Thursday, November 06, 2008

Advantage: Harris

Absentee voter data from the 2006 race in Congress District 1 suggests that Andy Harris may very well overtake Frank Kratovil.

With 100% of the precincts reporting, Kratovil leads Harris by 160,915-160,000, or 915 votes. In the Baltimore County, Anne Arundel and Harford precincts, Harris leads by 81,991 to 63,477. In the Eastern Shore precincts, Kratovil leads by 97,438-78,009. Kratovil won every Eastern Shore county and Harris won every county west of the Bay.

The election will now come down to absentee and provisional ballots. The state’s data for past Congressional elections lacks the details I used to analyze past Montgomery County data for the purpose of assessing the prospects of the Ficker amendment. But there is enough data from the 2006 election to suggest that absentee voting in District 1 trends Republican.

The state does not report 2006 polling place, absentee and provisional voting data for District 1 as a whole. But it does report those totals by county and by party. Two cuts on that data draw similar conclusions.

Cut 1: The Eastern Shore
Nine counties on the Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester) lie entirely within District 1. In 2006, they accounted for 53% of all votes cast in the District 1 general election. So far in 2008, they account for 55% of the vote. In 2006, Democrats accounted for 46% of the 130,090 votes cast at the polls while Republicans accounted for 42.8%, a 3.2 point edge. However, of the 15,181 voters who cast absentee ballots, Republicans cast 51.1% of those votes compared to just 40.2% for the Democrats. The parties were virtually even (42.3% R vs. 41.4% D) for the 1,832 provisional ballots.

Cut 2: All Twelve Counties
Large parts of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel Counties are outside District 1 but the data does not allow disaggregation below the county level. Nevertheless, the trend among all twelve counties may be instructive. In 2006, 52.7% of all poll voters were Democrats compared to just 36.3% for the Republicans – a 16.4 point edge. However, Republicans accounted for 50.4% of the absentee voters compared to 41.4% for the Democrats – a 9.0 point edge in the opposite direction. That is a total swing of 25.4 points! And bear in mind that the areas of these three counties inside District 1 tend to be conservative precincts. (Democrats held a 7.0 point edge in provisional voting, but the total number of those votes was only one-fifth of the absentees.)

Either way, Republicans dramatically outperformed Democrats in the 2006 absentee vote.

The Post reports that 25,239 absentee ballots remain to be counted. If Andy Harris wins 52% of them, he would net 1,010 votes over Kratovil – enough to cover his current deficit of 915. Given past patterns, that is a conservative performance estimate for a Republican in District 1.

Unless absentee voting patterns have fundamentally changed in the last two years, Andy Harris could well be going to Congress.