Wednesday, December 14, 2016

1.7 Million Voters in 33 States and DC Cast a Ballot Without Voting for President

In every Election, there are people who go to the polls to cast a ballot but who don't vote in every race. Usually, those "undervotes," as they're called, happen down-ballot, resulting in fewer votes for, say, County Commissioner than, say, President of the United States. But in every Election there are also people who skip the Presidential ballot for whatever reason. It happens.

With 2016 pitting two historically unpopular candidates against one another, The Washington Post were curious for the extent to which under-voting occurred in the marquee contest this year. they found some evidence that it was occurring a few weeks ago, but set out to tally the Under-Vote more deliberately, pulling in data from every State to figure out how many people skipped the top of the ticket.

They were able to compile data from 33 States and D.C. In those States in 2012, there were 754,000 Under-Votes at the top of the ticket, about 0.9% of all ballots cast. In 2016, 1.75 million people skipped the Presidential contest, 2% of the total. In other words, in these States, one out of every 50 people declined to vote in the Presidential contest.

That Under-Vote varies by State.

In only three States was the Under-Vote percentage down. In States where it was up, it was up by an average of 2.5 times as much as in 2012.

The way this is tabulated is fairly simple. In States that compile the total number of votes cast, They compare that number to the number of votes in the Presidential race. The difference is the Under-Vote. They checked every State for this data, but some haven't yet posted overall vote totals and others use the balloting in the Presidential race as their total Statewide count for the purposes of estimating turnout.

No State had more Under-Votes than California, nearly 470,000, which makes sense because it's the most populous State. But California also had one of the higher Under-Vote percentages. The highest was in Montana, though that only added 20,000 Under-Votes to the total.

In several States, the number of people who didn't vote was near or greater than the eventual margin of victory.

- Arizona. Margin, 91,234, Under-Vote, 88,332, 96.8% of margin.
- Florida. Margin, 112,911, Under-Vote, 160,450, 142.1% of margin.
- Maine. Margin, 22,142, Under-Vote, 23,965, 108.2% of margin.
- Michigan. Margin, 10,704, Under-Vote, 75,335, 703.8% of margin.

The extent to which this effect can be blamed on the candidates is hard to say with certainty. It's clearly the case that a greater density of voters in 2016 were willing to pass on the Presidential race than were in 2012, but any number of factors could be at play beyond just the people on the ballot. There's no strong correlation between turnout changes since 2012 and the Under-Vote; if anything, turnout was more likely to be up in places with a greater percentage of blank Presidential ballots.

It is clear, though, that people deciding on one candidate or another instead of skipping the Presidential race could have made the difference in the Election. Flip Michigan and flip Florida, both States where the Under-Vote was bigger than the margin, and Trump drops to 261 Electoral votes.

But between those two States, more than a quarter of a million people preferred to pick nobody than anyone on the ballot.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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1 comment:

richardwinger said...

Probably this article is not true, but that is not the fault of the author. The problem is that 42 states have write-in space on their ballots for president, but very few of those states count the write-ins unless they are write-ins for declared presidential write-in candidates. So we really don't know how many people left their ballot blank, versus how many people cast a write-in vote that will never be counted.