballot, and 30.9% voted a valid ballot on Election Day.

But, as in past elections, these figures vary considerably across party and race/ethnicity.

Overall, of the 9.589m votes cast by active voters, more votes were cast by Republicans (38.7%) than Democrats (38.1%) with NPAs comprising another 20.7% of the electorate.

Among the active Democrats who voted in the 2016 GE, 72.3% cast their ballots prior to Election Day, whereas 31.5% of Republicans waited until Election Day.

In raw numbers, this translates into more than 157k Republicans voting on November 8 than Democrats.

Not surprisingly, there’s a similar breakdown across racial/ethnic groups.

Whites made up nearly 67% of those who cast ballots in the 2016 GE, while Hispanics comprised nearly 15% of all voters, and blacks 12.5%.

Nearly 52% of all blacks who voted cast early in-person ballots, and another 20% voted absentee.  Among Hispanics, nearly 45% voted early in-person, and another roughly 27% voted by mail. As such, only 27.5% of blacks and 28.2% of Hispanics who voted cast ballots on Election Day.

Contrast these figures with whites. 32% of whites who voted waited until Election Day to do so; another 37% of ballots cast by whites were early in-person, and the balance of 31% were cast by mail.

So, while minorities disproportionately voted early in-person in Florida, whites cast a greater share of votes by mail and ballots on Election Day.  Although they comprised 66.8% of the electorate, whites cast 72% of all vote-by-mail ballots and 69% of all Election Day ballots.

In the final analysis, raw numbers reveal the real story of the 2016 Presidential election in Florida: over a million white Republicans voted on Election Day, nearly double the number of Democrats who waited until Election Day to cast their ballots.