2016 Election live-blog
4:55 PM: Boston Turnout Non-Update Update
5:19 PM:Where to find us this evening as results come in.
That wraps it up for us here, but the night is just getting started. Steve Koczela will be on WBUR tonight as the races come in, and posting on WBUR.org as key races are called. Got questions? WBUR will be streaming all evening on Facebook Live, and Steve will check in there too. We are also holding a watch party at Lir in Boston’s Back Bay and hope you will join us. Please RSVP here.
Here is when the polls close, by state, to help you follow along throughout the evening.
4:55 PM: Boston Turnout Non-Update Update
We are continuing to monitor the day-of turnout figures from the City of Boston, but we don’t have anything new to report. We are continuing to see some discrepancies between the early votes figures and day-of turnout, so we’re holding off on making charts or maps.
Just as an example, areas like the Seaport District now have fewer total votes than the very high totals reported during early voting. Either the early votes have yet to be incorporated in these places, or something was inaccurate in the initial early vote figures.
We don’t want to belabor the point or push too hard to figure out exactly what votes came in when. The Election Department has better things to do today that respond to nerds like us. We are happy to wait until all the votes are counted. Until then, you shouldn’t read anything into the turnout figures you are seeing.
Governor Baker’s blank ballot for the presidential contest will get the most press, but voters choosing to skip could have a bigger outcome on the four statewide ballot questions being decided today. If history is a guide, the voters deciding those questions will be from less diverse, more suburban communities than the electorate as a whole. That could spell trouble for Question 2 to expand charter schools.
We looked at the question of blanking ballot questions in some depth for WBUR in 2014. We found that, on average since 2000, 7 percent of voters left ballot questions blank on their ballots. But that 7 percent
is not distributed evenly. Whiter, wealthier communities blanked ballot questions far less often than more diverse, poorer communities. Nowhere is this more true than in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities. In Lawrence, from 2002 through 2012, the average blank rate for ballot questions was 16 percent, far higher than the statewide average.
This means that the electorate deciding the ballot questions is going to be whiter and wealthier than the one voting for president today. That probably makes the biggest difference for Question 2, which would expand the number of charter schools in the Commonwealth. We have observed, in our polling for WBUR, a split between white and non-white voters on this issue, with white voters opposed to expanding charters and non-whites more in favor.
Most public polls have shown No leading on Question 2. If non-white voters blank the question at a higher rate than white voters, that will make the Yes side’s attempt at a comeback that much more difficult.
2:35 PM: Blanking the Presidential? Who does that? (Not many.) Governor Baker voted this morning, but he did not vote for president. Baker has been saying for a while he would not support either Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, and would not cast his ballot for the Libertarian ticket on which his former mentor, Bill Weld, appears as Vice President.
We may see an uptick in blank presidential ballots this year, given the record high unfavorable ratings of the major party candidates. But for now, Governor Baker joins a slice of the electorate that has been tiny and still shrinking. According to the election data from the Massachusetts Secretary of State, in the 11 presidential since 1972 less than half a million Bay State blank votes have been cast in all of the presidential contests combined. That’s only about 1.3 percent of the all of the ballots cast. The number has declined from a high of 1.95 percent blanks in 1988 to half a percent in 2004 and 2008.
It will be interesting to see whether other voters turned off by the long and nasty campaign follow the Governor’s lead and vote none of the above for president. If so, 2016 will buck a downward historical trend.
2:14 PM: Boston Globe misreads early turnout figures.
We explained earlier why Boston’s turnout update figures are impossible to interpret (11:21 AM post below). This Boston Globe article incorrectly reports a drop in turnout since 2012, reading as follows.
“According to the city’s Election Commission, 54,737 people had voted in Boston by 9 a.m., down from 58,854 by the same time in 2012.”
An earlier headline (now changed) emphasized the point, reading “Boston sees dip in voters who reached the polls by 9 a.m.”. As we wrote before, inconsistent processing of early vote ballots makes such comparisons impossible.
1:38 PM: Fundraising totals for Massachusetts ballot questions.
There are no statewide offices on the ballot in Massachusetts, and the Presidential race is not expected to be a close contest. Most of the political energy in the state this year was directed toward the ballot questions, and really just questions 2 and 4. The chart below shows the fundraising totals on both sides of the four questions.
The over $41 million raised for the contest on Question 2 makes it the most expensive ballot question in OCPF records going back to 2006.
12:40 PM: Why it could be an early night.
The first polls in the battleground states close at 7:00 PM EST. The whole state of Virginia will be closed, all but a few towns in New Hampshire, and most of Florida. Clinton is at least narrowly favored in all three states, according to the latest models. If she wins all three, Trump’s already narrow path to victory all but vanishes.
The polls close in Ohio and North Carolina at 7:30, and Pennsylvania at 8:00. If the early states are close, or if Trump picks off more than just Ohio, it could be a much longer night.
Nate Cohn at The Upshot has a good summary of how quickly votes are counted in states that matter.
11:21 AM: Bad news, folks: We will not be able to do any projections on Massachusetts turnout today. Our turnout projections are based, at their core, on City of Boston turnout updates, distributed via email at four specific times each Election Day. We look at how many votes have already been cast at each time and use this to project end of day vote counts. This was already going to be complicated by the onset of early voting in Massachusetts, but it now looks like it’s been made impossible by how those early votes are being incorporated into the Election Day totals.
[Freeze frame. Record scratch. You might be wondering how we got here…]
According to the 9:00 AM turnout figures from the City of Boston Elections Department, 54,737 votes had been cast across the city. But it wasn’t clear whether this total included the 47,506 early votes or was in addition to votes cast early. If the former, it would suggest a fairly sluggish turnout so far today; the latter, then turnout would be extremely high. So we asked.
It turns out the answer is both/maybe, which is where the problem comes in for projections. Sabino Piemonte of the Boston Elections Department explained in an email: “All ballots are being processed at the polls today. So this [9:00 AM] number may include Early Vote, Absentee and regular ballots.”
It’s the may include that makes projecting turnout impossible. The problem is each precinct may be folding in the early votes at their own pace. Some may have processed them first thing in the morning, meaning their 9:00 AM total includes early votes and votes cast today. But others may be putting them off until after the morning rush, or sometime this afternoon, or even the end of the night.
Looking at the precinct by precinct totals in the 9:00 AM update, it appears likely that some have already counted the early vote and some haven’t. But we can’t tell which are which with any confidence. Without knowing, we won’t be able to make any projections (or any maps), because we just don’t know what’s in the figures we’ll be getting from the City throughout the day.
10:22 AM: The 9:00 turnout update showed 54,737 votes had been cast at that hour, or 13.2 percent of the vote. The table from the Boston Elections Department does not make clear whether these figures include early vote. It does not appear that early vote is included in the totals, but we are checking.
9:15 AM: We have been projecting turnout in Boston and statewide since 2013. This year is different. In past elections, it was a fairly straight-line projection from the Boston turnout figures, which come in every 3 hours, up to the citywide and statewide vote totals. With just the vote counts from 9:00 AM, we could make a pretty educated guess as to turnout at the end of the day.
This year, we will be less sure what to make of each vote update. That’s because about 22 percent of registered voters statewide (and 11.5 percent in Boston) have already cast their ballot. The Secretary of State’s office estimates the early vote comprises about a third of the 3 million votes expected to be cast statewide.
But turnout during the early voting period has not been uniform. Early voting has been extremely sparse in some areas, while in others, over half of registered voters have already cast ballots. More to the point, the data on who the 22 percent actually are is very thin, and even the 22 percent figure is ambiguous. Here in Massachusetts, the public has access to a comparatively paltry amount of data on early voting. Other states offer public access to data down to the individual voter level.
Nonetheless, we obtained some turnout figures from our friends at TargetSmart, a national data firm, which offer a glimpse into who has voted, although the data do not appear to cover all early votes. In the TargetSmart data, the town of Eastham was the winner in turnout percent. A call to the town clerk confirmed turnout is already over 50 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, the state’s urban areas cluster at the bottom of the list. What we don’t know for sure is whether voters in urban areas will disproportionately turn out today and make up ground.
Because this is the first year Massachusetts has had early voting, we also don’t have any history to compare with this year’s figures. Based on the TargetSmart data, we can say that early voting appears to have skewed more toward older voters and Democrats, and seems to be heavier in better-off communities. But we can’t say what early turnout of 1 million votes might mean for the final tally, or what it could say about the fate of any of the state’s four ballot questions.
We expect a big part of turnout today will be filling in the map. So the first turnout update will probably feature a lot of voters from places where the early voting is light. We will make some more educated guesses about turnout starting when the 9:00 AM data comes in. But our guesses will be less educated than in the past.
5:00pm, November 7. All day tomorrow we will be live blogging turnout figures from Boston as they come in. Unlike almost everywhere else, the Boston Elections Department gives updates throughout the day on vote counts down to the ward and precinct level. Turnout updates will be at 9:00 AM, noon, 3:00 PM, 6:00 PM, and final vote counts when the polls close at 8:00 PM.
We’ve been doing this since the 2013 Mayoral Elections, but this year there is an added wrinkle: early voting has come to Massachusetts. The city has already published the early vote totals for every precinct in the city, which lets us to make maps like this one:
Overall, 47,506 votes have been cast in Boston already. That’s 19 percent of the total number of votes cast in Boston in the 2012 presidential election and 11.5 percent of the city’s roughly 414,000 voters. But it’s only about half the early vote pace for the entire state, where about 22 percent of all registered voters have already voted, according to Secretary of State Bill Galvin.
One reason that Boston is lagging behind is that its early vote has been uneven. Traditionally vote-heavy parts of the city (West Roxbury, Roslindale, Hyde Park) are behind the pace, trailing even student-heavy Allston-Brighton, which usually underperforms in voting. The heaviest early vote has come from some of the newest residential areas of the city: Downtown and the Seaport District. These neighborhoods have delivered the most raw early votes and seen some of the highest turnout as a percentage of the number of voters registered there. They are also delivering the most votes as a percentage of the total votes cast in 2012, although that may say more to how many more people are living in these parts of the city now than 4 years ago.
Early voting is a work in progress, and the unevenness this year may have something to do with how early voting was administered. City Hall was open for 10 full weekdays of early voting, which was convenient for workers downtown but also residents there. By contrast, West Roxbury, Roslindale and Hyde Park had only a single early polling place each, and those were only open for a single day. Allston-Brighton and Dorchester had multiple polling locations and had pockets of higher turnout around them.Having so much of the vote already in makes projecting final turnout tricky, as we’ll talk about tomorrow. But we have a lot more that we’ll be covering. We will have updates on the national picture and the ballot questions, and we’ll revisit some evergreen topics that we’ve touched on past years, like how the voters in presidential years differ from those in midterms.
We’ll be up and running bright and early tomorrow morning. In the meantime, enjoy mousing around the maps. We’ll a deeper dive on it tomorrow morning.