Category Archives: Primary

Alaska: Polling Uncertainty

By Jim Ellis

Anchorage, Alaska

July 10, 2020 — Public Policy Polling, the most prolific national pollster of late, just released a new survey of the upcoming Alaska elections from what could be the most difficult state in America to poll.

The PPP data find close races for president, Senate and US House, which isn’t particularly surprising when comparing today’s numbers to the previous Alaska polling ratio. Past actual results, however, reveal a relatively consistent Republican under-poll.

To begin, the PPP survey tested 1,081 “voters” via automated response device during the July 7-8 period. This firm is recently using the “voters” term to describe their sample. It is clear the respondents are not likely voters, but there is no associated definition that clearly identifies the “voters” universe.

The fact that the individuals are not identified as registered voters could mean they are eligible voters, which would translate into adults. Such a sample would substantially increase the polling error rate. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the poll producing some unusual totals.

The presidential race finds President Donald Trump holding a mere 48-45 percent edge over former vice president Joe Biden in a state that he won by 15 points in 2016. Additionally, the spread seems rather inconsistent with the results produced from the favorability questions. The President’s job approval was 46:49 percent positive to negative, which, despite being upside down, is far better than Trump’s national approval average. The more surprising number, however, was Biden’s poor 36:53 percent favorability index. Overlaying these numbers with the ballot test provides a seemingly inconsistent response pattern.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), standing for his first re-election, holds only a 39-34 percent lead over likely Democratic nominee, surgeon Al Gross. Looking back at the 2014 polling records when Sen. Sullivan was challenging then-incumbent Mark Begich (D), July polling of that year found Begich holding leads of 46-35 percent (CBS News/New York Times), and 44-37 percent (Harstad Strategic Services). Sullivan would then turn the race around and win 48-46 percent in that election year.

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Maine’s Ranked Choice Primary

By Jim Ellis

Maine Congressional Districts

July 9, 2020 — It is likely we are going to soon see another Maine congressional race decided through the controversial Ranked Choice Voting system. A new Fair Vote commissioned Survey USA poll, from this group that supports Ranked Choice Voting, finds the three 2nd District Republican congressional candidates in a relatively close battle, but with no one realistically nearing the majority support necessary to win the party nomination.

According to the S-USA poll (June 30-July 6; 604 likely ME-2 Republican primary voters), former state representative Dale Crafts would lead ex-gubernatorial aide and former journalist Adrienne Bennett and ex-state senator and 2018 Republican US Senate nominee Eric Brakey, 37-25-19 percent. While Crafts seems to have a comfortable lead even though the three are bunched relatively close together, the fact that no one is likely to reach the 50 percent threshold means that some voters’ alternative choices would next be counted.

The Ranked Choice Voting system was adopted by the Maine electorate in 2016 and first used two years later. Though former US representative Bruce Poliquin (R) had enough votes to place first in the 2018 race, which would have normally awarded him the election, he lost in the Ranked Choice rounds. Poliquin attempted to overturn the system in a federal court challenge but failed to advance it beyond the district level.

The RCV, or “instant runoff,” system, is designed to produce a majority winner after multiple rounds of voting. Maine is the only state that employs the concept. Other domains, mainly in the South, who want party nominees to win a primary with over 50 percent support, hold a secondary election on a future day. In the RCV system, the initial primary and runoffs are conducted on the same ballot.

In the 2nd District Republican primary this coming Tuesday, since there are only three candidates, voters will mark their ballots from 1 to 3, thus clarifying their preferences beyond the individual they initially choose from the field. After the first round of voting, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and election officials then comb through all of the cast ballots to find those where the last place candidate was the first choice. These ballots are then added back into the pool with their second choice added to the aggregate vote. If no candidate receives a majority after the second round, a third begins sans the new last place candidate if there are more than two contenders remaining.

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New Jersey Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

July 8, 2020 — Five weeks after the originally scheduled New Jersey primary was supposed to occur, Garden State voters went to the polls yesterday or mailed their ballots to choose party nominees for the Fall elections.

New Jersey Congressional Districts in 2020

Former vice president Joe Biden and first-term US Sen. Cory Booker scored easy wins in the Democratic primary, with each man recording almost 90 percent of the intra-party vote. The Republican Senate race is rather close, but it appears that 2018 congressional candidate and businessman Hirsch Singh will score a tight win and advance into the general election. Sen. Booker is a lock to win the general election.

Vote totals are low, suggesting that once again it will be several days before we have declared winners in all races. Unlike other states in this situation, however, few close races are on the board.

Party-switching Congressman Jeff Van Drew won his first Republican primary with a preliminary figure of 81 percent, which solidifies the Republican base for the November election. The 2nd District, which encompasses most of southern New Jersey, will now feature a competitive general election between Rep. Van Drew and preliminary Democratic primary winner, Amy Kennedy the wife of former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who scored a win that looks to fall in the 59 percent range.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) looks to be facing venture capitalist David Richter in the 3rd District race. Richter appears to have scored a big win over former Burlington County freeholder Kate Gibbs. This race could potentially become the most competitive race in the state.

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Jersey Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2020 — The postponed New Jersey primary is today, and though the US Senate race is not competitive, as incumbent and former presidential candidate Cory Booker (D) is a prohibitive favorite for re-election, the US House races feature several interesting campaigns.

NJ-2 Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew

In the 2nd District, which begins at the southernmost tip of the state and travels northeast through Atlantic City before encompassing most of the New Jersey southern sector, Democrat turned Republican freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis Township) faces trade association executive Bob Patterson in the GOP primary.

Patterson ran in the 1st District in 2016, challenging Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden City) and lost in a predictable landslide, 60-37 percent. The first primary in a party-switchers new electoral home is always the toughest, but Rep. Van Drew appears well positioned to cruise to a nomination victory tonight.

On the Democratic side, Amy Kennedy, wife of former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, looks to have the inside track in today’s primary. Her top competition is college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison.

Just to the north of the Van Drew seat, freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown) will have his hands full in his first re-election. Clearly, he is readying for the task as he is reporting raising over $4.1 million through the June 17 pre-primary report. He is unopposed in the Democratic primary today.

Rep. Kim will face either venture capitalist David Richter or former Burlington County freeholder Kate Gibbs. The latter was defeated for re-election in her last campaign. Richter has the financial edge and would likely be Kim’s stronger general election opponent. This race will likely move into the toss-up realm.

Three Democrats are vying for the opportunity of challenging veteran Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) in the Trenton area seat. Smith, who will likely rank third in the next Congress on the House seniority list having been first elected in 1980, was the only New Jersey Republican to survive the 2018 Democratic blue wave. He is in stronger political position heading into this election.

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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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