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At Daily Kos Elections, we try hard to verify the accuracy of the Pres-by-CD numbers we give you by calculating the numbers ourselves. We didn’t do this in a few states where the legislature provided these numbers for us. Apparently, we should have—at least in Virginia.

In its calculations, the Virginia legislature, in addition to providing too few significant figures, apparently also failed to include absentee votes in its calculations. (As a humorous sidenote, this all came about because David Nir and I were looking into the Virginia results, which showed VA-10 being “50% - 50%” and us wondering who actually won the district.) From their perspective, it could be reasonable to exclude early votes—not much research has been done into how early votes can be allocated to a given precinct (or area) when early votes/absentees are presented in aggregate across the jurisdiction (this doesn’t excuse, of course, their exclusion of absentee votes even when an entire county is contained within a given district). We’ve ran into a similar difficult preparing data for the DRA, and of course several years back in the 2008 Pres-by-CD project.

At DKE, though, we are fairly adamant about splitting absentees and early votes properly—after all, an early or absentee voter votes for Congress, just like everyone else. We’ve been applying a fairly consistent set of methodologies, depending on how detailed early voting data is presented (or, for that matter, not presented; over the flip, we detail the exact methods that we’ve used). In Virginia, absentee votes are certainly important—there were about 500,000 such votes, and Barack Obama won 62 percent of them. (Put differently, without absentees, Obama won the state by 3.4 percent; he actually carried the state with a 6.3 percent margin.) We used both methods here to compare to the legislature’s numbers (and our attempt to reproduce the legislature’s numbers). At the district level, the impacts were as follows:

A comparison of Virginia's election totals by CD, by method.
(The results for the subdivision method, which we're adopting moving forward, are available here.) Based on the similarity of our calculations with no absentees and the legislature’s numbers, we’re fairly confident that that is indeed the exclusion in how the legislature performed its calculations. Further, there are substantial differences once absentees are added into the mix—for example, Scott Rigell is actually in an Obama district. (It does turn out that Obama won VA-10, even without absentees allocated.)

While we had been using the old set of numbers in our judgments of the race, these revised numbers will be in our information set moving forward. Further, we will also be verifying that a similar issue does not exist in the other states. This yields us two benefits—first, we can confirm or question the accuracy of numbers presented in other states, but second (and perhaps more importantly), we can show actual vote totals (and not just percentages), as well as breakouts by county. As always, any redistricting-related work that we do is available from our consolidated redistricting resources page.

Across the various states, we’ve used the same two methodologies, depending on whether early votes are presented at a county level (“county method”) or a sub-county level (“subdivision method”). (The one exception to this is Georgia, where we were given an extra piece of information—the number of people that voted from a given precinct, either early or on election day; this did affect our calculation method.) Otherwise, the guiding principle remains the same: At the level at which early/absentee votes are presented, allocate the votes for each candidate across the districts proportional to amount of election-day votes that that candidate received across the districts.

Put in an example, the county method does the following: When a county is split between New Districts A and B and, for example, 2/3 of Obama's precinct votes were cast in New District A (and 1/3 in New District B), 2/3 of Obama's absentee vote total gets allocated to New District A. The same is done, independently, for McCain's votes and third-party votes. The rationale underlying this is that the relative partisan leanings of the two district fragments are consistent between precinct votes and absentee votes, and that the relative turnout of the two district fragments are consistent as well.

The subdivision method is similar to the Countywide Method, but takes advantage of reporting of absentee ballots at a more detailed level. In Virginia’s case, this was by old CD. The county-wide method is repeated at the [county] x [old CD] level. Take the same county split between New Districts A and B above, but the part of New District A is composed of two distinct sections: Half that was in Old District A, and half that was in Old District B. (All of New District B was in Old District B.)

The two batches of absentees—one from Old District A and one from Old District B—are then treated separately. All of the absentees from Old District A are allocated to New District A, since all of the votes that were cast in Old District A would also have been cast in New District A. Old District B's votes are allocated proportionally across New District B and only the parts of New District A that were in Old District B.

The subdivision method is more "detailed," since the scope of the central underlying assumptions are made more narrowly—at the county-Old District combination level, rather than at the county level. In states that split precincts across districts, the Detail method does require additional assumptions, since votes cast from split precincts will need to be allocated between old districts first. Virginia does not split precincts across CDs, however, meaning the Detail method is strictly preferable here. Further, as you can see, the results do not differ materially under the two methods.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Virginia Kos and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow. How could VALeg have missed this? (7+ / 0-)

    I guess their "ironclad" gerrymander wasn't really as great as we had originally thought. Haha, Scott Rigell is in an Obama district!

  •  nice work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The ones I thought they shored up were Robert Hurt and Scott Rigell, but didn't end up getting shored up at all.  They only really helped out Frank Wolf, Randy Forbes, and Eric Cantor, who didn't even need it, while Gerry Connolly's district is now off the table for them.  That's much better than I thought.

  •  Wow, excellent findings (0+ / 0-)

    I guess they rushed things or didn't have very good advice.

    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

    by KingofSpades on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 01:45:19 AM PDT

  •  Could someone cross-post this to Blue Virginia? (0+ / 0-)


    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

    by KingofSpades on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 03:27:13 PM PDT

  •  Have you been watching the (0+ / 0-)

    California cig tax vote count ?

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:06:41 PM PDT

  •  Americans in Canada, absentee ballots, IRS (0+ / 0-)

    At one time, I volunteered with Democrats Abroad to help people register to vote in the U.S. Before we had a reliable website to send them to, we looked up the information for registration rules state-by-state, and explained how the last place of residence system worked.

    Thus, I had the chance to talk with a lot of people during this process.

    In one of the training sessions run at the U.S. Consulate, I asked whether a U.S. citizen living in Canada who wasn't filing tax returns with the IRS was at risk of being identified through voter registration process.

    The response: the IRS is unlikely to target Americans in Canada because the tax rates are higher in Canada than the U.S., so practically nobody would owe taxes to the U.S. anyway--so it wasn't likely that the IRS would waste much time on Canada.

    That's changed.

    Many Americans in Canada were terrified this year when the IRS started to crack down on not just filing tax returns--but filing the annual report on what accounts you hold outside the U.S.

    For a while there, it looked like there was going to be a funny kind of grace period--you had time to file current and back reports, but once you did, the IRS would determine whether to assess your penalty as, say, 5% of the total assets--or more. That wasn't for taxes: that was for not filing the report on what your accounts have in them. A resolution was worked out that wasn't that draconian, but, for months, a lot of people thought they'd lose 5% or more of their retirement savings for not reporting their list of accounts.

    I've been filing tax returns and the accounts list regularly, but most Americans I know here in Canada haven't been.

    I anticipate this will have implications for registering new voters among Americans in Canada.

    It might affect voter registration for Americans abroad worldwide.

    I'm betting that new voter registration will be way down this year.

    In Canada, it is estimated that about 500,000 people are U.S. citizens or dual citizens, and are eligible to vote in U.S. elections.

  •  amazing work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think in VA, all early voting is officially called absentee voting.

  •  Well, time to get Rigell out (0+ / 0-)

    he is trying to move to the middle but
    he is part of the "christian Coalition" and is strongly supported by Pat Robertson

    Some of his best buds were part of the transvaginal ultrasound stuff passed in the General Assembly

    There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it. ~Author Unknown

    by VA Breeze on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 08:30:09 AM PDT

    •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)

      The only guy I know running against him as a Democrat, Paul Hirschbiel, seems like another Third Way/Very Serious/Glenn Nye type of Democrat.

      In other words, a pretty shitty one.

      Rigell has in most cases not pissed me off as my Congressperson as much as I thought he would, so although most on this site and others would tell me "OMG we need ALL the Democrats we can get!!" I really have a hard time telling myself that another 2-year term for a crappy Democrat is really an improvement over a non-raving-lunatic Republican like Rigell.

      Rigell might have a terrible voting record vis-a-vis our priorities, but he's no Bachmann or Allen West, at least.

      •  You're in a swingish district (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and Tom Perriellos are very rare.  You have a decent candidate running there and I hope you don't decide to not vote because he's not progressive enough.  If we get enough Democrats elected, both progressive and not, we'll get back Speaker Pelosi.

        "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Theodore Seuss Geisel

        by KingofSpades on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 08:43:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And (0+ / 0-)

          According to reports I keep reading, "Speaker Pelosi" wants to endorse Austerity for Everyone.

          Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss. Etc.

          Besides, Perriello won in an arguably more conservative district then mine. I want to see a real Democrat, a real progressive, stand up in this district and beat the populist drum.

          I think this district is smart enough to go along with it, if it's messaged correctly.

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