Monday, October 25, 2010

Early Vote Prognostications II: The Murray Effect

I like it that Professor Richard Murray, a demographer at the University of Houston, is paying close attention to the early vote turnout numbers with the rest of us, because frankly I don’t have the background to conclude from the numbers more than the notion that it looks like interest is up in the mid-term election this year.

Interest is high as I mentioned in this posting with 6.61% of registered voters having already turned out in the first four days of early voting this year, as opposed to 3.58% over the equivalent period in 2006. Murray, in this article, points out that the trend is even higher in Harris County, where 104,420 votes were registered by the end of the day last Thursday. That, friends and neighbors, is nearly three times the turnout in 2006 where only 35,070 at the end of the fourth day that year.

But hold on, Murray says, part of that could be the effect of so many being made aware of the fact that each and every voting machine in Harris County was burned up by somebody, and Harris County has had to make do with fewer machines. Hence the huge effort to get people to the polls early and avoid the lines that will be inevitable.

But look at what is happening in neighboring Fort Bend County, which has all of its voting machines unburnt.

In 2006, Fort Bend County had 6,647 early votes in the race where Republicans saw the Democrats “steal” Tom DeLay’s congressional seat by having as the only credible opponent (if you can call her that) a write-in candidate. And we had 4 candidates for governor. Compare that to this year’s numbers at the end of four days of early voting where 20,361 votes have been cast.

That’s triple the votes registered over what were cast at the equivalent period in 2006.

In short, I really don’t think it was Harris County Clerk Beverly Kauffman’s vote early campaign that has much effect.

But this is where it gets really good. Dr. Murray thinks that a heavy early vote turnout is a positive for Democrats.

“There is no conclusive evidence on the second question of party advantage, but my guess is that early voting slightly benefits Democrats. The Democratic Party has more problems turning out their voters compared to the Republican Party, so having a longer window to get-out-the-vote (GOTV) gives them an extra opportunity to get their base to the polls. ”
Isn’t that delightful? This is something I like to call the "Murray Effect." Because we Democrats are more lethargic and less likely to vote, having an extended early voting period brings more of us to the polls. Is that the reason, dare I ask, why in Fort Bend County Democratic straight ticket votes have outstripped Republican straight ticket votes for the past 2 election cycles?

Think on it. The motivated voter is the partisan voter. Having more days than just the one day on Election Day allows Democrats more days to express our partisanship. OK, the theory has a hole or two, but it is what it is.

In the same article, Murray goes on:

“What early voting does show is that the most intense voters cast their ballots early. In the 2008 election that was the African American voters who cast early ballots in support of the first [African-]American nominated for president by a major party.”
So if that is true, are Republicans the motivated ones this year? And does the Democratic early vote advantage serve to negate the fabled “Republican surge?”

In a previous posting I concluded that who wins and who loses will all depend on who gets out their base, and guess what? Nothing has changed.

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