Category Archives: States

Political Overtime in Georgia & Maine

Note: Last week in the polling recount Update, a typographical error was made in one of the quoted Iowa polls. The Siena College/New York Times survey should have read: Sen. Joni Ernst (R) 45%, Theresa Greenfield (D) 44% (not 55-44%). We apologize for the mistake.


By Jim Ellis

Oct. 26, 2020 — There has been discussion about seeing a great number of political campaigns not being called on Election Night, thus creating what could become a rather long “political overtime” period. Laws in two states, however, could send key Senate races into political overtime, but for a different reason than not having all of the ballots either received or counted.

Georgia and Maine have unique laws that create a secondary election period should no candidate receive majority support in the general election. Many states employ runoff contests in nomination battles, but Georgia and Maine are two entities with special laws governing the general election should no majority be achieved. In this particular year, three US Senate races, in a cycle where the battle for chamber control is close and intense, could be forced into political overtime in just those two places.

In Georgia, all contenders failing to reach the 50 percent mark sends the contest into a general election runoff. Considering the 2020 calendar, that secondary election date is scheduled for Jan. 5, meaning that the current election cycle would then be expanded for an additional two months. If the majority hinges on the two Georgia seats, it won’t be until the new year until we would have the opportunity of knowing which party would lead the Senate in the next Congress.

In the Georgia-A seat, polling hasn’t yet put one of the candidates, Sen. David Perdue (R) or Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff, at or over the 50 percent mark. In the last 10 polls of the Perdue-Ossoff race, neither man has reached 50 percent when any of the three minor party or independent candidates were listed, or referred to, in the survey questionnaire.

The Georgia-B campaign, which is the special election to fill the balance of resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) final term, is certainly headed for political overtime. Here, the candidates are placed on the same ballot regardless of political party affiliation.

Polling throughout this election year suggests that none of the four major candidates, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D), and businessman Matt Lieberman (D), are anywhere close to majority support. Therefore, the top two finishers on Nov. 3 would advance to the secondary election on Jan. 5.

Continue reading

Michigan Reverses Direction
On Mail-In Ballot Oversight

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2020 — The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that allowed a post-election ballot reception period that would have lasted until Nov. 17, and granted the process known as “ballot harvesting,” where another individual or individuals can deliver unspecified numbers of ballots for voters.

The three-judge high court unanimously overturned a ruling from Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens who made the original directive in deciding an election lawsuit that the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-funded organization, brought forth.

When the Michigan attorney general and secretary of state jointly decided not to appeal Judge Stephens’ ruling, the Republican controlled state House and Senate filed the motion and were granted standing. It is unclear now whether the Michigan Alliance will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

According to the Detroit News’s reporting, the original ruling contained the directive that the ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3. That clerical distinction, however, will be difficult to enforce once we advance into the post-election counting and challenge stage.

The US Postal Service, themselves, according to their employee practices handbook, indicate that many mail pieces do not require postmarks. In most of the 21 states that are now allowing the post-election reception period, the ballots will fall into one of these categories thus making the postmark question moot, and that will invariably lead to further lawsuits and litigation. Below is the official language for the postmark directives:

“Postmarks are not required for mailings bearing a permit, meter, or precanceled stamp for postage, nor to pieces with an indicia applied by various postage evidencing systems.”

The Appellate Court ruling means, at least until if and when the state Supreme Court addresses the issue, that there will be no post-election ballot reception period in Michigan. Ballot harvesting pertaining to individuals who are not immediate family members of the person wanting to vote absentee or is not an election office clerk, will again be prohibited. Therefore, all ballots are required to be in the possession of election authorities throughout Michigan’s counties before the polls close on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Continue reading

The Trafalgar Effect

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 15, 2020 — The Trafalgar Group is the polling firm that came to national political notoriety four years ago when they correctly predicted a Donald Trump victory in both Michigan and Pennsylvania and were the only survey research firm to do so. Since that time, they have forecast at least four other wins when the active polling community was arriving at opposite conclusions.

Yesterday, Trafalgar released its latest Pennsylvania data (Oct. 10-12; 1,034 likely Pennsylvania voters) and finds former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump 47.4 – 45.1 percent — just over a two-point spread. In October, not counting the Trafalgar number, we see 12 other pollsters returning Pennsylvania data and they average a pro-Biden forecast of just under seven points.

Routinely, Trafalgar’s data shows President Trump in better position than most pollsters because they attempt to quantify what is termed the “shy Trump voter,” i.e., those who are actually voting for the incumbent but won’t admit it to a pollster. In most cases, the Trafalgar calculations, derived from a proprietary algorithmic formula, have been reliably accurate.

From 2016, we remember that, generally, the polling community missed badly in the Trump-Clinton presidential race. While their national count was accurate – predicting a tight plurality for Hillary Clinton (final result: 48.2 – 46.1 percent) – many state projections were off, particularly those in the Great Lakes region.

In the previous presidential election cycle, a total of 62 surveys were conducted in the state of Pennsylvania, and only three found a lead for President Trump, including the Trafalgar pre-election survey. In Michigan, 45 polls were publicly released, and Trump led in just two, one of which was Trafalgar’s final 2016 study. In Wisconsin, 33 polls were taken, and none found President Trump running ahead. Yet, in all three cases, he won the state.

The Great Lakes/Mid-Atlantic region was not the only area where 2016 polling missed the mark. In North Carolina, the margin average looked to be dead even heading into the election, but President Trump won with a 3.6 percent spread. The cumulative polling missed Arizona by two points, and Florida by 1.2 percent. In all of these instances, the Republican voted was under-estimated.

Continue reading

Unending North Carolina Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 20, 2019 — If it seems like the North Carolina redistricting process has dragged on for the entire decade, then your senses are correct, because it has. After seeing a mid-decade re-draw before the 2016 elections, another set of lines will be in place for 2020, and then another plan for the ensuing electoral decade beginning in 2022 will be enacted during the regular decennial process. North Carolina is a sure bet to gain a new congressional seat in 2020 reapportionment.

Last week, the Republican legislature produced a new map per court order that will concede two more seats to the Democrats. This plan is not final, however, as the new map still has must clear the legal process and certainly the Democrats will challenge in an attempt to get more. Republicans will counter and attempt to move the process away from the state three-judge panel which has been favorable to the Democratic arguments, and into federal court where they feel their own points may be given a more sympathetic hearing.

Racial gerrymandering was the subject of the original challenges, but when those arguments led to a new map without a net gain of Democratic seats, the plaintiffs filed political gerrymandering lawsuits. With the Supreme Court basically returning the political gerrymandering arguments back to the state courts, the Democrats, at least in North Carolina, are in much better position to get a map that better reflects their intended outcome.

With the current split being 10R-3D, which of the current members are in the deepest trouble under the new map? Though the map looks fundamentally similar to the current plan, there are sizable differences in district configuration from a political context.

The Daily Kos Elections site ran a voting analysis of the new seats, and it appears a new Tar Heel State delegation under this map would feature eight Republicans and five Democrats, or a net gain of two seats for the latter party.

The two current incumbents who would not likely return under the plan are Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro). Their districts go from being a plus-10 Trump district for Holding to a minus-14 CD, and for Walker an original plus-15 Trump to a minus-11.

Continue reading

Democratic National Convention Shaping Up to be Historic

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 8, 2019 — At this point, Democratic presidential primary patterns are beginning to reveal themselves.

The February First Four states are becoming a hodgepodge of political strength with both Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and/or Bernie Sanders (I-VT) potentially stealing Iowa and New Hampshire away from national front-runner Joe Biden. That means the former vice president may have his back up against the proverbial wall when the campaign streams into Nevada, the third voting state whose caucus participants will convene on Feb. 22. He may well need a victory there, before getting to South Carolina and his southern states political oasis.

As the new Fox News South Carolina Democratic primary poll shows (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 803 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters), Biden’s lead is very strong in the Palmetto State at 41-12-10 percent over Sens. Warren and Sanders, respectively. These numbers are commensurate with his standing in other recently polled southern domains.

But new data coming from delegate-rich states that are not frequently polled give us a further perspective about just how the nomination drama might unfold.

Four new state surveys were released at the end of last week with clear separation only detected in Arizona. Data coming from California and Ohio show dead heats among the three major candidates. Additionally, the latest Wisconsin poll gives Biden only a small lead.

The first three states in this group will vote in March, on Super Tuesday (March 3, California), March 10 (Ohio), and March 17 (Arizona). The fourth state’s electorate, Wisconsin, will cast their ballots on April 7.

Change Research (Oct. 27-28; 396 likely Arizona Democratic primary voters) finds that Arizona is polling as one of the ex-vice president’s weakest states and the only one that shows a relatively competitive four-way race. The Change results finds Sen. Warren claiming a significant lead with 35 percent support, ahead of Sen. Sanders’ 19 percent, Biden’s 15 percent, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg making a viable appearance with 13 percent preference.

Continue reading