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Cutting to the chase:

Yes, you read that right.

Thanks to Obamacare, I am eligible for a health insurance plan with a $.03 (that's 3 cents) per month premium, with a $500 deductible/$750 annual maximum out-of-pocket payment.

Ultimately (for reasons I will explain further below) I decided to enroll in a different plan, with a $20 per month premium and a $600 deductible/$600 annual maximum out-of-pocket payment. Which doesn't sound too bad either, does it?

Obamacare isn't perfect, but I can report from the front lines that it is in fact working. It is going to improve the lives of millions of people - and save the lives of many more.

My Obamacare enrollment story:

I'm a starving graduate student student, and am just a bit too old to be allowed on my parents plan. Although I do work part time, I am not eligible for employer provided insurance. Consequently I am in the individual health insurance market, and for the last year have been enrolled in a junk catastrophic insurance program with a $6000 deductible.

I am young and in good health. But you never know what can happen in life. And if, over the past year, I had gotten seriously ill or in a serious accident, I would have been in trouble. Not in as serious trouble as many others who do not have insurance at all, but still in pretty bad trouble... Come to think of it, if I am not quite out of the woods yet. If I get in a serious car accident or something like that  over the next 31 days, I will still be in trouble... I guess had better drive safely...

So on October 1st, when the Obamacare exchanges first opened, I tried to make an account right away at, and ran into the same sorts of problems that everyone else did.

Over the past couple of weeks, I periodically tried a few times again, made a few additionally accounts, got further through the process, but ran into additional errors at later stages. So I decided to wait a bit until the website was fixed.

On Saturday morning I tried again. Saturday was (drumroll) November 30th: the magical-fairy-deadline-day on which the site has to work, or else Obama's presidency will forever be a complete and unmitigated failure, according to our pundit overlords. After all, getting Bin Laden was unimportant child's play, which is why Dubya never bothered to do it. So, here's what happened when I went to the website on Saturday morning.

In the enrollment process, you have to verify your identity through a private credit rating agency (Experian). Because I am a young person without much credit history, I don't have ... much credit history. That meant I could not initially verify my identity on the website. So I had to call Experian, and after 5 to 10 minutes on the phone my identity was verified, and poof, I could go forward with my application.

After that I had to enter in in a bit more information and estimate my income for 2014, which the website needed to evaluate my eligibility:

As expected, I am eligible to purchase insurance through the exchanges. I qualify for a premium subsidy of a bit under $200 a month, which comes out to a bit more than $2000 a year. I still have to send proof of my 2014 income by Feb 28, which I can do by sending in W-2s.

In addition, because I am a starving grad student, I qualify for a plan with "lower copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles." What that means is that I am eligible for "Cost-sharing reduction plans", which are a special type of silver plan. A standard silver plan covers
70% of the average costs of healthcare, but because I am a starving grad student, my "Cost-sharing reduction" silver plans cover 94% of the average costs of healthcare. This essentially converts a silver plan to the equivalent of a platinum plan.

So if I do get sick over the next year, I will genuinely be able to afford it, which would not really be the case if I had a multi-thousand dollar deductible, like my current catastrophic plan.

However, if my income were a bit lower, I would not be eligible for health insurance on the exchanges at all. People with incomes below 100% of the poverty level were supposed to be included in the Medicaid expansion. But unfortunately, thanks to the Supreme Court and many Republican governors/legislators across the country, who decided not to expand Medicaid in red states, millions of people will not be able to get the health care that they need, simply because they are too poor and live in the wrong states. And in fact, if earn even $1K less than anticipated in 2014, I will lose my Obamacare subsidies. So nothing had better go wrong. [EDIT --- thanks to the comment from guyeda, you don't lose subsidies in that situation, at least for 2014. But I'm not sure if it effects your eligibility for future subsidies. In the signup process you have to agree that the IRS can look at 5 years worth of taxes, presumably to see whether or not your estimated income matches your actual income.]

With my eligibility confirmed, I was ready to select an actual plan. I already knew basically what was available and basically what plan I was going to pick, because I had done a bit of research over the past month or two. Two really useful websites I found are Value Penguin and The Health Sherpa, which both have good estimators of the costs of Obamacare plans. They have pretty accurate estimates of premium subsidies (mine were off by about $10). But keep in mind that neither includes the Cost-sharing reduction plans, so if you are eligible for those that will substantially reduce your deductible/coinsurance/copays/out-of-pocket maximum. So if you are still having any trouble with, you can look at those sites in the meantime to see what is available and to get a rough idea of what it might cost you.

There's a menu on the right where you can filter what plans you want to see. So I selected the Cost-sharing reduction plans.

And when I did, I was (pleasantly) shocked by the first Cost-sharing reduction plan that showed up on my screen.
I knew enough to know that I was going to have lower premiums. And I knew that the premiums for some of the high-deductible bronze or catastrophic plans (similar to my current plan) would be essentially completely covered by the premium subsidies (what happens in that case is you pay a nominal premium of $.01 or $.03). And I knew that the combination of premium subsidies and Cost-sharing reduction plans would make a silver plan affordable for me. But you can't see the effects of the Cost-sharing reduction plans outside of the actual website, before you enter in all your info. And so while I was expecting to see options that I could afford, I was not quite expecting to see a Silver plan with a $.03 monthly premium, a $500 deductible, and a $750 out-of-pocket maximum!!!
I seriously considered taking the Silver plan from Humana with the $.03 monthly premium. That would probably be a pretty good choice for most people, and most likely would have been just fine for me as well. However, the network for the Humana plan only exists in Texas (and only in part of Texas, actually - so if you are from Dallas, better not get sick in Houston, and vice versa).

I mentioned earlier that I am a graduate student. But I didn't say that I am an out-of-state graduate student. That means I spend, or may spend, a significant amount of the year in different geographical locations. And unfortunately, there is no medicine that makes you immune to sickness and injury outside a specified geographical boundary. And so I ultimately decided to spend an additional $20 a month on a BC/BS plan with very similar benefits, but which includes the BC/BS national network. This plan has a similar $600 deductible with a $600 maximum out-of-pocket payment.

What if I were to get seriously sick when I was in the wrong geographical location? I could get stabilized in an ER, but then what if I needed more? If you are in the wrong place for a month, and you break your leg, should you just let it be broken until you are able to go back to place where you have coverage? This sort of thing could easily happen - and does and will happen - to anyone, even if you are just traveling for a week.

It's astounding that we live in a world in which I can type a diary and transport it electronically to computers on the other side of the world, where it can be read. But at the same time, if I transport myself to Arkansas, and if I have the wrong health insurance plan, I can't see a doctor? How anachronistic is that?

So then I hit the "enroll" button, went forward a few more pages, and confirmed that yes indeed I wanted to select the BC/BS plan.

Now my status is "initial enrollment." That means that my information is supposed to be sent to BC/BS off the back end of the website, and then BC/BS is supposed to contact me. I am not sure when exactly that will happen, but I am sure that it will happen eventually. However long that takes, it will be orders of magnitude less time than millions of people have already waited to obtain access to health care. I'll probably wait at least a week or so and then maybe follow up to make sure my info got through to BC/BS.

Then, after I make my first $20 premium payment and after January 1, my new Obamacare coverage will go into effect!

Other than that, all I have to do is send in some W2s, and ... CANCEL my current junk insurance plan for January 1st!!! And then, come January 1, I will sleep a little more soundly.

Obamacare is a good deal for me and a good deal for society:

I think it is pretty clear that Obamacare is a good deal for me. I can get much better health insurance than I had previously, for much less. If I get sick, it will cost me enough that I will definitely notice it, but it won't be an enormous irreparable setback.

But is my Obamacare also a good deal for society? Even if you are a committed Tea Party Randian totally devoid of simple human compassion for the sick and injured, I would think you would have to say yes.

It is a good investment for society to keep me alive and in good health. Society has already invested a lot in me to get me to where I am today. That's a sunk cost that society is not going to get back if I were just get sick and die due to lack of sufficient health insurance. I'm just at the point where, over the next 10 or so years, I am going to be able to start really contributing back to society. What goes around comes around. So if my arm were to fall off, I'd like to think that it is in society's best interest, and not just my own best interest, that it gets sewn back on.

How to improve Obamacare:

Like I said at the beginning, I don't think Obamacare is perfect. But it is definitely going to make life much better for a whole lot of people. The website is not going to work 100% of the time for 100% of the people, but it works well enough that you can most likely get through it if you try and if you are willing to pick up the phone if necessary. The website may go down for a bit again at some point in the future, and there may be a few other hitches here and there. But in the end, it is going to work.

Having gone through the process of signing up, here are what I would say are some of the things that need to be done to improve Obamacare. Most of them have little to do with the website, which seems to be more or less working at the moment, and which will continue to get better with time on its own accord.

Identity Verification - There is no legitimate reason why a private credit report company should be involved in verifying your identity on

Who ever thought that having a mortgage or a car loan was a prerequisite in order for a doctor to stick a light in your ear or to hit your knee tendons with a hammer? And no, placating some lobbyists does not count as a legitimate reason.

Medicaid - Like I said, if my income were a bit lower, I would not be eligible for the Obamacare exchange. I would be supposed to be eligible for Medicaid. Except it was not expanded, thanks to the efforts of people like John Roberts and Rick Perry. And if my 2014 income turns out lower than expected, who knows whether I will be eligible for 2015. It's possible that I might have no eligibility in 2015. And millions of other people have no eligibility right now. Medicaid HAS TO be expanded nationwide, or millions of people will continue suffer for absolutely no purpose, and incidentally it will cost more because the cost of visits by the uninsured to the ER end up being picked up in the premiums of the insured!

Dental Care - Adult dental care is not covered. Why? I have five orifices on my head. My mouth, my two ears, and my two nostrils. People are going to start getting into a car crashes, knocking out teeth, breaking noses, and detaching earlobes. What's going to happen? They are going to sew the earlobes back on, tend to the noses, and ... just leave the teeth be? After all, it's not like you need teeth to chew. How does that make any sense?

National Networks - One serious problem, and a problem which certainly predates Obamacare, is the fact that people travel. A health care system based on the idea that people spend the entirety of any given year in one metropolitan area, or in a single sate, was obsolete in the 20th century - much less in the 21st century. There exist things called cars, airplanes, telephones, and the internet, which allow us to move across and interact across space. It is true of course that you can get ER treatment basically anywhere. But if you are from California and are, for whatever reason, spending some time in New York, on many/most health insurance plans you have to travel 3000 miles to get basic covered medical treatment? Again, how does that make any sense?

Public Option - My greatest disappointment in signing up for Obamacare was my inability to enroll in a public option. I am being forced to support a parasitic private insurance industry, which violates my freedom of choice. If you can conscientiously object to war, you should be able to conscientiously object to private health insurance and enroll in a public health care.

Moreover, you would think Republicans would wholeheartedly support the public option. If "socialized medicine" is really as terrible as they say, then you would think they would be happy to watch all the progressives enrolled in the Public option get killed off by it. This would reduce democratic turnout and complement voter ID laws.

Simplification - I'm computer savvy, I'm a political junkie, I followed the debate and passage of the Affordable Care Act very closely, and have been waiting for the ACA to go into effect (hoping that I wouldn't get sick in the meantime). I am a college graduate, am in grad school, and have been fortunate to benefit from more educational opportunity than most people. But despite being relatively well informed and knowledgeable, I found the process of signing up for health insurance through Obamacare to be overly complicated and confusing. I can only imagine how much worse it must be for people who are not political junkies, are not computer savvy, and are not highly educated.

What is complicated is not even so much the website, but is all the different options, trying to understand the complexity of how precisely Obamacare effects you given your particular circumstances, and in understanding what exactly all of the insurance industry jargon means. In order to really make educated decisions about which health insurance plan to choose, you need to know almost as much as someone who is an insurance agent as a full-time job. The idea that every citizen can or should be an expert on the minutia of insurance is simply absurd. The same problem plagues all sorts of similar privatized public services, like privatized electricity markets and (may it never happen) privatized social security markets.

In Western culture, and particularly in America, we have this cultural idea that more choice is always better. In reality, as psychologists and behavioral economists have come to understand over the past few decades, that is not the case at all. If we have too many choices and if things are too complicated, we shut down, make less well-informed choices, and are less happy. If you eat 1000 pounds of ice cream you are not more happy than if you eat 1 cup, but are less happy. Likewise, if you have 100 choices you are not necessarily better off than if you have five choices (or only one!). At the very least, there need to be simple default options from which people automatically benefit if they simply do nothing (a public option would fit well here).

Single Payer - This follows fairly directly from simplification. more efficient. What is not to like? Nothing but vested interests and ideology. All we have to do to see that it works is open our eyes and observe it in action in other countries.

Bottom line:

The website is working. Maybe not 100%, but it is definitely way better than it was in October. If you try, you can get through and sign up for health insurance. You might have to pick up the phone at some point or may have to create a second account if you run into an error somewhere, but if you give it a shot you should be able to get through. Obamacare is imperfect, but is a great improvement over what existed before. When people see what they are eligible for, if they see anything even remotely like what I saw, they will be happy that they signed up for Obamacare.


Note to readers - this is just a DK Elections "Fantasy Redistricting" Diary. This is just a hypothetical theoretical exercise, for (possibly a perverse sort of) "fun." That is all.

This also illustrates the ridiculous power of gerrymandering. I can draw a map of Texas with safe 31 GOP seats and only 5 Democratic seats.

At the same time, in a previous diary earlier this year, I drew an extreme Democratic gerrymander of TX (using rough 2020 population projections) which had only 9 safe GOP seats.

The extraordinary difference between the two outcomes stems solely from gerrymandering.


The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case of Shelby County v. Holder, a case which challenges the constitutionally of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

So, I decided to see what Texas's Congressional Districts might look like if there were no such thing as the Voting Rights Act to restrain Republicans in Texas.

Accordingly, no holds are barred in this map when it comes to disenfranchising minority voters. This is of course not because I think that minority voters ought to be disenfranchised, but rather is because I wanted to see what Republicans might do, if there is nothing to stop them. So this map is a nightmare, rather than an ideal to strive for.

So, how bad could things get if there were no Voting Rights Act?

Very bad.

This map draws 31 safe Republican seats, which are all at least R+10. There are 5 packed Democratic districts - one in El Paso, one in South Texas, one in San Antonio, one in Houston, and one in Dallas. In keeping with Republican redistricting traditions, Austin is split into multiple districts and disenfranchised, and an attempt is made to get rid of Lloyd Doggett. But unlike previous Republican attempts to get rid of Lloyd Doggett, this attempt would almost certainly be successful, because all four districts containing any part of Travis County are R+10 or R+11. Doggett's only option would be to either retire or to try and win a primary in TX-20, which is entirely in Bexar County. And because Doggett is from Austin rather than San Antonio, he would almost certainly lose that primary. There are also a number of "Fake Hispanic" districts which have large Hispanic populations and are meant to make it appear that Hispanics are voting for Republicans. But in reality, all of these R+10 Fake Hispanic districts are R+10 because of White voters, not because of Hispanic voters.

By Texas standards, I think most of the districts are fairly compactish and cleanish. That's not to say that they actually are either compact or clean, but just that they are compactish and cleanish by Texas standards - and that's a whole different set of standards.

First of all, here are the stats for all the districts (using sawolf's DRA template). Again, you can clearly see that all 31 Republican districts are R+10 or higher, while there are only 5 Democratic districts (which range from "only" D+14 all the way to D+34). The population figures shown are for the Voting Age Population, so the minority populations are actually higher than shown for the total population:

And here's what the statewide map looks like:

First of all we'll take a look at the districts which are not in South Texas, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort-Worth, or Houston. Then we'll look at districts in each of those areas close up.


Very Safe GOP District based in Amarillo and Wichita Falls. R+30!!!


Safe GOP Lubbock district, which stretches to Denton to get enough population (and ensure that those pesky UNT College Dems votes are drowned out).


Now we move to El Paso. This is the 1st Democratic district we have come to. 1 down, 4 to go... It just consists of all the most heavily Democratic precincts in El Paso.


TX-11 is the first Fake Hispanic district. The VAP is 56.9% Hispanic and the total population is 61.1% Hispanic. In addition, 46.5% of the registered voters in TX-11 have Hispanic surnames. Nonetheless, this district is R+16 because the white voters are so overwhelmingly Republican. This district is based in Midland/Odessa, but also includes the part of El Paso not in TX-16. In addition, it reaches down the Rio Grande and includes half of Laredo.


A heavily Republican rural district in Central Texas. R+17.


Louie Gohmert maintains his base in Tyler, but moves north a bit to pick up Texarkana. In any case, it is R+23, so unfortunately he's not going anywhere.


TX-35 includes Jefferson County (Beaumont) as well as parts of rural east Texas to the north around Nacogdoches. Although the "Dem Average" is supposedly 45.1%, and although a Democrat could have won here 10 years ago, there is no possible way this district will elect a Democrat today.

South Texas


This is the one Democratic district conceded in South Texas. It is 91.6% Hispanic VAP and D+21. It is not terribly compact, but instead tries to gobble up all the most Democratic precincts in the area.


TX-28 is another one of those Fake Hispanic districts. It is 57.6% Hispanic VAP, but is also R+12. It starts in Rio Grande City, heads north through half of Larado, and ends up hundreds of miles to the north in the outskirts of Abilene.


Another Fake Hispanic district. Are you noticing a pattern here? That's right, it is 55.4% Hispanic VAP, but is also R+10. Hispanics in the Edinburg/McAllen area are outvoted by White voters in the San Antonio suburbs and rural areas to the north.


Blake Farenthold Paradise. Another Fake Hispanic district. 53.0% Hispanic, but also R+12. It includes many Hispanics in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, but Democrats and Hispanics are cut out in Corpus Christi and put into TX-14. Only the White Republican parts of Corpus Christi are included in TX-27. Then TX-27 heads further up the gulf coast to add more White Republicans, for the purpose of ensuring that the Hispanic votes cast for Democrats do not count.

So, all in all, South Texas has 1 actual Hispanic district and 3 R+10 or more Fake Hispanic districts.


Next up is the Houston area!


As we were saying, TX-14 starts in Corpus Christi, where it picks up all the Democrats in Nueces County. Then it heads north through rural areas and into the south Houston exurbs, and finally ends up in Galveston. R+12. Although it probably is not enough to really qualify as a Fake Hispanic district, it is also 42.4% Hispanic VAP.


TX-18 is the only Democratic district in the Houston area. It is outright majority African American and is D+34, making it the most Democratic district in Texas. It is an extremely effective Democratic vote pack district.


Tom Delay's old district in Fort Bend and Galveston Counties remains Safe R - R+13.


It's not only South Texas that has Fake Hispanic districts. There is also a Fake Hispanic district in Houston - TX-29!!! This district is 49.7% Hispanic VAP, but is R+12 because all the Hispanics are attached to some extremely Conservative white voters.


TX-2 combines heavily Republican whites with some minority voters. Surprise, surprise, the Republican whites win, and the minorities are disenfranchised. R+16.


TX-36 includes a very large number of minority voters in North Houston. But then it heads north through Montgomery county and into heavily Republican rural East Texas. Again, the White Republicans' votes count more. R+14.


TX-8 is based in the Woodlands in Montgomery county, but extends two arms down into different parts of Harris County to ensure that minority votes do not count. R+14.


TX-7 is the most compact district in Houston. Unfortunately, it is also safe Republican - R+12.


Diverse South-West Houston is cracked primarily by this district, which in real life is drawn very differently and is heavily Democratic. In this evil alternative universe, Southwest Houston is combined with White Republicans in Katy and Cypress, who ensure that this district remains GOP. R+13.


This last district includes lots of Republicans in Cinco Ranch and Montgomery County. As we are about to see, it stretches over to Austin and dilutes Democratic voters there, using the Republicans in the Houston area to outvote the Austin Democrats. R+11.

Austin & San Antonio

(TX-10 continued) As you can see below, TX-10 includes most of eastern Travis County. But the Republicans in the Houston area outvote the Austin Dems. Republican incumbent Mike McCaul will be happy, except I think I probably drew his house out of the district. Oh well. R+11


Lamar Smith gets only a small part of South Austin. Most of the district is in Hays/Comal Counties and San Antonio. R+10.


Moving for a moment into San Antonio, TX-20 is the Democratic Vote Sink. D+18.


TX-23. Did you think we were done with the Fake Hispanic districts? If so, you were WRONG! TX-23 is redrawn to resurrect Quico Canseco from his defeat at the hands of Pete Gallego. Canseco gets a safe Republican district entirely within Bexar County. It has a fairly large (43.6%) Hispanic VAP, so it is at least somewhat a Fake Hispanic district. Since only 32% of the voters have Spanish surnames and because the district is R+10, it is clear that White Republican voters really pull the strings.


TX-25 includes a large chunk of central Austin. But then it ties that chunk of heavily Democratic Austin to Abilene and heavily Republican rural areas nearby. The result is R+11. Apologies to Lloyd Doggett and to Austinites in general.


TX-33 completes the great cracking of Austin. It includes much of northern Travis County, but then heads north through heavily Republican rural areas all the way to Weatherford. R+10.


TX-31 is essentially just Williamson County plus Bell County. R+10 and safe GOP.


Finally we arrive in our last region - DFW.


TX-30 is our fifth and final Democratic district. It includes all the most Democratic precincts in Dallas County. D+30. It's all Republicans from here on out...


Unfortunately, this district will just do nothing but keep electing Jeb Hensarling. R+13.


TX-04 includes the growing Hispanic population of Garland, and then ensures that said Hispanics' votes do not count by combining them with heavily R rural areas. R+14.


Based in North Dallas, but now also extends into Collin County. R+15...


Hispanics in Irving and Farmers branch are outvoted by the parts of Collin County not included in TX-32. R+14


Democrats in Grand Prairie and Duncanville are outvoted by white Republicans in Southlake and other nearby north Tarrant County suburbs. R+13


Republicans in TX-06 are spread around in Ellis County, northern Tarrant County, and west Arlington. But combined, they outvote the Democrats in eastern Arlington and Fort Worth. R+12.


TX-26 is based in the suburbs of southern Denton County. Then it sticks an arm down into the middle of Fort Worth to disenfranchise the minority voters there. R+13.


TX-12 includes all the remaining people in Tarrant County, plus Johnson County. R+12.

And there we have it.

This is what Texas's Congressional districts could look like if there were no such thing as the Voting Rights Act, and if Texas Republicans were freed to stomp on minority voting rights untrammeled.

This is a solid 31-5 Republican map, with all 31 Republican seats sitting at least at R+10 (using 2008 results). With 2012 results, most of these districts will have if anything moved further to the right. Even the Fake Hispanic districts probably did not get more Democratic in 2012, because as Hispanic voters moved to Obama, White voters moved to Romney. Minority voters are packed into 5 districts and other than that are disenfranchised. Austin is split very effectively between 4 unwinnable safe Republican districts. None of the 31 GOP seats are really winnable for Dems, although maybe a few of the Fake Hispanic seats could eventually get shaky (but probably not before 2020).

I don't think this a dummymander. It is an evil-mander.


The strong swing of Cuban-American voters to President Obama and Democrats was one of the most interesting and probably one of the most significant shifts in voting patterns in 2012.

For Republicans, that shift to Democrats is cause for panic and denial. After all, Cuban-Americans are just about the only group of minority voters who have ever backed Republicans. If even their taste for the GOP is waning, then Republicans are in worse shape than previously thought.

For Democrats, it is difficult to think of a strategically more important group with which we could possibly hope to make inroads than Cuban-Americans. Cuban-Americans are a growing group of minority voters, concentrated strongly in THE largest and most important swing state in the country—Florida.

If Democrats can consolidate and expand upon the gains made in 2012 with Cuban-American voters in the coming years, it will suddenly become much more difficult for Republicans to win Florida's all-important 29 Electoral votes. If Cuban-Americans even begin to regularly split their vote roughly 50-50—much less to vote outright for Democrats—then Florida could shift from a lean-red state to a lean-blue state.

This is a point that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina recognizes very well:

Even parity is a triumph for the Obama campaign given the longstanding loyalty of anti-communist Cubans to the Republicans.

“This marks a dramatic realignment of politics in that state,” said Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager.

And it is the GOP's worst fear come true:
Republicans will be worried that a community they had long been able to rely on was turning away from the party in Florida, the largest of the swing states and always a prize in the presidential poll.
And it wasn't only President Obama who made substantial gains among Cuban-American voters. For the first time (ever?), a Cuban-American Democrat got elected to Congress from Miami—Joe Garcia in FL-26. Garcia handily dispatched Republican incumbent David Rivera, 54 percent-43 percent.

Ever since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and prompted a wave of Cubans to flee north to Miami, the Cuban-American community in Florida, and especially in Miami proper, has been a solidly Republican voting bloc.

Because Florida is such an important state in the electoral college, the influence of Cuban-American voters on American politics has been profound. For example, if it were not for overwhelming support from Cuban-American voters for George W. Bush, Al Gore would have easily carried Florida by a large margin in 2000, and would thus have been the 43rd president.

And with Fidel Castro on death's door, the possibility of even greater change seems to be in the air.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

Continue Reading

North Carolina Democrats put up a valiant fight, but Mitt Romney managed to edge out President Obama 50.46% to 48.29% in the Tar Heel state in 2012. Except for provisional ballots, which have yet to be tallied, Romney won NC by 96,489 votes, (2,252,830 to 2,156,341).

Without a doubt, even while they celebrate the national outcome, many North Carolina Democrats are ruminating gloomily upon local defeats. But on the positive side, North Carolina Democrats demonstrated that NC truly is a purple swing state, and that 2008 was not a fluke. As we will see, if we look closely at the 2012 results, we can find signs that over the longer term, Democrats in North Carolina have a bright future full of many hotly contested statewide races ahead of them.

North Carolina remained competitive to the bitter end in 2012, unlike several other states that Obama contested or considered contesting in either 2008 or 2012, such as Indiana, Missouri, Arizona, and Montana. The final result in North Carolina was closer than in numerous other swing states, such as Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, and possibly Virginia (depending on the last few votes dribbling in).

If President Obama had been able to maintain the lead he built up after the Democratic convention, and if he had performed better in the first debate, he may well have won North Carolina's 15 electoral votes.

When all is said and done, NC will now have only a modestly R+ PVI - probably around R+3. The demographic trends that put NC in play in 2008 have not stopped, and in 2016, it is a pretty safe bet that the Democratic presidential nominee will once again contest North Carolina. At any rate, if North Carolina is not contested, it will be because Democrats are repeating John Kerry's 2004 mistake of playing on too narrow of a presidential map.

Unfortunately, it is NC Republicans' move. And their next move will likely be to attack voting rights using potential voter suppression measures like voter ID and restricting early voting. Take it from a Texan - NC progressives will be well advised to lawyer up and prepare to fight off any and all attacks against voting rights in the arena of public opinion and in the courts.

How did turnout change from 2008 to 2012?

To figure out how Romney was able to narrowly win NC, we will first of all look at how turnout changed. Overall, turnout in NC increased from to 4,310,789 in 2008 to 4,464,995 in 2012. That's an increase of 154,206 votes (a 3.6% gain).

First of all, for reference, this map shows the total population by county in NC:

And this map shows the percent growth rate of the population from 2000 to 2010:

The map below shows the percentage increase in total turnout by county. Red counties have a decrease in turnout and green counties have an increase.

All across rural Appalachian western NC, we can clearly see that turnout slightly decreased in almost every county - except for liberal Buncombe county (Asheville).

In eastern rural DC, most counties had slight turnout increases, but there were also some counties with slight turnout declines.

Unsurprisingly, the largest percentage increases were in the Charlotte area and the Triangle area. There were large percentage increases in both urban counties like Wake and Mecklenburg counties, and also in suburban/exurban counties like Johnston and Union counties.

Now, how does the change in turnout look in terms of raw numbers of actual people voting, rather than as a percent increase or decrease?:

This map changes the emphasis, clearly bringing Mecklenburg County (35,276 more votes in 2012 than in 2008) and Wake County (39,845 more votes in 2012 than in 2008) into sharp focus.

Population growth, and hence also turnout increases, were heavily concentrated in those two counties, which happen to be two of the most strongly Democratic counties in North Carolina.

Other urban Obama-voting counties such as Durham (+7,310), Guilford (+10,341), and Forsyth (+6,606).

There were turnout increases in suburban/exurban counties as well (Union +7,754, Gaston +5478, Johnston +5206), which at first seems like a very good thing for Republicans. However, a fair amount of the population growth in these counties is from Democratic-leaning voters.

How did NC voters swing from 2008 to 2012?

The map below shows the swing in Obama's percentage margin in each county:

The percentage swing to Romney was clearly by far the strongest in Appalachian western North Carolina, where swings of 5% to 10% were the norm. But remember, we just saw that turnout decreased in Western NC. There was also a swing to Romney in eastern NC, but it was much more muted. Finally, there were modest swings to Romney in Charlotte, the Triangle, and the Triad - but they were significantly smaller than the national swing to Romney.

And the map below shows the change in Obama's raw vote margin by county:

This map looks a bit different. Even though Wake County swung much less in percentage terms than Appalachia, Romney's gains in Wake County were more important to his ultimate victory than the gains in any one small rural Appalachian county, because Wake county has many more people. Still, we should be a bit careful in over-interpreting this: although Romney got 22,796 more votes in Wake County than McCain, Obama also got 13,945 more votes in Wake county than he got in 2008.

In addition, Romney had relatively large margin gains in many relatively populous Piedmont counties, in Johnston county, and in the Charlotte exurbs. Finally, Romney's margin gains in rural western and eastern NC were small in any one individual county, but they added up.

North Carolina's Continued Democratic Trend

But now let's look at the results in NC in a slightly different way. Instead of looking at the swing to Romney in isolation of context, let's look at the swing in comparison to the national average swing. This is the "trend" relative to the national average.

At the time I am writing this, President Obama is ahead by 61,297,013 to 58,402,867 in the national popular vote (50.45% to 48.06%). This will change slightly as more results come in, but should be close enough to the final result for our purposes.

In 2008, President Obama defeated John McCain by 52.87% to, 45.60%, with a margin of 7.27%. So subtracting Obama's 2012 margin of roughly 2.38%, we find that the overall national swing was a 4.89% margin shift to Romney.

But in North Carolina, the swing to Romney was substantially less than that - only 2.49%. Subtracting 2.49% from 4.89%, we find that the trend relative to the national average in North Carolina was 2.4% towards Obama. That means that if there had been no overall national swing to Romney, Obama would have likely improved his margin in North Carolina by about 2.4% (which would have meant a win in NC by 2.7%, up from his .3% win in 2008). In other words, North Carolina showed in 2012 that it is continuing to trend Democratic.

Now, how does that 2.4% Democratic trend break down by county?:

(This map actually looks a bit redder than it should, because if a county has a +.4% Democratic trend, that is rounded down to 0 and shown as light red.)

What this map essentially shows is that Republicans gained ground relative to the national average in (some, but not all) stagnant rural areas of NC - and that's it.

With the exception of several counties, Western rural NC swung Republican more than the national average. In addition, some rural counties in the central NC Piedmont region swung to Romney more than the national average swing. Finally, a grand total of 7 coastal counties swung to Romney. And that's it.

Obama gained substantial ground, relative to the national average swing, in rural eastern NC counties with large minority populations.

But in addition - and more importantly for the future - every single major growing urban area in North Carolina trended Democratic.

Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) trended 3 points Democratic, and most surrounding suburban/exurban counties also trended Democratic.

Orange County (Chapel Hill), Durham County (Durham), and Wake County (Raleigh) all trended Democratic as well - by 2%, 6%, and 2% respectively. Even overwhelmingly Republican Johnston county trended 1% Democratic.

What's more, every other relatively large and growing urban area in North Carolina trended Democratic. Buncombe County (Asheville) trended 3 points to Obama, Forsyth County (Winston-Salem) trended 2 points to Obama, Guilford County (Greensboro) trended 3 points to Obama, Cumberland County (Fayetteville) trended 7 points to Obama, and New Hanover County (Wilmington) trended 2% Democratic.

In other words, anywhere where there is any population growth at all trended Democratic.

Meanwhile, the only parts of North Carolina which trended Republican are the same parts of North Carolina which are casting an ever-decreasing share of the statewide vote. In 2012, Republicans chained themselves more strongly than ever before to the declining demographic of white, rural, conservative voters - especially in Appalachia.

Democrats in North Carolina are a growing demographic, while Republicans in North Carolina are a declining demographic. And for precisely this reason, Democrats in North Carolina have excellent reason to be optimistic about their long term future.

Initial Evaluation of my Prediction

On the day before election day, I predicted:

Barack Obama will carry North Carolina's 15 electoral votes by a vote of 2,263,022 to 2,258,945, a margin of 4,077 votes. In percentage terms, that means Obama will win by 49.58% to 49.50%. 27,232 votes will be cast for Gary Johnson and 14,761 votes will be cast for write-in candidates. There will be 45,388 undervotes.


Obviously Obama's predicted margin of victory is FAR, FAR within the penumbra of uncertainty. As I see it, North Carolina is as much of a tossup as a tossup can possibly be. The primary measure by which I will judge the accuracy of this prediction by is the predicted vote margin of 4,077 votes for Barack Obama.


What should we look for on election night?:

1) If Obama wins early votes by about 150,000-200,000, he is in position to win NC, but it will be very close. If Obama wins early votes by more than 200,000 votes, though it will still probably be close. If Obama wins early votes by less than 150,000, then it will be tough (though not necessarily impossible) for him to win North Carolina.

2) If Obama is winning about 33% of white voters, he is in the position he needs to be to win NC, but it will be close. If he is much above that, it's looking good for an Obama victory in NC. If he is much below that, Romney will likely win NC.

Provisional ballots still need to be counted, but for the most part all the votes are in and we can evaluate my predictions. Here are the actual results, shown in the same kind of table:

And here is the difference between my prediction and the actual result - in order words, the error:

First of all, I predicted that 4,563,960 people would vote in the presidential race. That would have been a turnout increase of 5.9%, which is the same rate at which North Carolina's voting eligible population grew since 2008. However, turnout increased more slowly than that, and only 4,464,995 people voted - 98,965 fewer than I predicted. The fact that I had turnout too high helped to throw off many of my other numbers.

Secondly, I took all the undervotes away from election day rather than partly from election day and partly from early voting. That was a real facepalm.

Thirdly, I was worried that I was underestimating Obama's support among early voters, because polls seemed to be showing that Obama was doing better with early voters than my prediction system indicated. For this reason, I arbitrarily shifted 25,000 votes for Obama from election day to early vote, and shifted 25,000 votes for Romney from early vote to election day. As it turned out, my original early vote projection was pretty close to the actual results - but was actually (slightly) over-optimistic.

Fourthly, I overestimated election day turnout. We still don't know exactly who voted on election day, but it is probably a good bet that the people who I thought would show up to vote but who stayed home were Democratic-leaning sporadic, unlikely and new registrant voters.

Fifthly, I underestimated the swing of white voters to Romney. A two point swing among white voters was built into my prediction, through the mechanism of declining Democratic party registration and increasing Unaffiliated party registration. Exit polls initially showed that White voters were giving 33% of their support to Obama, which would have been high enough for a very close race. However, as results came in and the exit polls were revised, Obama's White support in the exit polls dropped to 31% - and that was low enough to push Romney over the top.


For those of you looking for the bottom line, I predict that Barack Obama will carry North Carolina's 15 electoral votes by a vote of 2,263,022 to 2,258,945, a margin of 4,077 votes. In percentage terms, that means Obama will win by 49.58% to 49.50%. 27,232 votes will be cast for Gary Johnson and 14,761 votes will be cast for write-in candidates. There will be 45,388 undervotes.

Oh, and GOTV.

Obviously Obama's predicted margin of victory is FAR, FAR within the penumbra of uncertainty. As I see it, North Carolina is as much of a tossup as a tossup can possibly be. The primary measure by which I will judge the accuracy of this prediction by is the predicted vote margin of 4,077 votes for Barack Obama.


Also, I am going to try to create a magic spreadsheet which will project the results in North Carolina once the results start coming in after polls close at 7:30.

If FL and VA report results fairly slowly, and if NC dumps all its early votes shortly after the polls close at 7:30, then the early North Carolina results may be the first real indication, other than from exit polls, of how the presidential race is going nationally. And since the data is coming directly from the NC Board of Elections, it should be possible to get results that way as fast or FASTER than the AP. If possible and if time allows, I'll also try to do a projection for the Congressional race in NC-07.

More details on that at the end of the diary.

What should we look for on election night?:

1) If Obama wins early votes by about 150,000-200,000, he is in position to win NC, but it will be very close. If Obama wins early votes by more than 200,000 votes, though it will still probably be close. If Obama wins early votes by less than 150,000, then it will be tough (though not necessarily impossible) for him to win North Carolina.

2) If Obama is winning about 33% of white voters, he is in the position he needs to be to win NC, but it will be close. If he is much above that, it's looking good for an Obama victory in NC. If he is much below that, Romney will likely win NC.


North Carolina is a tossup and Romney is Desperate

Let's put this very simply.

Conventional wisdom says that Barack Obama cannot win North Carolina. As soon as pundits started thinking about the 2012 election, they immediately began by assuming that Obama would lose Indiana and North Carolina. After all, he only barely won them in 2008, so if there is a uniform national swing to Romney, then those should be the first states that he picks up - and Romney should win them handily. So the story goes.

For Indiana, I won't argue with the conventional wisdom. But the conventional wisdom that North Carolina is a safe Romney state is neat, plausible, and wrong.

If you look at the actual data, rather than relying upon glib a-priori logic, you see a very different picture of North Carolina.

There is nothing in the early vote data - or in the data on registered voters who will vote on election day - that indicates that North Carolina is anything but a tossup.

Most of the public polls, and especially the most recent ones, show a tie, or maybe Romney up by 1 point.

PPP has polled North Carolina 3 times in approximately the last two weeks. Each time, they have found NC tied.

High Point University has found Romney up by 1.

Elon University has NC tied.

Yougov has Romney up 2. (I don't really trust internet polls, but nevertheless I'll count it...)

The only somewhat troubling result from a non-right wing pollster is from SUSA, who found Obama down by 5.

If we average all of those 5 pollsters, we find Romney up by 1.62 points.

Rasmussen and Gravis Marketing say that Romney has a large lead, but if they did a poll of Vermont, they'd probably find Romney ahead there as well.

On the other side, Grove Insight has Obama up by 3.

1.62 points, if that is really how things stand in NC, is not a very big lead for Romney. Obama has a number of advantages that are not fully taken into account in the polls, and it's not hard to imagine they could be worth more than 1.62 points.

Chief among Obama's advantages are his well oiled GOTV turnout machine. It's not exactly a well kept secret that Obama's North Carolina ground game is light years ahead of Romney's.

Obama's organizers are better disciplined. There are more of them. Obama's volunteers are better trained. There are more of them. Obama's ground game is battle tested from 2008, and has been built up meticulously over a period of four years, with painstaking attention to even the smallest of details.

Meanwhile, Romney has to keep pretending that NC is safe Republican, and keeps halfheartedly pretending that he is withdrawing from North Carolina and is expanding the map into some other state. Some days that other state is Michigan. Some days it seems to be Wisconsin. Other days it's Pennsylvania.

Romney knows that Ohio and Nevada are already lost, because he is already down by so much in early voting. He knows that North Carolina is teetering on a knife edge, again because of early voting.

Incidentally, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania all have something in common - they are heavily white and don't have substantial early voting. That means that, while Romney is going to lose them, he has not already lost them. And that is why he is forlornly tramping around in those states.

Romney knows that he is losing, and he knows that the only we he can hope to win is by creating a self-fulfilling media narrative prophecy that he is already winning, which (he hopes) will cause many people to vote for him at the last minute. The problem with that approach is that it is not grounded in reality, but rather is built on air.

Like Wile E. Coyote, as soon as Romney looks down at the foundation upon which he is (or is not) standing, he begins to fall. The only way forward is to simply refuse to look down, put on a brave face, and hope the media doesn't notice. It's a confidence game, and Romney is a confidence man.

The facts manifestly say that Romney is a desperate, losing, wounded animal, thrashing about blindly in the general direction of anything that sounds remotely like it is moving.

PPP Poll:

Late last night, PPP came out with one last poll of North Carolina. They found a tied race 49-49 (actually, it was 49.4% Romney to 49.2% Obama).

As dreaminonempty has ably demonstrated, internals of polls are not always reliable, to say the least - even if the top lines are reliable. Nonetheless, I will cautiously scrounge through the crosstabs of PPP's poll and see whether they fit with my assumptions.

First of all 62% of PPP's sample has voted early, while 38% of the sample plans to vote on election day. Since 2,738,922 people have voted early so far, that would suggest a final turnout of about 4,417,616, which is in the right general area. So PPP's likely voter screen is probably about right.

Among early voters, PPP finds Obama up 54-45, which is not far from my 53.1-46.9. Among election day voters, PPP has Romney up 57-41.

73% of PPP's sample is (or reports to be) White, 21% is African American, and 6% is "Other." That's about right, but in 2008, African American vote share was 22.3%. Among early voters in 2012, it is 27.4%. Overall in 2012, I expect it to be about 23.7%, with White vote share dropping from 73.2% in 2008 to about 70.6% in 2012.

In 2008, the exit polls say that Obama got 35% of the white vote. PPP finds him at 37% with white voters (with the caveat that probably not all respondents to the poll who claimed to be white were actually white). Averaging the White voter support rate from PPP, SUSA, Elon, and Yougov, Obama is at about 33.5% with white voters in NC. That's about what he needs to win.

So everything in PPP's poll is extremely consistent with the methodology I am using here. I think that PPP's poll is likely to be pretty accurate, and like PPP, my best guess is that both Obama and Romney will get under 50% of the vote.


Here is my prediction. It is very precise, in the sense that it gives specific numbers for everything. But in reality, there is a hazy undefined margin of error surrounding all my predictions. In the end, we just don't know.

And that, again, is why it GOTV is vital.

Let's start by looking at who has already voted - people who have their votes banked early:

About 2,738,922 people have voted early. There are still a few mail ballots that will trickle in, but that's basically the final total number of early voters.

55.2% of those 2,738,922 people are "likely voters" who voted in both 2008 and 2010. Of those, White Republicans dominate - they are 34.4% of the likely voters who have already voted. But we knew they would vote all along - it was just a question of whether it'd be early or on election day. 24.7% are African American, 24.0% are White Dems, and 1.6% are other minorities.

But among the remaining 44.8% of people who have already voted (a total of 1,227,251 million people), it's a totally different story. 689,528 "Sporadic" voters who voted in 2008 or 2010 but NOT both have voted. 149,559 "Unlikely" voters have voted even though they didn't vote in EITHER 2008 or 2010 and registered to vote some time before 2010. And 388,164 New Registrants have voted - including 70,058 who registered VERY recently - some time after 10/27/2012. Presumably these 70,058 are brand new voters who registered at One Stop Early Voting. Also, some 10s of thousands of additional One Stop Early Voting New Registrants are included among the 318,106 people in the regular New Registrants category.

So, among those 1,227,251 "Non-Likely" voters, the share of White Republicans drops from 34.4% (the White GOP share of "Likely" Voters) to just 25.1% of "Non-Likely" voters. Equally and oppositely, the share of African Americans rises from 24.7% among "Likely" Voters to 30.8% among "Non-Likely" voters, and the share of other Minorities increases from 1.6% to 4.7%. Obama very clearly expanded the electorate during the early voting period. There's a word for that. And there's a word for that - it's called GOTV.

Now, who is left that still hasn't voted?

Well, there are 5,951,357 Active Registered voters, so if 2,738,922 have already voted that leaves 3,234,140 who have not yet voted. In addition, there are another 709,744
"Inactive" registered voters. These are people who didn't return the confirmation mailing of their registration. They can still vote, but very few of them actually will, so we'll focus on the active registered voters.

Of the 3,234,140 Registered Active Voters who haven't yet voted, 909,336 of them are "Likely" voters. As with "Likely" voters who have voted, White Republicans dominate with 355,477 Republican Likely voters, or 39.1% of all likely voters. But among the other 2,324,804 "Non-Likely" voters who haven't voted, only 25.4% are White Republicans.

Simply put, the more that Obama manages to expand the electorate to include more of those "Non-Likely" voters who haven't yet voted, the more likely it is that Obama wins. And there's a word for how that's done - it's called GOTV.

Now, what percentage of the 3,234,140 Registered Active Voters who have not yet voted will vote on election day?

Overall, I predict that 58% of the 3,234,140 remaining voters will vote. That will result in 1,870,426 election day voters, which means that:

1) Total turnout of "accepted" ballots will be 4,609,348.

2) Total turnout of ballots cast in the presidential race will be 4,563,876, meaning that there will be 45,472 undervotes.

Both of the above total turnout numbers represent a 5.9% increase in turnout above 2008, which is equal to the increase in the Voting Eligible Population in North Carolina from 2008 to 2012.

But a lot of those 1,870,426 people won't vote by themselves. They need some help. There's a word for how that's done - it's called GOTV.

Now, how the heck did I come up with those percentages?

I averaged two other percentages to come up with those crazy percentages. The idea behind this averaging approach was to take into account two different countervailing effects.

First of all, if a demographic group votes early at a high (or low) rate, that is an indication that this demographic group is enthusiastic (or unenthusiastic) about voting this year, and so members of this demographic group will also vote at a high (or low) rate on election day. So, for example, the fact that Native American turnout was low in early voting is probably an indication that it will be fairly low on election day as well, among Native Americans who haven't yet voted.

But on the other hand, there's a countervailing effect. If a larger proportion of a demographic group has already voted early, then it is likely that the "best voters" among that group have already voted, and thus the people who are left over are the "bad voters" who are less engaged with politics. Because of this effect, turnout of remaining will tend to be lower on election day. In the case of North Carolina, this effect applies especially to African Americans, but also to other groups that have had high turnout rates like White Republicans.

I don't know how strong each of these effects is, so I simply averaged them.

So the first percentage that I included in the average is the % of Active Registered voters who have already voted:

Now, at this point it must be said - I spotted a math error. The first time I went through this process, I forgot to update the % of Active Registered Voters who had already voted.

I had gotten all the way through the rest of my projection, and had even gotten my final number and had taken my screenshot. This is what my final prediction was GOING TO BE:

That's right, many readers probably won't believe this. Many readers will probably think that I rigged my prediction - but that's really and truly not actually true. Because of a math error, I was on the verge of predicting that Romney would with North Carolina by 1,101 votes - or by 49.55% to 49.53%.

So anyway, I went back and updated the percentages of people who voted early, to include the last Saturday of early voting. Because Obama did well on the last Saturday of One Stop Early Voting, this made him do better in my prediction:

So, now we have the first percentage included in my average - and these are the corrected numbers. The second percentage that I included was given by me. These are constant regardless of race or party registration, with one exception - White Republicans get a 15 point boost. The justification for that is the idea that White Republicans have not voted at quite the same rates as African Americans so far, but they voted at high rates in 2008 on election day and likely will do so again.

The way I came up with these "given" percentages was I simply increased them until they yielded a turnout number close to my target expected election day turnout of 1,870,426 people. When I was close to that target, I then multiplied each percentage by the constant necessary to exactly reach the expected election day turnout (the magic number 0.969059145 ...)

Then I multiplied those turnout percentages by the numbers of active registered voters who hadn't yet voted:

These are the voters predicted to vote on election day.

Then I added them to early voters to get total voters:

This implies that the turnout rates for ALL registered Active Voters will be the following:

With the number of total voters, I could then calculate how they would be predicted to vote:

This spit out the prediction that Obama will win North Carolina by 50.4% to 49.6%, or by a margin of 39,487 votes.

However, there were still a few more things that I needed to correct for. First, I needed to correct for the error in my predictions of 2008 (which I found in yesterday's diary). To do this, I multiplied my predicted 2012 Obama votes by the actual 2008 Obama votes divided by my predicted 2008 Obama votes. Likewise, I multiplied my predicted 2012 Romney votes by the actual 2008 McCain votes divided by my predicted 2008 McCain votes.

Second, I needed, there are going to be some under votes. To correct for this, I simply assume that the number of undervotes will increase at the same 5.9% rate as total turnout. I took undervotes away from Obama and Romney, in equal proportion to the overall predicted result.

Third, some people will vote for Gary Johnson or a write-in Canddiate. To correct for this, I simply assume that the number of Gary Johnson and write-in votes will increase at the same 5.9% rate as total turnout. I took Gary Johnson and write-in votes away from Obama and Romney, in equal proportion to the overall predicted result.

Fourth, I needed to calculate how many ballots would be "provisional" ballots. To do this, I simply multiplied the proportion of Obama's 2008 ballots that were provisional ballots by his predicted 2012 ballots, and multiplied the proportion of McCain's 2008 ballots that were provisional ballots by Romney's predicted total 2012 ballots.

Finally, I suspect that the number of votes Obama will get in early voting is higher than race and party demographics alone would predict, and likewise, I suspect that the number of votes Romney will get on election day is higher than race and party demographics alone would predict. So, because there is no time to do this in any better way, I am arbitrarily transferring 25000 early votes from Romney to Obama and transferring 25000 election day votes from Obama to Romney. This doesn't change the total amount of votes each candidate is predicted to receive - just how many of them will be from early voting vs. from election day voting.

All of this results in the following Final Prediction:

I predict that Barack Obama will carry North Carolina's 15 electoral votes by a vote of 2,263,022 to 2,258,945, a margin of 4,077 votes. In percentage terms, that means Obama will win by 49.58% to 49.50%. 27,232 votes will be cast for Gary Johnson and 14,761 votes will be cast for write-in candidates. There will be 45,388 undervotes.

Oh, and GOTV.

Obviously Obama's predicted margin of victory is FAR, FAR within the penumbra of uncertainty. As I see it, North Carolina is as much of a tossup as a tossup can possibly be. That is why it is important to vote.

And that is why it is important to GOTV.

The primary measure by which I will judge the accuracy of this prediction by is the predicted vote margin of 4,077 votes for Barack Obama.

Election Night Returns

Also, I am going to try to create a magic spreadsheet which will project the results in North Carolina once the results start coming in after polls close at 7:30. I have discovered that North Carolina seems to put a file (WARNING - BIG FILE) on its website with all the precinct level election night returns.

I presume, but do not know for sure, that the NC Board of Elections will be updating it frequently on election night as they process results.

If FL and VA report results fairly slowly, and if NC dumps all its early votes shortly after the polls close at 7:30, then the early North Carolina results may be the first real indication, other than from exit polls, of how the presidential race is going nationally. And since the data is coming directly from the NC Board of Elections, it should be possible to get results that way as fast or FASTER than the AP. If possible and if time allows, I'll also try to do a projection for the Congressional race in NC-07.


Across North Carolina, Organizers and Volunteers are taking a well deserved breather.

Just kidding! One Stop Early Vote GOTV is over, but Election Day GOTV has already begun.

No rest for the weary until November 7th.

2 days and one evening of GOTV are left.

If you are wondering why GOTV is important, you just have to watch this video:

Saturday Voting:

There was a last minute boom of Democratic turnout on Saturday, the last day of One-Stop Early Voting. In total, 201,681 people cast their ballots Saturday: an estimated 112,669 of them voted for President Obama, while an estimated 89,012 voted for Romney, giving Obama an estimated 23,656 vote margin on the final day of early voting. That's 517 votes better than Obama's estimated 23,140 vote margin from the last day of early voting in 2008. As always, turnout may increase as counties process more data.

It's all about GOTV now.

Total NC Early Vote Turnout:

With practically all (but not all) of the early votes in, Early Voting Turnout in North Carolina has easily broken the records of 2008.

The Charlotte Observer has a great early voting summary picture, which is quite simply too good looking not to post:

Total turnout is sitting pretty at 2,742,100, whereas in 2008 it was 2,616,779. The net increase in turnout is 125,321 votes, or an increase of 4.8%.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

These numbers do not just include "accepted" ballots, but also include ballots which were "spoiled" and have other statuses. As a result, the total turnout number above is a bit higher than the 2,706,836 "accepted" votes reported by the North Carolina Board of Elections (PDF File!). But those other 35,264 votes are floating out there in the ether somewhere, and whether or not they get counted could be up to the lawyers and judges in any potential recount.

Overall, an estimated 1,455,277 votes have been cast for President Obama and an estimated 1,286,823 votes have been cast for Mitt Romney, giving Obama an estimated 168,455 vote margin, or a 53.1%-46.9% lead, with roughly 59.6% of the vote in (assuming a final turnout of 4,601,461 "accepted" ballots).

In addition, the final numbers of ACTUAL votes cast for both Obama and Romney are likely to be lower for two other reasons:

1) Undervotes - First of all, there will be some undervotes. In 2008, the NC Board of Elections Reported a "total turnout" of 4,353,739 votes. But there were only 4,310,789 votes cast in the Presidential race, meaning that for whether by mistake or on purpose, 42,950 people who voted left the Presidential race blank on their ballots. We can probably expect a similar number of undervotes this year.

2) Third Party and Write-In Votes - In 2008, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr was on the ballot and received 25,722 votes. Again in 2012, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is on the ballot. Libertarian party registration is up, so perhaps Johnson will do a bit better than Barr, but overall we should probably expect a similar number of votes for Johnson in 2012. There will also be some number of write-in ballots once again. For example, 1,686,457 people have "committed" to write-in Jesus on their ballots. But we'll have to wait and see how many of them live in NC and how many follow through on their "commitment." In addition, Gary Johnson or a write-in is the only option available for people who are both racist and anti-Mormon.

Voter Demographics:

827,998 White Republicans have voted in 2012, compared to 757,456, an increase of 70,542 White Republicans. It's not an accident that the number of additional White Republicans voting early is pretty close to the amount by which Romney has cut Obama's (estimated) early vote margin from 2008. However, it's not clear how much this higher early White Republican turnout will ultimately help Romney, because many of these Republicans may be likely voters who would have otherwise voted on election day.

White Democratic early vote turnout is down by 96,252 votes from 2008, but given the likelihood that many of the missing "Democrats" are really Dixiecrats who did not vote for Obama even in 2008, it's unclear that this really does very much to hurt Obama's chances.

Romney is fighting an uphill battle against inexorable demographic trends. As dreaminonempty illustrates, White vote share has been consistently dropping in exit polls every 4 years year since 1992, with a shockingly high .9922 R-squared value.

We can see that drop in White Vote Share in action in North Carolina early voting. Although the raw number of early votes cast by White voters has increased slightly from 1,809,926 to 1,845,605 (a 35,679 vote or 2.0% increase), White vote share among early voters has dropped from 69.2% in 2008 to 67.3% in 2012. As white vote share drops, Romney has to do better among White voters than McCain just to keep up with McCain's 2008 numbers.

There has also been an increase in African American from 702,958 in 2008 to 752,913 now. You don't need to have a math PhD to be able to tell that the increase in African American turnout of 49,955 votes (a 7.1% increase) is greater than the increase in White turnout of 35,679 (a 2.0% increase).

And among other Minority groups, there has been an increase in turnout from 69,431 to 83,016 - an increase of 13,585 votes, or a 19.6% increase.

It also needn't be said, but the number of White Progressives in the Triangle, the Triad, Charlotte, Asheville, etc has only increased since 2008. That's another part of the demographic change that helped turn North Carolina blue in 2008 - and which could help keep it blue in 2012.

How Accurate is My Methodology?:

Obviously the real test of this question will come on Tuesday. It is one thing to predict the past, and quite another thing to predict the future!

But Ari Bronstein suggested a good way that we can at least see whether my numbers predict the past:

If you can do it (and I'm pretty sure your database has all the info you'd need), you may also want to apply your model of likely voters on each side to ALL the 2008 voters (including Election Day voters), and see how close you are to the true final results.  It'll give us all a sense of how good your breakdown of the Unaffiliated voters is when we're looking at your bottom line %.
I did exactly that. Here were the results:

Without, for the moment, bothering to adjust for undervotes and 3rd party votes, my methodology comes pretty close to the actual result. It predicts that Obama should have won by about 47,727 votes. In reality, he won by 14,177 votes.

It makes sense that my model should be pretty close - but a bit more favorable for Obama - to the overall 2008 results, because I built the model in the first place based off of 2008 exit polls to roughly fit the known 2008 early voting results. Again, this does not necessarily mean that my methodology will be accurate in predicting the 2012 outcome - predicting the past is a different animal from predicting the future. But since it makes sense that Obama should have done systematically a bit better among early voters than election day voters in 2008, it makes sense that this should result in a prediction of Obama winning by slightly more than he won in reality.

But soon after running these numbers, I figured out something very interesting.

Since I was drawing my data from current voter data, updated just a week ago by the NC Board of Elections, I was using the current 2012 party registration of 2008 early voters.

Then I realized that the NC Board of Elections also makes historical data available, showing the historical party registration and race as of 2008 for people who voted in 2008, rather than showing their updated current 2012 registration.

And so I re-ran the numbers using the historical registration data, rather than the current registration data. These were the results:

We previously knew that my methodology had some swing among White Voters to Romney built-in to the system, because party registration has shifted away from Democrats and towards Unaffiliated voters. But previously we were not able to quantify how big the built in assumed swing of White Voters to Romney was.

The fascinating thing about this is that it enables us to see the change in party registration from 2008 to 2012 specifically among people we know voted in 2008.

When we used the current 2012 registration of 2008 voters, the predicted Obama margin was 47,727 votes.

But when we used the historical registration of 2008 voters, the predicted Obama margin was 113,906 votes.

The difference between those two predictions is 66,179 votes. Those 66,179 votes are the change in the predicted results that are attributable to the fact that some 2008 voters have changed their party registration between 2008 and 2012.

So, given 2008 turnout, my methodology has a built in assumed net swing to Romney of about 66,179 votes. It's not strictly true that all of that swing is coming from white voters, but it's very nearly true. If we simplify and say that all of the swing is coming from white voters, then those 66,179 votes are the same thing as a 2.1% built-in assumed swing among White Voters to Romney.

Therefore, if you think that there will be absolutely no swing of White voters to Romney, you can go ahead and add approximately 66,179 votes (or, with 2012 turnout, about 70,000 votes) to Obama's predicted 2012 margin. Given the fact that elderly Dixiecrats have been replaced in the electorate by younger white voters less likely to vote against Obama simply because he is black, and given the fact that polls do not show a detectable swing of White NC voters to Romney (PPP has Obama at 36% among Whites, and other polls are similar), that is not entirely implausible.

One other thing you will notice is that using the historical data, the undervotes are eliminated - only voters who voted specifically in the presidential race are included in the historical data.

Armed with this new knowledge, we can also look in a bit more detail at how people who voted in 2008 have changed their party registration since 2008:

From the chart above, we can plainly see that the vast majority of all of the change in party registration among 2008 voters who were already registered was from a shift of former White Democrats re-registering as White Unaffiliateds.

Since the current 2012 registration includes undervotes, and the 2008 historical registration does not include undervotes, we need to correct for that undervote difference. If we assume that people of all races and party registrations were equally likely to undervote, then we get the change in party registration shown in the "Change Corrected Assuming Equal Share of Undervotes" column. We can see a decrease of 69,813 White registered Democrats and a corresponding 54,473 person increase in the number of White Unaffiliateds. 54,473 is not exactly the same as 69,813, so obviously there have been some other changes as well - including some White Democrats changing their reported race to "Undesignated."

Because I assign 83% of White Democrats to Obama and only 28% of White Unaffiliateds to Obama, that change in registration means a pretty large shift in predicted votes from Obama to McCain - and that is why there is the 66,179 vote difference between the two predictions.

Testing 2010:

In addition to "testing" my predictions against the 2008 results, I also "tested" my predictions against the 2010 results in the same way. This is obviously very much a counter-factual, since there was no Presidential race 2010. The only statewide race in North Carolina in 2010 was the US Senate race between Elaine Marshall and Richard Burr. A fairly uncompetitive Senate race in a midterm is a very different animal from a hotly contested Presidential election, but this is what my methodology would have predicted:

My methodology predicts that Elaine Marshall should have lost by 48.1% to 51.9%. In reality, she lost by 43.1% to 54.8% (or 44.0% to 56.0% not counting third party votes).

Although no exit polls are available for NC's 2010 Senate race, it is clear that Marshall did substantially worse with white voters in 2010 than did Obama in 2008. That difference in support from white voters explains the difference between what my methodology would have predicted and what actually happened.

For example, in Buncombe County (Asheville), where 87% of the Voting Age Population is White, Obama got 56% of the total vote, and Marshall got just 50%.

And in heavily white Randolph County (Asheboro), where 84% of the Voting Age Population is White,  Obama got 28% of the total vote, and Marshall got just 20%.

This highlights the main weakness of my methodology - it does not take into account swings in voter preferences since 2008, except insofar as those changes in voter preferences are reflected by changes in party registration.

So if there is a very large swing among white voters to Romney, rather than just a relatively modest swing among white voters to Romney, then things could look better for Romney than my numbers would indicate.

But again - I cannot see any detectable swing of White NC voters to Romney (PPP has Obama at 36% among Whites, and other polls are similar). If anyone can find any evidence that White voters in NC are shifting substantially to Romney, please let me know in comments.


Tomorrow, I'll post my final educated guess of the outcome in NC, down to the last vote and with turnout broken down by vote likelihood category, party registration, and race. After the election, we can see how accurate it turns out to be!

When I started writing this diary series, I guessed that NC would probably be a bit closer than most people seemed to assume, but I thought that Romney would probably win in the end. But the more deeply I look into this voter data, the less persuaded I am that Romney really has an advantage, and the more I wonder whether Obama may even have a slight edge. Even just a few days ago, as we saw turnout decreasing because of Sandy, I was feeling much more pessimistic than I am now.

Intrade currently has only a 20% chance that Obama will win North Carolina. I legitimately do not know if Obama will win North Carolina or not, but I really and truly think that his odds are much better than 20%. If I had an intrade account, money to waste, and was a gambler, I'd definitely be buying Obama NC stock. Indeed, if I were managing Mitt Romney's blind trust, I think I'd buy him some Obama NC stock!

Likewise, Nate Silver at 538 currently gives Obama only a 21% chance of winning. I'm a big fan of 538 and have been reading Nate Silver since 2008, and I generally think Nate's national forecast will be more accurate than anything else out there. But the problem, at least in the case of NC, is that 538 does not take ground game, early vote, or changes in voter registration into account.

Ground game is not a factor in other southern states where demographics are shifting in Democrats' favor, such as Georgia and Texas. But I think that 538 probably overestimates Romney's margins in those two states as well, for the same reasons of demographic, early vote, and voter registration - Nate currently has Georgia at 54.5% Romney, 45.0% Obama, and has Texas at 57.6% Romney, 41.8% Obama.

It's all about GOTV now.

Continue Reading

It's no secret that the way for Barack Obama to win North Carolina is for him to expand the electorate and turn out "unlikely" voters.

Previously in my NC Early Voting Diaries, we have looked at early voting primarily in aggregated numbers, without really knowing whether the people who are voting are likely or unlikely voters. But today I have the data ready to allow us to peer under the hood and see whether the people who are voting are likely voters or not. As it turns out, there are quite a few Sporadic, Unlikely and New Registrant voters - and it is clear that Obama is cleaning Romney's clock among this category of voters.

Specifically, as I define them, 56.7% of the people who have voted so far are likely voters. But those 56.7% of voters contribute only 20% of Obama's estimated vote margin. The remaining 80% of Obama's estimated margin comes from where it matters - from the 43.3% of voters who fall into the categories of Sporadic, Unlikely, and New Registrant Voters.

We will look in more detail at the numbers on this below, but first let's look at some indicators that OFA is seeing something good in the NC early vote numbers:

Michelle Obama is Coming to Charlotte on Monday:

First lady Michelle Obama is coming to campaign in Charlotte, NC on monday, the day before election day. Oh yeah, and Bill Clinton is coming to Raleigh on Sunday.

Now, why do you think that OFA would send Michelle Obama to Charlotte? Well, for one thing, she was definitely a hit the last time she was in Charlotte:

But why would OFA send Michelle Obama, one of the most effective advocates for Barack Obama, to North Carolina on the very day before election day? If we believe all the electoral college maps that show North Carolina colored in dark red, wouldn't that be a terrible misallocation of resources?

If North Carolina were a lost cause and unwinnable, do you think they would send her to Charlotte?

No way! If that were the case, she'd be spending all her time in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, or Colorado, especially one day before election day.

Some have argued that the only reason Michelle Obama is going to Charlotte is to reward people who volunteered at the Democratic National Convention but didn't get to see President Obama's DNC speech because of the rain. But if that were the case and this were really just a token gesture to make disappointed volunteers feel better, why would Michelle Obama be coming to Charlotte on the day before election day, rather than much earlier? If it were just a make-up event, then you would think that they would have the makeup event at a less critical time. Moreover, OFA continues to pour millions of dollars into television advertising in North Carolina, and the Obama ground game continues its all out effort to turn out ever more new voters.

So what are the numbers that are persuading OFA that NC is worth the continued investment of time, resources, and money?


First of all, the polls show a very close race in North Carolina (unless you believe Rasmussen and Gravis Marketing).

Over roughly the past two weeks, PPP has found North Carolina tied not once but twice, and Elon University has also found a tied race. Civitas and High Point University have both found Romney up by only one point.

As we all remember, Obama was down in just about every poll in NC in 2008, but he won anyway thanks to OFA's superior ground game, which converted "unlikely voters" into actual voters.

Obama is Turning Out Sporadic Voters, Unlikely Voters, and New Registrants:

But perhaps more important than polls are the hard numbers of actual voters who have voted. President Obama has built up a large lead in early voting, but more importantly, he has built up that lead where it counts. OFA has not concentrated on turning out likely voters that it knew would vote regardless, whether on election day or early. Instead, the Obama campaign has focused its attention on expanding the electorate to include Sporadic Voters, Unlikely Voters, and New Registrants.

In a recent summary of early voting trends nationwide, OFA Field Director Jeremy Bird wrote:

Our campaign is about inclusiveness, and we’ve always been focused on bringing new people into the process. As our supporters vote early in huge numbers around the country, we have the perfect example: We’re turning out voters who have been traditionally less likely to participate, sometimes called “sporadic” voters.

A common misconception about early vote is that both parties have a set number of voters, and all early vote does is let some of them cast their ballots before Election Day. That’s simply not true. What early vote does is help us mobilize sporadic voters by giving them more time and more convenient ways to make their voices heard. It also broadens the universe of voters and frees up more of our get-out-the-vote resources later, especially on Election Day. When you look inside the numbers so far, among sporadic voters it’s not even close.

More sporadic Obama voters are voting than sporadic Republicans in the battleground states.


Non-midtermvoters: Across nine battleground states, Democrats have a 19.7 point advantage in ballots cast among non-midterm voters. More than half (51.5 percent) of non-midterm voters who have voted already are Democrats, while fewer than a third (just 31.8 percent) are Republicans.

For example, in North Carolina, 51.5 percent of those who have already voted are Democrats, compared with just 25.1 percent who are Republicans. That’s a major advantage. And among these non-midterm voters who have voted in North Carolina so far, 87 percent of them are youth (under 35), African-American, Latino, or new registrants (registered after the 2008 election).

This is not something unique to North Carolina. The same thing is happening in Florida, where OFA Florida Director Ashley Walker says:
"This isn't 2008. We don't have 15 days of early vote. We have 8 days, and so it's a different race," Walker said. "When you really dig down and start looking at at these numbers in who is turning out with these vote-by-mail numbers and early vote numbers, more of our sporadic, irregular voters than theirs by a three-to-one margin. And that means we have more old faithfuls to come out on election day. I'm not going to try to bullshit you - it's a tight race, it's a really close race, but any spin they're trying to feed you that we're behind where we were in 2008 is just spin....It's a totally different race. The opportunities and the rules of the game are totally different."
UPDATE - And, in a new OFA memo (warning, PDF file), we learn that:
This cycle, our teams registered 1,792,261 voters in key battleground states – nearly double the number of voters the Obama campaign registered in 2008. These new voters are already voting in early vote states. In fact, 28 percent of them – 345,233 – have already voted. In North Carolina, for example, 137,808 of the voters OFA-NC registered have already voted in a state the President won by just 14,000 in 2008, and that will come down to the wire again on Tuesday.
In total, 335,687 new registered voters have voted so far in NC, so that means that 41.0% of all registered voters who have voted so far were registered by OFA. That is a very striking number. (Thanks to MBishop1 from DKE's Saturday Open Thread for the link!)

Breakdown of Voters by Vote Likelihood:

For this analysis, I am defining Likely Voters, Sporadic Voters, Unlikely Voters, and New Registrants as follows:

Likely Voter - Someone who voted in both the 2008 and 2010 General Elections.
Sporadic Voter - Someone who voted in either the 2008 or 2010 General Election, but not in both.
New Registrant - Someone who registered to vote after the 2010 General Election
Unlikely Voter - Someone who did not vote in either the 2008 or 2010 General Election, and who is not a New Registrant.

And I am assigning votes from each combination of Party Registration and Race as follows:

So for example, I am counting each Unaffiliated white voter as .28 votes for Obama and .72 votes for Romney. These numbers are based off of exit polls, as explained in the Day 1 North Carolina Early Voting diary.

So, the table below shows how the 2,524,217 North Carolinians who have already voted break down by party registration, race, and voter category (likely voter, sporadic voter, unlikely voter, or new registrant). There is also another category called "Reg After 10/27." These are people who do not show up in the voter data that I downloaded from the North Carolina board of elections. The voter data was updated on 10/27/2012, so I assume that these are either entirely or largely new registrants who registered and voted in one stop during One Stop Early Voting after 10/27. Below is a chart with the breakdown:

Overall, President Obama is beating Mitt Romney by an estimated 1,333,353 votes to 1,190,731 votes, a margin of 142,623 votes. This is lower than Obama's 2008 Early Voting margin, but a small margin from unlikely voters is arguably better than a large margin from likely voters, since most likely voters will vote on election day.

And indeed, as it turns out, Obama's estimated vote margin is disproportionately coming from "sporadic voters," "unlikely voters," and "new registrant voters." This (much simpler) chart illustrates that point:

46.6% of Obama's estimated margin is coming from "sporadic" voters who voted in either 2008 or 2010 but not in both, even though they only make up 24.7% of early voters.

Another 6.7% of Obama's estimated margin is coming from "unlikely" voters (people who voted in NEITHER 2008 nor 2010 even though they were registered before election day of 2010). These voters make up only 5.3% of early voters so far.

Another 26.7% of Obama's estimated margin is coming from the two categories of New Registrant voters who registered to vote after the 2010 election. These New Registrants only make up 13.3% of early voters.

But what if Obama's margin is really bigger?:

Several commenters have pointed out that Obama's margin may be bigger than my estimates. Indeed, this could be the case. Every single poll of NC Early Voters so far has found that early voters are voting for President Obama by a greater percentage than my projections would indicate.

So, what happens to Obama's margin if we change our assumptions a bit? What if we assume the following?:

1) White Democrats who are Sporadic Voters, Unlikely Voters, and New Registrants are less likely to be Dixiecrats than "Likely Voters." So instead of voting for Obama at a rate of 83%, White Democrats in this category are voting for Obama at a 90% rate.

2) White Unaffiliated Voters who are Sporadic Voters, Unlikely Voters, and New Registrants are more likely to support Obama  So instead of voting for Obama at a rate of 28%, White Democrats in this category are voting for Obama at a 50% rate. Because the number of registered "unaffiliated" has gone up by so much since 2008, and because so many students, people with advanced degrees, and people from the northeast are registering as unaffiliated, unaffiliated white voters are more Democratic than I have been assuming.

Although I can't say that I completely buy into those two assumptions, they are clearly not are not entirely implausible. So what happens if we change those two assumptions?:

As a result of these changes, our estimated Obama margin goes up to 256,611 - almost as large as Obama's 2008 vote margin from early voting. Instead of winning only 52.8% of early voters, this means that Obama would win 55.1% of early voters, which is closer to what polls have been saying.

Who has voted - and who has NOT voted?:

Now let's look at who has voted - and perhaps more importantly, let's look at who hasn't voted. In a previous diary, I noted that if total turnout increases from 2008 at the same 5.9% rate as the Voting Age Population has increased since 2008, then we should expect total turnout in 2012 to be about 4,563,876 voters. That means that we should expect about 2 million people to vote on election day.

Whether Obama is ahead by 142,623 votes, 256,611 votes, or by some other number of votes, we know that more White Republicans have voted early in 2012 than in 2008. But that means that there are fewer White Republicans left over in the pool of 3,427,143 active registered voters, from which our roughly 2 million election day voters will be drawn. Are there enough White Republicans left over for Romney to make up Obama's early vote lead and win?:

There are 989,839 Likely voters left who have not yet voted. We know that some very large percentage of these 989,839 people will vote on election day. 381,106 White registered Republicans make up 38.5% of these 989,839 people, and only 12.6% of those 989,839 "Likely Voters" who have not yet voted are African American. However, if in addition to African Americans, you throw in White Democrats and other Minority voters, then 41.7% of the 989,839 people are either African American, other minorities, or White registered Democrats.

The problem for Mitt Romney is that even if ALL 381,106 Likely Voting White Registered Republicans vote, and even if ALL 381,106 of them vote for Romney, that only gets Romney 381,106 votes, which is not nearly enough. In order to win, he will need, as a rough minimum, about 1.1 million votes. So that by itself does not get Romney where he needs to be.

The total number of White Republicans who have not voted - of ALL vote history categories - is only 995,165. Thus, even if every single White Republican who has not yet voted votes, and even if all of them vote for Romney, that would not get Romney enough votes to win. Of course, that will obviously not happen. And likewise, it is equally obvious Romney will get many votes from Unaffiliated voters and from White Democrats. But how many? Who will the 2 million election day voters be?

And that is the central problem and the central question that will be answered in North Carolina on election day. In order to make up Obama's lead, Romney needs not only extremely strong election day turnout from White Republicans, but he also needs to do very well among White unaffiliateds, and he needs to peel off a large number of White Democrats. If Obama can stop that from happening, and if Obama can turn out enough Sporadic, Unlikely, and New Registrant Democratic voters, then Obama will win North Carolina.

Obama has a large pool of potential voters to draw from. As we noted, 38.5% of Likely voters who have not yet voted are White Republicans (WR) and 41.7% of Likely Voters who have not voted are either African American, Other Minorities, or White Dems (AA/OM/WD).

But once we move past Likely voters, the share of White Republicans plummets and the Democratic advantage balloons.

Among Sporadics who have not yet voted, 43.6% are AA/OM/WD, and only 27.7% are WR.

Among Unlikelies who have not yet voted, 43.3% are AA/OM/WD, and only 24.5% are WR.

And among New Registrants who have not yet voted, 38.4% are AA/OM/WD, and only 21.1% are WR.

African American Voter Turnout is Ridiculously High:

One other thing that immediately pops out from this data is just how astronomical African American turnout in North Carolina has been. Across every voter category - whether likely, sporadic, unlikely, or new registrant, African American turnout has soared far above turnout of all other voter groups:

There are two ways to interpret this fact:

1) Because African American turnout has been so high in early voting, there are fewer African Americans left to vote on election day.
2) Because African American turnout has been so high in early voting, this signals that African American turnout among those who have not yet voted is likely to be proportionally very high on election day (even if it is smaller in raw numbers than White Republican turnout).

I would guess that both of the above interpretations are partly correct.

Voting on Friday:

At least 242,476 people voted on Friday, with more undoubtedly to be added as counties process their voter records.

Overall in the last week of early voting - not including Saturday -, turnout was clearly lower than in 2008. In part, this may be because of Hurricane Sandy, especially in the early part of the week. But another part of it may have been that so many people voted in the first few days of early voting that there were not as many people left to vote in the last week. Nonetheless, cumulatively 129,062 more people have voted than at the same time in 2012.

This represents a 5.3% increase in early vote turnout over 2008 - which is pretty close to the overall 5.9% increase in turnout that would be required to get to 4,563,876 total votes.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

Since Monday, the estimated vote split between Obama and Romney has been extremely close - although Obama has continued to add to his total vote margin. In fact, on Friday, Obama added to 2,939 votes to his vote margin, which is not that far behind the estimated 5,018 votes by which Obama won the same Friday 4 years ago. And again, that number will likely go up as more data is processed by counties.

Continue Reading

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news:

I finally have the database ready through which we can determine how many likely, sporadic, unlikely, and new registrant voters Obama and Romney.

So tomorrow's update will DEFINITELY be packed full of data looking more deeply at who has voted - I already have the data, and it is just a matter of having the time to write it up.

But as a little preview, it looks like the vast majority of Obama's vote margin is coming where it matters - from people who are not "likely voters" who we know for the most part will vote no matter what. It is no secret that Obama needs to turn out "sporadic" and "unlikely" voters as well as new registrants in order to win, and it is pretty clear that he is doing a much better job of turning out these sorts of voters than is Romney.

They way I am defining these different categories of voters is as follows:

Likely Voter - Someone who voted in both the 2008 and 2010 General Elections.
Sporadic Voter - Someone who voted in either the 2008 or 2010 General Election, but not in both.
New Registrant - Someone who registered to vote after the 2010 General Election
Unlikely Voter - Someone who did not vote in either the 2008 or 2010 General Election, and who is not a New Registrant.

Moreover, we should ALSO be able to determine how many likely, sporadic, unlikely, and new registrant voters have not yet voted. A big question is whether or not Romney has a big pool of Republican Likely Voters who have not yet voted to draw on, who will vote on election day. Or alternatively, is Romney not going to have a large enough pool of Likely Voters to draw on on election day in order to overcome Obama's margin among the less-likely voters?

The bad news:

I only have time to throw updated charts up; otherwise today's update would have to wait until late tonight when nobody will be around to read it :).

Voting on Wednesday was again clearly lower than in 2008. The interesting thing about this, however, is that this is affecting both Obama and Romney. This makes me wonder whether some of the increased early voting we saw at the beginning of the early vote period may have been from people who voted early in 2008 in the last week shifting to vote early in the first week of early voting.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

Early Vote Turnout Charts:

Previous NC Early Voting Diaries:

Day 1 & Methodology
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14


If you live in NC and have not voted, you can find a location where you can vote early here.

Well, at this point I think we can say one thing with a pretty good degree of certainty: hurricanes have a way of lowering turnout and discouraging voters.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

Counties reported more votes cast on Tuesday, so Tuesday turnout numbers increased from 166,467 to 178,400. Still, on the same Tuesday in 2008, 213,659 people voted, so turnout at the height of the storm was down by about 16.5% from 2008, when presumably the weather was better.

So far counties have reported 169,430 votes cast on Wednesday, although as always this almost certainly is incomplete data.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, the voters who were not deterred from voting are estimated to have split their votes about evenly between President Obama and Mitt Romney, so there was no real effect on the overall estimated vote margins.

Overall, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by an estimated 1,105,447 votes to 967,686 votes, a margin of 137,760 votes.

Now that the weather has cleared, it will be interesting to see what happens to turnout over the last several days of the early voting period. Will there be an especially large surge as some people who had planned to vote on Tuesday or Wednesday head to the polls?

There are lots of theories about why it is that Republicans oppose doing anything about global warming. We can now add a new theory to the pile - severe weather reduces voter turnout, and higher voter turnout is not good for Republicans. Therefore Republicans favor global warming for the same reason that they oppose same day registration, early voting, and generally anything else that makes it easier for people to vote.

Maybe the hurricane effect is not just about the weather. Maybe since the news has shifted to covering Sandy, people are thinking less about the election and therefore are a bit less likely to vote early than they otherwise would be.

Early Vote Turnout Charts:

In the wake of Sandy, Minority and White Dem turnout is no longer higher in aggregate than it was in 2008:

We can also see in the last day or two that White Republican turnout has been regressing slightly towards 2008, but it is still higher than in 2008:

Obama's cumulative margin did not increase further during the hurricane:

To some extent we should have expected that Obama's margin would not go up by as much as it had been doing, but you can see the impact in the daily margins over the past few days:

The ironic thing is that the lower turnout has caused Obama's estimated cumulative vote percentage to approach his 2008 vote percentage slightly more closely:

You can also see this in the daily percentages. Notice how last week there was a much larger gap between the 2008 percentages and the 2012 percentages than there is this week:

Continue Reading

Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 08:58 AM PDT

NC Early Voting Day 13 Mini-Update

by MattTX

Unfortunately I only have time for a small mini-update right now, but I'll throw the updated chart up to hold off readers' withdrawal symptoms.

I'll try and add more later today or tomorrow.

It looks like either Hurricane Sandy has lowered turnout, or else turnout is simply lower this week so far than in 2008. I would bet that Sandy is the main culprit, but we'll have to wait and see. There are almost certainly some more votes out that are unreported by counties.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

Previous NC Early Voting Diaries:

Day 1 & Methodology
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12


First of all, we have some new unconfirmed but strong evidence that Obama may be doing what he needs to do to turn out sporadic and unlikely voters, whereas many of the Romney voters may be people that we knew would vote anyway, but who are just doing so a little bit earlier. This is of crucial importance, because if in fact Romney's higher early vote totals are coming from likely voters who would otherwise vote on election day, and if Obama is turning out unlikely and sporadic voters, then President Obama really is in a very good position to win North Carolina.

CB8421 has done some excellent work and has found vote history data which includes information on which voters voted on election day in 2008. I haven't yet had a chance to confirm this independently, but CB8421 writes:

I just compared the 2008 voters to 2012 voters by county ID and voter registration number. Below are my findings:

Out of 1.508 million early 2012 voters in NC, 545k did not vote early in 2008. Of those 545k, it looks like 460k are completely new voters. 220k of those 460k are Dems. 128k are Reps. 110k are Unaffiliated.

Of the 545k who didn't vote early in 2008, 241k are Dem, 171k are Rep, and 130k are Unafilliated. So Reps have shifted 43k from election day to early, while Dems have shifted only 20k, indicating a lot more NEW voters for Dems than Reps.


To get the 43k, I compared the total number of Republicans who didn't vote early in 2008 but have voted in 2012 to the total number of Republicans who voted early in 2012 but didn't vote at all in 2012. There were (as of yesterday, updating for today now), 171k Republicans who voted early in 2012 but didn't show up in the early voting list for 2008. However, only 128k of them didn't show up in the overall voting list for 2008, indicating that 43k voted on election day in 2008.

On the flip side, there are 241k Dems who voted early in 2012 but not early in 2008. Of those 241k, 220k didn't vote at all in 2008.


FWIW, if you remove voters who have just moved from voting on election day to voting early, the %s in NC are:

Dem 50.7%
Rep  30.0%
Other 19.3%

Other and Rep +2% from 2008, Dem -4% from 2008 as of same day before election.

Results will turn on the "Other" vote.

One other note: 0.7% of Rep were Dem in 2008. (Not much shifting the other way - only 0.1% went from Rep to Dem.)

In other words, this is going to come down to turnout. Again.


New numbers through this morning (remember, I only include "accepted" ballots, not all ballots:

DEM        New Early Voter     275,160
LIB        New Early Voter         2,536
REP        New Early Voter     199,260
UNA        New Early Voter     150,279

DEM        New Voter                  245,477
LIB          New Voter                      2,200
REP        New Voter                  145,022
UNA        New Voter                  125,889

Difference is the "shifting of the deck chairs". Second number is real new turnout.

Keep in mind, some of this is bound to happen anyway as old people die and people turn 18.  100,272 people who are first time voters are 18-24. 46,480 are Dem, 23,478 are Rep, 29,506 are UNA. That's about 20% of the total. 167k are African American, or 33% of the total, which is disproportionate to AA registration in the state (which I believe is closer to 25%).

Calling AA voters "unlikely" is unrealistic. They know this may be the last chance to elect one of their own in their lifetime, and they'll be turning out in the same numbers as 2008.

Again, thanks to CB8421 for locating this data and for the excellent work!

It will take me some time to comb through this data, so what I'll probably do is just post a short update tomorrow with just the standard charts and graphs. Then later in the evening, if I have found enough good information on sporadic voters, I'll post a separate diary with that information; otherwise, I'll combine the data on sporadic voter turnout with Wednesday's update.

Monday Early Voting:

Monday early voting in North Carolina is difficult to interpret, thanks to Sandy. There was at the least a bit of rain Monday in much (all?) of NC, and rain is known to suppress turnout. In addition, the storm may have caused some counties to process their data more slowly than usual. In particular, I suspect from the distribution of the Monday votes among counties that both Mecklenburg and Durham counties are substantially under-reporting (their vote shares for the Monday votes we have in are only 8.4% and 2.5%, as opposed to the 10.7% and 4.1% they have had so far in the early voting period). Since both of those counties are very large and voted strongly for Obama in 2008, if those numbers come in tomorrow, Obama's estimated Monday vote total may go up significantly.

Thus there is some uncertainty about how reliable and complete the data we have for Monday voting actually is - we'll have to wait and see.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

One thing we do know - at least 184,766 people voted on Monday, making Monday the 29th the highest turnout day so far in the early voting period except for Friday, October 26th. Even in days without a hurricane, some votes have been processed late, so that number is all but certain to go up.

However, turnout - or at least the turnout data we have so far - was significantly lower than on the same Monday in 2008 (when 210,155 people voted). If more data does not come in, this will be the first day in which turnout was less than in 2008.

Another thing to be mindful of is that in 2008, turnout was fairly similar each day from Day 12 to day 17 of early voting, averaging about 228,225 votes per day. So if 2012 is similar to 2008, we should probably expect similar levels of turnout each day through Saturday. But, of course, Sandy casts more than a little doubt on whether Monday voting is likely to be predictive of the rest of the week. Tuesday voting may also be somewhat impacted - as I write this post, it is raining across much of NC.


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First of all, in a bit of breaking poll news, there's a new poll of NC out from Elon University, showing a 45-45 tie.

Actually, the Elon poll shows Barack Obama ahead by .1% - 45.4% to 45.3%. Obama is ahead in the poll by literally one person - 562 poll respondents to 561.

Edit - tell that to anyone who says their vote does not count. It sure does in NC!!! 1 person!

North Carolina could not possibly be closer.

Among early voters in the Elon poll, Obama is ahead 55-37, which is pretty close to my 54.4% Obama early vote support estimate, and also pretty close to PPP's 57-42 in the PPP poll a few days ago.

But both PPP and Elon have Obama doing a bit better than me among early voters, so I am starting to wonder if I may be underestimating Obama's early vote support.

Romney is ahead by 48%-43% among people who have not yet voted. If Romney only wins election day voters by about 5%, Obama is in the position he needs to be to win, even given the higher Republican early voting turnout we have seen.

Record Breaking African American Voter Turnout:

Now, where were we? Oh yeah:

30% of African Americans in North Carolina age 18+ have already voted.

That's 440,941 voters - 30% of North Carolina's entire 1,480,769 person African American voting age population counted by the Census Bureau in 2010.

That's not 30% of African American registered voters. That's 30% of all African American adults. Because, for one more week in North Carolina, you can register to vote and actually cast your ballot at the same time, all in one stop. So even if a would-be voter is not registered to vote right now, they can still register and vote.

But that 30% number will go much higher.

Because there's still another week of early voting left to go.

At this time in 2008, half of the African Americans who voted early had already voted. And so if we keep up at the pace we're going, another 440,000 African Americans in North Carolina will have voted by the end of the early voting period, bringing turnout up to about 60% of the North Carolina's total African American adult population.

Plus, then there's Election Day on top of that.

How high will turnout go on election day? I don't know, exactly. But I do know it'll be some really high, historic number. It'll certainly be much higher than 56.9%, which is the national U.S. Voting Age Population turnout rate from the 2008 election. At this rate, it'll be that high by election day, and some amount higher afterwards.

So regardless of exactly how African American turnout in NC goes, this is not the sort of voter turnout we normally see in America. This is more typical of the voter turnout we might see in some other country, like Australia, where there is always very near to 100% turnout (because not voting is illegal in Australia).

This is something special - something that doesn't happen very often.

Keep in mind that turnout in 2008 already shattered all previous records, by a long way. In October and November of 2008, African American voters in North Carolina flocked to the polls to help elect the first African American President in American history. They were fired up, ready to go, excited, hopeful, and just a few months ago had been the center of national attention as they delivered Barack Obama his 56-42 Democratic Primary win over Hillary Clinton.

By all reasonable expectations, it ought to be essentially impossible to increase turnout above the level of 2008 turnout.

And yet...

So far, African American turnout is up from 357,160 to 440,941 votes, a 23.5% increase over this same time in 2008.

If that is not an amazing statistic, then I'm afraid you are just not the sort of person who can possibly be amazed by statistics.

Sunday Voting and "Souls to the Polls":

Sunday was another good day of early voting for President Obama. At least 35,149 people voted, but counties are often slow in updating vote totals. Moreover, an estimated 59.8% of those people voted for Obama.

Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.

That 35,149 number may seem relatively low, but that is because Sunday voting is only held in a relatively small number of counties, and the hours are more limited than on other days. Last Sunday, 26,947 people voted.

Overall, Obama now leads Romney in North Carolina by an estimated 825,025 votes to 691,120 votes, a lead of 133,905 votes.

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