Category Archives: States

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Trump’s Ballot Politics

President Donald Trump | whitehouse.gov


By Jim Ellis

May 28, 2019 — Earlier this month, the California state Senate approved a bill that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to qualify for the Golden State ballot. A similar measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in 2017, but current Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is expected to sign the measure.

A total of 17 other states also have similar pending legislation, with the strongest chances for enactment coming most probably in New York and Washington.

The move, of course, is targeted at President Trump who will not release his tax returns. But, would denying him ballot placement in states that he won’t carry actually hurt him?

A contrary argument exists to suggest that Trump and the down-ballot Republican candidates in those states might actually receive some tangential benefits from the president not being on the official ballot in places like California and New York, in particular.

First, if Trump didn’t appear on the California, New York, and Washington ballots, it would not change the Electoral College outcome because he won’t carry any of those states. He will likely concede them at the outset and spend no campaign money in any of those locations. Therefore, his ballot placement in these places could arguably be irrelevant.

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The Coming Primaries

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seats-185April 30, 2018 — Completing the Arizona special congressional election earlier this week is the precursor to the beginning of the primary season’s most prolific period: the nomination voting scheduled for May and June.

With two primary elections already in the books — the March nomination contests in Texas (March 6) and Illinois (March 20) — 11 additional states vote in May with 18 more coming in June. Once the final June primaries are completed on June 26, a total of 31 states will have nominees.

There are only run-offs scheduled in July before 14 more states vote in August. Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island still hold September primaries, while the unique Louisiana election calendar continues to feature a jungle primary concurrent with the general election followed by a December run-off for those races where a candidate does not obtain a majority.

New York is the only state with two primaries. The federal primary for the Senate and House is scheduled for June 26. The statewide contests, including the governor’s race, will nominate in a separate vote on Sept. 13.

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Gainers and Losers in 2017

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 3, 2018 — The Census Bureau just released their year-end population estimates and we again see a familiar pattern with regard to populace ebbs and flows. People are continuing to relocate south and west, while the Midwest and northeast fail to keep pace.

Eight states in the Great Lakes, northeast, and Midwest are again projected to see their congressional representation reduced, while the south, Pacific Northwest, and Rocky Mountain sectors will likely elect additional House members.

Idaho in Nation's Fastest-Growing State[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

As always, there are quirks within the population numbers. While Idaho was the fastest growing place with a 2.2 percent increase in total population during this calendar year, the Gem State will again be nowhere close to gaining a third seat for its congressional delegation. Nevada, which added a fourth district in the 2010 reapportionment, is the second-fastest growing state with a 2.0 percent increase, but it doesn’t appear the trends will be sufficient for them to gain a fifth seat in the 2020 distribution. It is very difficult for the small states to gain or lose districts, as the Idaho and Nevada numbers demonstrate.

Though Idaho had the fastest growth rate, Texas saw the greatest raw number resident increase. From the beginning of 2017, the Lone Star State population grew by just under 400,000 people. Florida was second with more than 327,000 new individuals now living there, while California saw their populace grow by more than 240,000 people. Washington, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona all had increases between 125,000 and 107,000 people, respectively.

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