Tag Archives: COVID-19

Beneath the Numbers

By Jim Ellis

Is Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) in trouble?

July 30, 2020 — Two Senate polls were released earlier this week, and though the ballot tests in Maine and South Carolina didn’t show us anything particularly new, the pollsters asked their respective sampling universes some interesting ancillary questions.

Colby College, a Waterville, Maine institution housing approximately 1,800 students, released its second political poll of 2020 in conjunction with the McVey Data Science Initiative. The questions touched upon the presidential and Senate ballot tests but delved deeper into the attitudes and perspectives of their 888-person sample over the July 18-24 period.

The presidential ballot test found former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump statewide, 50-38 percent. The Senate ballot test was closer in that former state House speaker Sara Gideon (D) leads Sen. Susan Collins (R), 44-39 percent.

In looking deeper, it is probable that the actual race standings are likely a bit closer. There appears to be a Democratic skew in that all favorability indexes for Democratic public officials were positive and those of the tested Republican officials were decidedly negative. Additionally, 52 percent of the sampling universe comes from the state’s southern congressional district, the 1st, which is decidedly more liberal than the northern 2nd District. Together, these factors provide us the indication that the results are a few points more favorable for Democrats than what we might see in actual voting.

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Alabama Runoff Today

By Jim Ellis

Former US attorney general and Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions (R), faces off today against retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

July 14, 2020 — The long-awaited Alabama US Senate Republican runoff between retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and former US attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions will be decided today, and polls are suggesting we will see a clear winner relatively early tonight.

The primary election was held way back on March 3 with the original runoff scheduled for March 31. Shortly after the primary, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) postponed the runoff in response to COVID-19 suggested precautions. The primary election ended with Sessions trailing Tuberville, 33.4 – 31.6 percent, a spread of 12,528 votes from over 717,000 ballots cast.

Originally, it appeared the four-month voting delay might be a break for Sessions, giving him time to rebound from a rather poor performance in the primary election. It doesn’t appear he has been able to turn the tide. Since the primary, nine polls have been conducted and released from six different pollsters. Eight of the surveys post Tuberville to a lead, while one showed the race a tie.

The latest survey, conducted over the July 2-9 period from Auburn University at Montgomery, finds Tuberville expanding his lead to 47-31 percent. The polling methodology poses questions, however. The Auburn pollsters list 558 respondents, but this is their general election sample. They do not indicate how many people comprised the Republican runoff likely voter cell, so it is difficult to judge reliability.

It is possible, however, that Tuberville holds such a large lead heading into the election because he is averaging a 12.3 percent advantage in the eight other polls conducted during the post-primary period. In two of the polls, both taken in May by independent pollsters, the Tuberville advantage expanded to 22 and 23 points, respectively.

Sessions’ political problems took hold when he resigned as attorney general under a barrage of criticism from President Trump. Tuberville capitalized with a wave of advertising featuring a commercial that began with a NBC interview clip between Trump and Chuck Todd where the president said his biggest regret since taking office was appointing Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

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Monitoring Mail-in Vote Turnout

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2020 — With many states emphasizing mail voting as a way to increase voter participation in the COVID-19 era, has adoption of near universal mail voting in the states that have done so achieved its fundamental purpose, or has it caused more problems than it solved?

Voter turnout is always a definitive factor in determining election outcomes, and the push to change voting procedures has occurred in 31 state primaries. Therefore, the voting system alterations, should they continue into the general election, will most likely have a major impact upon the electoral outcomes.

Most of the states adopting change only expanded their mail absentee ballot procedures for the primaries; therefore, we can expect another round of battles over the general election processes to soon come before legislatures and courts.

Many of the states, Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to name several, had administrative problems with their expanded mail programs including reports of homes receiving multiple ballots because inactive voters were forced to be mailed, some people requesting absentee ballots and not receiving them, and long post-election counting periods because of the large number of mail ballots coming into the county clerk’s offices.

New York, in fact, has still not even completed its unofficial tabulation and the primary was June 23. The Clark County (Nevada) County Clerk said publicly that the directive to mail inactive voters led to chaos in the state primary since so many ballots were being sent to individuals no longer living at the mailed address.

Largely, Democrats and voting rights organizations are attempting to persuade legislatures, governors, and/or the courts to expand the mail absentee ballot voting option to all registered voters both active and inactive, enact same-day voter registration, adopt ballot harvesting, which allows any individual to collect ballots from voters and turn them into county election authorities (this process is only legal in California, to date), and allow ballots to be post-marked on Election Day as opposed to requiring that they be received on voting day. Republicans and conservative organizations typically object to most of these ideas on verification grounds.

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Coronavirus Polling Numbers

By Jim Ellis

COVID-19 virus

June 30, 2020 — The Pew Research Center yesterday released the results of their national poll about how the public is viewing the COVID-19 response, which enables us to put the data in a political context. The polling results contain some good news for both presidential candidates and the respective major party leaders who are attempting to craft national campaign agendas in unique times.

According to the Pew methodology report on page six of their synopsis, the survey was conducted from June 4-10 via “the American Trends Panel (ATP), as created by the Pew Research Center, [which] is a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. Panelists participate via self-administered web surveys.” The ATP has a total of 19,718 adults of which 11,013 were sampled for this poll and 9,654 responded.

The sampling error is reported to be plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, but Asians (8.2), Blacks (5.3), and Hispanics (4.5) were well over the average. While the pollsters show all segments falling between a plus or minus 1.8 and 8.2 error factor, they still list the overall sample rate (1.6 percent) as falling below even the low number on racial segmentation.

The best news for former vice president Joe Biden is that the Trump Administration scores the lowest rating relating to whom and what the respondents trust most about coronavirus information. The administration is believed either almost all (eight percent), most (21 percent), or some of the time (29 percent) by a combined 58 percent of the respondents. In contrast, the Center for Disease Control is the most reliable cited source with a combined 88 percent rating (22 percent almost all; 42 percent most; 24 percent some of the time).

With President Trump and his team scoring low on the believability scale, the better news for his campaign is that fewer people are following the disease coverage closely. Furthermore, it is clear that large segments don’t know what to believe from news accounts of the disease’s effects.
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Rep. Riggleman Loses Re-nomination

By Jim Ellis

Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Manassas)

June 16, 2020 — Despite Virginia Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Manassas) being the incumbent representative for the state’s 5th District, losing his party’s re-nomination for a second term on Saturday came as no surprise.

Largely blamed upon his presiding over a same-sex marriage involving two of his campaign volunteers, Rep. Riggleman fell at odds with the district Republican Party leaders. Virginia has the most unique nomination system in the country. There is no standardized primary, and each set of congressional district party authorities can conduct a virtually autonomous process for choosing its partisan general election candidates.

The congressional district committees can nominate in a standard primary or through what they call a “firehouse primary,” where only a few voting places are established throughout the jurisdiction, or, in what often happens on the Republican side, a district convention. Usually the party leaders work with their incumbents to choose the system that will benefit the top officeholder in the region, but not in Riggleman’s case.

In fact, the 5th District Republican committee chose exactly what would be to Rep. Riggleman’s greatest detriment. Because of the COVID-19 situation, they were unable to host a typical district convention. Therefore, the committee adopted what they termed a “drive-in convention,” where the delegates would come from throughout the district to just one specific location, drive into a building parking lot, and cast their ballot.

The fix against Riggleman went so far as to hold the drive-in convention in the church parking lot of where his challenger, Campbell County Supervisor and Liberty University athletic official Bob Good, is a member. Campbell County is in the far western end of the district, near the city of Lynchburg, and is more closely aligned with the 6th District.

The location decision meant the vast majority of delegates, and everyone from Riggleman’s geographic strength, would have to drive several hours in order to simply deposit their ballot envelope. The 5th stretches all the way to the Washington, DC outer Virginia suburbs, but the main population anchor is in and around the city of Charlottesville.

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