Friday, November 30, 2018

Vote Harvesting

Democrats had a great election. Congratulations. They had had four consecutive mediocre to poor House elections and they were bound to have a good one eventually. They got destroyed in 2010 and 20014. They won narrowly in 2012 and lost narrowly in 2016. Winning by a 1 point in 2012 was a pretty low high point. When there are only two parties, one can't dominate for too long. You'd better have a good election in a mid-term with the other party in the White House.

That said, just because a party should win big doesn't mean they'll actually win big. Hillary Clinton was expecting a 10 point win. Or maybe it was 50 points. The environment was great for Democrats and they took advantage.

They certainly did that in California. They wiped Republicans out. I was very wrong in my predictions and I couldn't figure out why. My predictions looked great at the end of election night. I was a little high for some Republicans and a little low for others. The late vote has skewed Democratic. In 2016, they picked up votes after election day in 80% of the districts. On average Democrats gained about 1.8 points. So I figured my predictions would still look good in the end.

I was very very wrong. The post-election votes were nothing like they'd been in the past three elections. Democrats had done 5-6 points better after election day previously were doing 20 points better. And there were a lot more post-election day ballots than there'd ever been. This election was different than the three previous ones and I couldn't figure out why. I was rather embarrassed that I'd dropped the ball by so much. Okay, I thought. This is taking so many unexpected bad turns for Republicans I'm better off waiting until it's over and then writing something.

I had no idea why this happened. I knew it couldn't be Republicans massively voting Democratic or NPP voters going from voting Republicans by 10 to Democrats by 40.

I found out the answer today. In 2016 Democrats made it legal for anyone to pick up VBM ballots from voters and deliver them to the ballot box themselves. Previously only a family member could do it. The process of picking up people's ballots is called vote harvesting.

Democrats outspent Republicans in California by 4-5 to 1. Most of the Democratic candidates spent double what their Republican counterparts did and Democratic dark money groups added to that. Republicans have shown an unwillingness to spend money in California. They didn't spend in 2014 and lost a bunch of districts narrowly. I think they're more willing to spend down ballot money when the party is competing for Senate and Gubernatorial elections up ballot. That doesn't happen here.

The bill was passed on a party line vote with Democrats voting for it and Republicans voting against it. Democrats clearly had a plan in place when they passed the bill and did something called vote harvesting. They sent their operatives to people they felt would vote Democratic and collected their VBM ballots at such a massive rate that the post-election counts were practically only adding Democratic ballots.

Republicans lost 6 districts where they had an election night lead. As a result, Republicans won roughly 35% of the House vote but won 13% of the congressional districts. Republicans may think that's wrong but they did know the rules Democrats made for the election. It's not the Democrats fault that the GOP couldn't take advantage of the rules.

I don't know if vote harvesting is legal in other states. It looks like it happened in North Carolina and people may go to jail as a result.

Republicans have called for voter ID for years but there's likely little fraud voting in person. Even without an ID some people voting for someone else would be recognized as not being that person. There's only so much you could get away with. It's easy to commit fraud with vote by mail, on the other hand. There's no one to check that you're the person who is supposed to fill in the ballot and you have weeks to collect ballots, rather than 12 hours to vote.

Vote harvesting makes it easier because now you can legally have someone else's ballot.

A campaign worker comes to someone's house. "Have you completed your ballot?"
"Give it to me. I'm allowed to complete it for you."

Or they could open the envelope and change any vote they don't like. That won't get their candidate a vote but it will get the ballot thrown out. Sure, they're not supposed to do that but there's nothing stopping them from doing it now.

A campaign worker comes to someone's house. "Have you completed your ballot?"
"Yes, here's my ballot and my husband's ballot."

Husband and wife are different parties. Why not just throw out the ballot that'll go against you? A hundred people in a nursing home are supposed to get their ballots delivered to them by the staff. What's to stop that staffer from taking those ballots and filling them out themselves? It might be illegal to fill out someone else's ballot and turn it in, but how would anyone know?

All these things have happened in the past and been reported. That wasn't on a massive scale. Did that happen this year? We have no way of knowing. What we can know is that the California system makes it easy to do this.

Maybe there's little or no voter fraud. Regardless this election has shown that sRepublicans don't have the money to compete with Democrats under these rules. I think 2020 will be even better for Democrats than 2018 was. I can see Republicans being reduced to 3 or 4 districts.

Monday, November 5, 2018

California Predictions

Special thank you to Paul Mitchell and PDI, without whom I wouldn't have the data to interpret. When I present you the numbers and provide you insight I go with the idea that the way people have voted in the past will give us a lot of insight into how they'll vote this year. You must think there's merit to that because you're still reading this after a couple of weeks of inside baseball numbers.

Nate Cohn and pollsters tell me I'm wrong. That studying the numbers is irrelevant because Republicans and NPP voters won't vote the way they have in the past. They're voting Democratic. If they're right, these predictions will be awful and you can point a finger at me and laugh. I'd rather get my predictions wrong because I used an incorrect assumption than get them right because I'm trying to conform to what the pollsters tell me will happen.

We have only one day more of VBM returns. The last day before election day is usually pretty big and it’s possible I’ll want to adjust my predictions before then. But they’d only be small tweaks. The link for my past and current predictions will be at the bottom. Don't want to spoil it. if you read this blog in 2014 and 2016 you can find the posts with these predictions.

In 2014, I made predictions on 11 congressional races. I got within 2% of the Republican voting percentage on 8 of them. I really blew CA-52 when I called it big for Carl DeMaio, but CA-52 was changing fast and the data hadn’t caught up with it. I called tight races in CA-3, 9, 16, 24, and 31 when the media didn’t even bother to look at them. The races were tight.

In 2016 I expanded to 20 contests. I was within 2 on only 10 of them, although I was within 3.4 on 15.

While other people tentatively make predictions on which candidate will win, I boldly predict actual percentage of the vote. So even if I'm off by 5 points, you probably won't find anyone else who dared to even try.

I developed a formula based on adjusting the VBM for the environment. I decided to use that rather than play around with the percentages to get something I agreed with. Live by the math, die by the math.

I’m skipping a few races that I predict but don’t expect to be competitive, but they are on the spreadsheet. CA-7: This district has been competitive in each cycle. The VBM margin suggests it could be competitive again. So an upset is possible. But I adjusted in a Democratic friendly environment to Bera 52.7%-47.3%.

CA-10: I was pessimistic on Jeff Denham earlier, but as of now there is only 1 more Democratic ballot than Republican ballot. That’s a real positive for a Central Valley Republican. If the wave peters out anywhere it may be districts like this one that don’t have a lot of white collar suburbs. Denham 51.5%-49.5%.

CA-16: Jim Costa got a scare in 2014 and so far VBMs are more Republican than that year. This one will be more competitive than people think. Costsa 52.0%-48.0%.

CA-21: This district is also more Republican than 2014. David Valadao has had relatively easy elections and I don’t see this one as any different. Valadao 59.4%-40.6%.

CA-22: Devin Nunes has been on the Democratic wish list all cycle. I don’t see it as being close, although it’ll be Nunes’ smallest margin. Nunes 56.8%-43.2%.

CA-24: This district has been close, even in 2014 when Republicans spent nothing and supposedly had a candidate who was too extreme. I gave Democrats the benefit of environment here. Carbajal 53.3%-46.6%.

CA-25: I know the NYT/Siena poll was kind to Steve Knight. Full Disclosure: I did some volunteer work for the campaign in 2016. Fortunately, no one there knows me. So they won’t hate me for this. Hill 51.4%-48.6%

CA-39: The polls may be down on Young Kim but my numbers suggest otherwise. I think if she goes down, every vulnerable Republican does too. Kim 52.2%-47.8%

CA-45: When I ran the numbers I came out with a 50.0%-50.0% tie. Yes, seriously. Of course that’s just me inputting the numbers I think make sense. Since the VBMs have been trending away from Walters, Porter 50.1%-49.9%.

I know that the way people look at predictions they’ll judge I’m right if Porter wins and wrong if Walters wins. That’s not how you should look at it. If Walters wins with 50.2%, my prediction was brilliant. If Porter wins with 54% my prediction was awful.

CA-48: I’ve maintained that Rohrabacher’s past voters like him and I think the data shows it. Rohrabacher 52.7%-47.3%.

CA-49: For a while there Harkey looked like she had a shot, but I do think it’ll be much closer than people think. Levin 52.0%-48.0%.

CA-50: When an incumbent is in a scandal voting can get funky. Reliable voters defect not because they like the other guy but because they're disgusted. I don't know if that'll happen here, but I'm saying no. If they do defect I think you'll see down ballot candidates in SD-78 and AD-75 do as well as I'm showing here. Hunter should win 59.2%-40.8%.

Here's the spreadsheet

Friday, November 2, 2018

Republicans Holding Steady in California VBMs

Yesterday some counties reported a lot of ballots but some didn’t report any. Those include Los Angeles and San Diego.

CA-7: Over 11k ballots added to the total bringing the overall votes to over 95k. It’s still D+2.

CA-10: We had a ridiculously huge 18k ballots added to the total and there were 43 more Republican ballots than Democratic ones. Overall, there are 67 more Republican ballots. Jeff Denham hasn’t had more Republican VBMs than Democratic ones since 2014, so the electorate is good for him.

CA-21: We had a small number of ballots added but the electorate is still only D+2, better than any David Valadao has ever had.

CA-24: A D+6 should make the Democrats more comfortable. The district is still D+2, however.

CA-39: Ballots were R+9, so the district is still R+12. That’s the same as the primary and better than 2016.

CA-45: An R+8 days moves the district from R+13 to R+12. The district had the widest difference between VBM margin and results but this is still a good spot for the GOP.

CA-48: An R+8 day leaves the district at R+13, better than the primary.

CA-49: Only Orange County ballots yesterday, so the R+24 day doesn’t reflect the district. Still, Diane Harkey needs all the Orange County ballots she can get.

CA-50: I haven’t mentioned this district because the R+19 electorate is one that a scandal free Republican couldn’t lose with. Could Duncan Hunter? I have no idea. Scandals can turn any loyal voter into switching who they’d vote for.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Democrats Make Gains With VBMs

I’ve been getting feedback that I’m too optimistic for Republicans. What I’m trying to do here isn’t making predictions but show you the number of votes cast and letting you know what they mean based on historical context. Republicans have won every election except for one for every Republican district currently in play. So there’s no historical precedent for a Democratic victory. The lone exception is Democrats winning the primary in CA-49 this year.

I’m a firm believer that voter turnout by party and results can be analyzed to determine a relationship and then be applied to the current election. And so are you, or you wouldn’t be reading another post I’m writing. If you thought we can’t learn anything from the past votes then you wouldn’t be still be here.

Okay, so I’m telling you what current turnout would’ve meant in the four previous primary and general elections. In some cases the final vote correlates very highly with the VBM turnout differential. In others, it doesn’t. CA-36 has had fairly even turnout in each election but Raul Ruiz has done a lot better. David Valadao has won by double digits in each election despite a strong D+ turnout. In both cases the congressmen likely do well with NPP voters.

In the 2014 general, the 2016 primary, and 2016 CA-45 general election, Republicans beat the VBM differential by 5-6 points. The 2018 primary was a complete reversal, with Democrats beating it by 9.6 points. It’s my belief that the most likely result will be between Democrats doing 9.6 points better and Republicans doing 6.2.

It’s possible Democrats could do even better than 9.6 points better than VBMs. Before the 2016 primary we wouldn’t have thought Democrats could do better than VBMs, but they not only did that, but they actually did a lot better. That was likely due to a lop-sided NPP advantage.

I’ll stand by my belief that the most likely result will fall within the historical range. That doesn’t mean I think it’ll definitely be in the range. In fact, I’m guessing a few will fall out of the range. But most won’t. I’m compiling the data for 17 districts. I think 13-14 should be in the range listed.

Of course, we could be seeing a big blue wave and that could mean most of them will be better for Democrats than they’ve ever been.

CA-7: A D+6 day is good for Ami Bera, but the district is still D+2 VBM.

CA-10: There was a huge number of ballots and the district is still even. I actually think I’ve been pessimistic for Jeff Denham. He’s won with D+1-3 VBM returns and this is better. His district didn’t have a huge leftward turn others did in the primary.

CA-16: The district remains more Republican than it has been and that shows that the GOP still has a shot here. Districts like CA-10 and CA-16 don’t have the suburban voters the Orange County districts do. That may mean the voters are less likely to flip.

CA-21: I'll go out on a limb and make an early prediction that David Valadao wins by 20 points. This one won't be close.

CA-39: The reason I remain skeptical of Democratic chances here is that the primary wasn’t close. Republicans won by 8 points. That’s better than Democrats have done but the VBMs are still better for the GOP than they were in the last three elections Republicans won.

CA-45: Today was a very good day for Democrats here, lowering the VBMs from R+14 to R+13. That’s better than the primary and the numbers are inching their way to a point Mimi Walters could be in big trouble.

CA-48: This district also went from R+14 to R+13. That’s still better than the primary and Republicans won there by 6.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Election Looking Better for California Democrats

The early VBM returns were so bad for California Democrats that it had to get better. Will it get better enough for them to take GOP districts? Probably 2-3 but not 6-7.

Keep in mind that even if I don't post every day the spreadsheet is updated daily. And you don't my analysis when you can analyze the numbers yourself.

Nate Cohn and others have speculated that the more ballots that come in the worse it is for Republicans. They’ve voted heavier and Democrats are ones that are left.

There’s logic in that. However, we should keep in mind that while the 2.5 million ballots in now is much larger than the 1.7 million in at the same point in 2014, there were only 9 million ballots mailed that year and 13 million this year. The percentage of ballots returned to this point is actually comparable to 2014. So there’s just as much room for both Republicans and Democrats to return ballots this year.

Turn out this year should be up in overall percentage of ballots over 2014 but it won’t be up to the extent that almost everyone will vote. Even in high turnout you probably won’t have more than half of registered voters voting.

CA-7: At D+2 this one remains tight.

CA-10: There have been 16,293 Democratic ballots and 16,294 Republican ballots. This is still better for Jeff Denham than he’s had it before but the district remains a toss up.

CA-16: Major influx of Democratic ballots. This one likely isn’t worth watching.

CA-21: We had more Republican ballots than Democratic ballots yesterday. It seems a shame for Republicans that the congressman with the best VBM returns is the one who is in the least trouble.

CA-25: Another good day for Democrats. The VBMs are now down to R+5.5. It’s a danger zone for Steve Knight but not one that has him at a disadvantage.

CA-39: Yesterday was only R+1, excellent for Democrats. The VBMs are still at R+13, well ahead of the primary. I don’t think the GOP is in real danger at this point.

CA-45: The VBMs were R+14 yesterday, the same as they were before. It’s a surprise considering how bad Republicans have done the last few days. I know there’s a lot of controversy about this district but R+14 is a good place for Mimi Walters.

CA-48: An R+10 day leaves the district at R+14. Still safe for Dana Rohrabacher.

CA-49: An R+4 day drops the VBMs to R+8. Darrell Issa nearly lost with R+8 two years ago. So the district is definitely in the danger zone, although not one that Diane Harkey is sure to lose.

As of now, I see CA-7, 10, 25, and 49 as nail biters, while CA-39, 45, and 48 look good for the GOP.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Are They All Just Voting Democratic?

I know I've written about this before but Nate Cohn is getting questions about who is voting. So I'm going to address it again. Cohn is running the New York Times/Siena polls that have shown Democrats doing well in California. They just finished a poll in CA-25 that had Republican Steve Knight winning by 4. So they're not all great for the Democrats.

The VBM numbers in California, especially Orange County, contradict the narrative of a big blue wave. Nate Cohn's contention is that it doesn't matter if the VBM numbers are more Republican than expected because some Republicans are voting for Democrats and NPP voters are voting overwhelmingly Democratic. This is possible and I can't dispute that their poll numbers are saying this.

I'm skeptical because that hasn't happened in the past to the extent that he's indicating. We certainly saw some Democratic skew in the primary. With an R+12 VBM electorate Republicans only won by 8 points in CA-39. With an R+15 electorate Republicans won by only 6 points in CA-45. Cohn's numbers indicate even more Republican and Republican leaning independents voting Democratic, even though it didn't happen in 2016, when some voted for Clinton or in the primary. Hillary Clinton won California by 30 points but only won NPP voters by 13. She likely lost NPP voters in districts she won by under 15 points like those in Orange County. The idea that NPP voters would go Democratic by 45 points, as they have in CA-49, defies belief. Candidates who win in landslides don't win independent voters by 45 points.

Cohn mentioned that the primary electorate for CA-25 was R+5. The VBM electorate was R+8. I don't have final electorate numbers but R+5 is possible. Cohn said that he was using an R+0 electorate for this election. The VBMs are R+7, so it's likely that the final electorate won't be R+0.

Cohn is using the data he's getting from his surveys. I'm using the actual voters from the California Secretary of State. These two sources may lead to contradictory conclusions. I'll stick with this data. If you're interested in who has actually voted, keep reading this blog. If not, go elsewhere.

Spreadsheet Addition

I've made an addition to the spreadsheet. The right hand column which shows you the difference between the partisan VBM advantage and the final result. Some districts are more consistent in some and others. I've added a number on the left shaded in green that is the 2018 result if Democrats do as well as they have in their best election. The number on the right in orange is the result if Republicans beat the VBM by as much as they did in their best election.

In CA-25 this VBM return would result in a 2 point Republican win if the Democrats do as well as they did in their best election and a 10 point Republican win if the Republicans do as well as they did in their best election. Those numbers suggest that Republicans are guaranteed a win. That would be the case if people voted the same way they've voted in past elections. Many districts will but some won't.

What these numbers tell us is that it wouldn't be that much better than the best Democratic result if Democrats win the district this year. So if NPP or Republican voters vote a little more Democratic than they have in the past then the Democrats will win. On the other hand the VBMs for CA-48 suggest a Republican win of 13-20 points. If the VBMs stay where they are a Democratic win looks pretty much impossible.