Why Nearly a Fifth of Arizona GOP Voters Were Disenfranchised By Early Voting – And How To Fix It

Posted by Rob Richie on March 25, 2016

Updated: This post was updated on March 30th with additional data in the spreadsheet below, including the nearly 100,000 votes cast for withdrawn candidate Martin O’Malley in the Democratic nomination contests.

As the first results came in from Arizona on Tuesday night, observers were in for a surprise. Nearly one in five votes in the Republican presidential primary had been cast for Marco Rubio, who had withdrawn from the campaign a week before. In fact Rubio was third, close behind Ted Cruz. Were Arizona voters insanely loyal or was something else going on?

What happened was that Arizona has early voting — and many voters took advantage of it. That’s good for making sure you cast your vote, especially given Arizona’s indefensibly long lines on Election Day that resulted in disenfranchisement. But the number of people who failed to vote due to long lines was nothing compared to the 95,429 votes — that’s 18% of all Republican primary votes cast — that were tallied for Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and seven other candidates who had withdrawn from the race. Making it even worse a higher percentage of such votes were cast by military voters overseas.

Could Disenfranchised Voters Impact the Margin of Victory?

Arizona was not alone in this problem — especially for our military and overseas voters who under federal law are sent ballots at least 45 days before the primary. Indeed, in this year’s Republican primaries and caucuses held more than half a million votes — 514,548 votes and counting, representing more than 2.4% of all votes cast - -were counted for candidates who had withdrawn from the race.

The most dramatic impact could have been in Missouri, where Donald Trump defeated Ted Cruz by just 0.2% of the vote (1,726 votes) even as 2% (18,467) of all votes were cast for one of the seven withdrawn candidates. Trump’s narrow victory gave him a big boost in delegates that could loom large by the convention.

Similarly, in Vermont on March 1st, John Kasich was denied his first primary victory by a margin of just 1,425 votes, even as 2,251 (3.7%) of all votes were cast for five withdrawn candidates. In Michigan, John Kasich finished 8,360 behind Ted Cruz in the race for second even as 3.45% (45,685) of all votes were cast for nine withdrawn candidates.

Even with Martin O’Malley being the only withdrawn candidate who appeared on many ballots, the Democratic contest has had 98,331 ballots cast for O’Malley since he dropped out, meaning that the national total for both parties is greater than 600,000.

How States Can Fix the Problem

There’s a straightforward fix to this problem: allow people to vote early, but using a ranked choice voting ballot. In fact, several states that have experienced this problem — Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — already send a ranked choice to overseas voters in congressional elections that might go to a runoff. In those elections, the ranked choice ballot is counted in the runoff for whichever runoff candidate is ranked highest on that voter’s ballot. That way, they can hold the runoff relatively close to the first round and uphold federal law protecting overseas military voters.

Early voting specialist Paul Gronke and I first proposed this idea a 2012 Roll Call commentary, with a focus on overseas voters. FairVote has also written a policy guide brief on it, with sample legislation, and at least two states introduced bills on the idea last year (Massachusetts and Vermont). This election season underscores that this right should not be limited only to overseas voters, however, given more than half a million voters so far have lost their vote this way this cycle.

The next logical step would be to use ranked choice voting for Election Day voters as well, with the system first used to allocate delegates by reducing the field to candidates above the threshold for delegate allocation, the reducing the field two to see who wins the state head-to-head. This cycle has provided dramatic evidence of the value of such comprehensive use of ranked choice voting, proposal, but it’s particularly appalling to see so many votes lost. Let’s make this the last presidential election cycle allowing such disenfranchisement

 *  *  *

Below is a rundown of Republican contests and the percentage of votes cast for withdrawn candidates, as reported in Politico — skipping primaries and caucuses where such votes weren’t reported or not allowed to be cast. 

Contests after withdrawal of candidates other than Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich

Arizona primary

March 22

8.0% (95,429) of all votes are cast for 10 withdrawn candidates

Contests after withdrawal of candidates other than Trump, Cruz, Kasich, and Marco Rubio

Florida primary

March 15

3.3% (78,257) of all votes are cast for 9 withdrawn candidates 

Illinois primary

March 15

2.5% (35,610) of all votes are cast for 7 withdrawn candidates

Missouri primary

March 15

2.0% (18,467) of all votes are cast for 7 withdrawn candidates

North Carolina primary

March 15

2.1% (23,651) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Ohio primary

March 15

1.55% (31,686) of all votes are cast for 6 withdrawn candidates

DC caucus

March 12

1.0% (29) of all votes are cast for 4 withdrawn candidates 

Hawaii caucus

March 8

1.1% (149) of all votes are cast for 2 withdrawn candidates

Idaho primary

March 8

3.1% (6,902) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Michigan primary

March 8

3.45% (45,685) of all votes are cast for 9 withdrawn candidates

Mississippi primary

March 8

2.4% (9.805) of all votes are cast for 9 withdrawn candidates

Kansas caucus

March 5

0.85% (621) of all votes are cast for 3 withdrawn candidates

Kentucky caucus

March 5

1.5% (3,462) of all votes are cast for 7 withdrawn candidates

Louisiana primary

March 5

3.0% (8,976) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Maine caucus

March 5

1.3% (245) of all votes are cast for 6 withdrawn candidates

Contests in February and on March 1

Alabama primary

March 1*

1.2% (10,623) of all votes are cast for 7 withdrawn candidates

Arkansas primary

March 1*

2.5% (9.999) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Georgia primary

March 1*

1.3% (17,000) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Massachusetts primary

March 1*

 2.1% (13,491) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Oklahoma primary

March 1*

1.5% (6,811) of all votes are cast for 7 withdrawn candidates

Tennessee primary

March 1*

2.1% (17,669) of all votes are cast for 9 withdrawn candidates

Texas primary

March 1*

2.1% (60,016) of all votes are cast for 7 withdrawn candidates

Vermont primary

March 1*

3.7% (2,251) of all votes are cast for 5 withdrawn candidates

Virginia primary

March 1*

1.2% (12,106) of all votes are cast for 8 withdrawn candidates

Nevada caucus

Feb. 23*

0.45% (338) of all votes are cast for 6 withdrawn candidates

New Hampshire primary

Feb. 9

0.9% (2,484) of all votes are cast for 6 withdrawn candidates

*Contests that happened after Jeb Bush dropped out on February 20, 2016.

Below is our spreadsheet data.

https://app.box.com/embed/preview/czg1ekl26obrj5up0cbf8jmopgfzevi8?direction=ASC&theme=light8005500

 

Image Source: Michael Vadon


 
Show Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Join Us Today to Help Create a More Perfect Union