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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Challenge of Absentee Ballots

Please welcome kansasr to our growing team of contributors! -Ray

As a new poster here, just a brief introduction...I live for political analysis. My background was in market analysis. Now that I've moved to South Florida and am retired from the corporate world, I try to apply those disciplines to political analysis and to getting good Democrats elected. And now, on with our show....

(cross posted from FLA Politics)

I was in the process of cleaning out some of my old data from the 2006 general elections and decided to look at absentee voters one more time.

From previous analysis of areas that I had worked in, it was clear that a suprising (to me) number of absentee ballots were never returned. So I wanted to see just what the opportunity was here. I had data from 3 counties: Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas.

In Broward only 72.1% of the voters who requested absentee ballots actually returned them. In Palm Beach, the number was 82.9% and in Pinellas it was 85.4%.

Looking across party lines, 3rd party voters were less likely to return their ballots (on the order of 5-7 percentage points less) and there wasn't a lof of difference between the return rates of Democrats and Republicans.

Of the 184,647 absentee ballots requested in these 3 counties, 147,999 were returned, leaving 36,648 votes sitting out there.

Knowing that some of these absentee ballots ended up going to the polls, I took a look at one county, Pinellas, to see what percentage of unreturned absentee voters ended up casting ballots at the poll. The good news is that in Pinellas, it was 37%. The bad news is that 63% of those remaining Pinellas voters who actually had ballots in their hands never cast them.

Assuming a similar voting rate in the other 2 counties, this would mean that over 23,000 voters with ballots never cast them.

I know that in a small target group of Pinellas precincts, they had an active program to follow up with voters who had not returned their absentee ballots. In those precincts, they increased the return/voted rate from 85% to 94%.

Lesson to be learned, I've got to monitor those absentee ballot requests and follow up with them. It's good use of phone banking - there's a ballot sitting there on the kitchen table. With a little coaxing, you can get a stamp on it and get it in the mail.

1 comment:

Susan S said...

Excellent information. After learning what we did at the DFA training, we are going to be spending lots of our energy on "Vote by Mail" (our new frame). The first step is to design an approved form for the local party to hand out so that the request for ballots goes through us. This should be stressed at EVERY Democratic party gathering and in every canvass.