Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interpreting the Early Votes

Right now, MoCo political junkies are eagerly scanning the early voting results. But they should beware because they are probably skewed in important ways.

The early voting totals, which will probably wind up being 5-10% of the total vote (if that), are distinct from election day voting in the following ways.

1. They are driven by geography.

MoCo had five early voting centers: Bauer Drive Rec Center in Aspen Hill, the Executive Office Building in Downtown Rockville, the Germantown Recreation Center, the Praisner Community Center in Burtonsville and the Silver Spring Civic Center. That will disproportionately impact candidates who will do well (or badly) in those areas, and will affect legislative districts. The fact that Montgomery is leading Kramer in District 14 could well be because the Praisner Center is in Burtonsville, the relatively liberal part of the district. In Council District 2, Craig Rice, who lives in Germantown, benefits from early voting in the Germantown Recreation Center. In District 18, Beyer ran relatively well in Silver Spring last time whereas Carr’s base is along Connecticut Avenue. That may be part of the reason she is leading Carr. And in the at-large race, Trachtenberg and Wagner were hurt in early voting totals because there is no early voting center in Bethesda. Elrich, Leventhal and Riemer benefitted from early voting in Downtown Silver Spring.

Early voting center geography was correlated with legislative district voting percentages. Consider early voting turnout rates by legislative district, noting which ones had early voting centers.

District 20: 2.03% (Silver Spring Civic Center)
District 19: 2.02% (Bauer Drive Rec Center)
District 14: 1.55% (Praisner Center)
District 17: 1.22% (EOB)
District 18: 1.22% (None)
District 39: 1.11% (Germantown Rec)
District 15: 0.96% (None)
District 16: 0.76% (None)

2. They are pre-Apple Ballot.

We hear that MCEA had little or no Apple Ballot coverage at the early voting centers. Also, MCEA’s mailers hit late. That works against Wagner and Riemer in the early voting results.

3. Many of the early votes are pre-mail.

Many early voters voted prior to getting all of the mail. We don’t know how that will play out, but it could be a factor.

Welcome to the beginning of what could be a long night.