Analyzing The Absentee Ballots In The New York 20 Special House Election

By Michael Barone, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

What's going to happen when the absentee and military ballots are counted in the New York 20th district, where Democrat Scott Murphy currently has a lead of 25 votes out of 154,409 cast on election day. Still to be counted are absentee and military votes. How are they likely to go?

First, let's start with a measuring stick, the party registration in New York 20 for the November 8, 2008, election. By my count, the party registration for the district is 41 percent Republican, 26 percent Democratic and 33 percent other or "blank."

Now here, hat tip to John McCormack of the Weekly Standard, is the New York state official accounting of absentee and military votes.

20th CD ABSENTEE STATUS
4/1/2009
COUNTY TOTAL BALLOTS MAILED OUT TOTAL VOTED BALLOTS BACK MILITARY BALLOTS OUT MILITARY BALLOTS BACK FEDERAL BALLOTS OUT FEDERAL BALLOTS BACK
COLUMBIA 1407 905 83 26 117 22
DELAWARE 510 258 86 15 48 10
DUTCHESS 1262 640 127 13 231 36
ESSEX 292 154 20 1 38 5
GREENE 739 411 52 4 73 11
OTSEGO 296 165 23 4 16 0
RENSSELAER 710 429 75 17 49 7
SARATOGA 2581 1815 292 57 140 30
WARREN 1407 1022 111 19 110 19
WASHINGTON 958 582 136 14 53 8
TOTAL 10,162 6,381 1,005 170 875 148


20th CD ABSENTEE STATUS - PARTY BREAKDOWN
3/30/2009
REPUBLICAN DEMOCRAT ALL OTHERS
COUNTY ABSENTEE BALLOTS MAILED ABSENTEE BALLOTS RETURNED ABSENTEE BALLOTS MAILED ABSENTEE BALLOTS RETUNED ABSENTEE BALLOTS MAILED ABSENTEE BALLOTS RETURNED
COLUMBIA 367 242 678 471 66 31
DELAWARE 249 108 168 73 87 22
DUTCHESS 415 185 460 204 365 116
ESSEX 139 74 99 57 54 29
GREENE 321 202 227 130 191 79
OTSEGO 127 80 102 57 67 24
RENSSELAER 304 187 191 128 215 114
SARATOGA 1291 953 733 525 557 324
WARREN 764 569 437 316 205 113
WASHINGTON 496 315 295 187 167 80
TOTAL 4,473 2,915 3,390 2,148 1,974 932
Black 3/29
Green 3/30 3:45pm 4-1-09
Purple 3/31


As I read these tables, there are 6,381 total ballots currently reported as returned to election officials but not yet counted. Of these, 5,995 are absentee ballots, 170 are military ballots and 148 are federal ballots (I'm guessing these are people qualified to vote in federal elections but not, for some reason, in state elections). Yes, I know that adds up to 6,313, which is 68 short of the 6,381 listed as "total voted ballots back." I'm not sure what the discrepancy is.

Let's just take the absentees. Of those 5,995 votes, 48 percent were cast by registered Republicans, 36 percent were cast by registered Democrats and 16 percent by others. That's a 12 percent Republican advantage, a little less than the 15 percent advantage Republicans have in total party identification. It suggests to me a pretty good Democratic absentee voter drive, since registered Democrats in an Upstate New York district are likelier to be behavioral Democrats than registered Republicans are to be behavioral Republicans. (Reasons: a lot of people register Republican to vote in legislative and local primaries in jurisdictions which are now or have been heavily Republican in general elections; some people may hav registered as Republicans years ago out of conviction but lately have been voting Democratic, which is in line with the Democratic trend over the last decade or so in Upstate New York).

Thus this absentee electorate could be a little more Democratic than the voters who voted on election day. However, it's also possible that an effective Republican absentee voter drive targeted those registered Republicans who also indicate that they are behavioral Republicans; if I were setting up an absentee voter drive that's what I'd aim at doing. So this absentee electorate could be a little more Republican than the electorate as a whole. There's no real way to know until the votes are counted.

As for the military ballots, I would assume they're heavily Republican. The 20th district doesn't have any major military installations and so does not have a lot of the kind of military personnel (i.e., blacks or Hispanics) who might be more likely than most members of the military to vote Democratic. But only 170 military ballots have been returned so far.

There's still time for absentee ballots to be received--and even more time for military ballots. The party registration of the unreturned absentee ballots is 41 percent Republican, 32 percent Democratic and 27 percent other. That looks a little more Democratic than total party registration. Which would be good news for the Democrats: the voters who voted on election day, presumably fairly representative of overall party registration, came in 50.01 percent Democratic despite the Republican registration edge. But there are also 835 military ballots yet to come it; they could provide a significant Republican majority.

Democrats are spinning that the absentees from each county will come in the same way the county voted on election day, in which case the Democrat Scott Murphy wins. Maybe, maybe not. Republicans are spinning that the absentees will come in more Republican than the election day vote because of the Republican party registration edge among them. Again, maybe, maybe not. As I told John McCormack, I don't know how to price this toxic asset. If the government will provide 92 percent of the capital, I'll bet on it. If it's all my money, fuhggidddaboudit.

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