Oct. 06 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 329   McCain 194   Ties 15
Senate Dem 58   GOP 42  
House Dem 241   GOP 193   Ties 1

Senate map and races
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This day in 2004

strong Dem Strong Dem (207)
weak Dem Weak Dem (57)
barely Dem Barely Dem (65)
tied Exactly tied (15)
barely GOP Barely GOP (31)
weak GOP Weak GOP (63)
strong GOP Strong GOP (100)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
Map algorithm explained
Presidential polls today: ME NM OH PA RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): FL IA NV NM OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

PW logo Obama Plays the Keating Card Obama's Ground Game
Extra Bonus Quote of the Day Can Mask Sales Predict the Election?
Virginia GOP Worried About McCain's Chances Bonus Quote of the Day

News from the Votemaster

Mini FAQ

Three questions come up a lot and are worth answering here. First, sometimes the map changes in counterintuitive ways. Why? For example, yesterday Colorado went from blue to red and the only new poll was a tie. This is explained on the "Map algorithm explained" page. Basically, as of Saturday, the most recent poll was the Rasmussen poll of Sept. 28 so all polls centered on the range Sep. 22-28 counted. Yesterday a new poll came in with a midpoint of Sept. 30, so the "week of polls" was now defined as Sept. 24 to Sept. 30. The Insider Advantage and Rasmussen polls of Sept. 23, both of which favored Obama strongly, were now outside the 7-day lookback window and dropped from the average. Thus the state flipped because the polls favorable to Obama were now deemed obsolete. That is the nature of having a lookback window. In principle old polls could be weighted less, but the problem is still there: if an old poll is demoted to a lower weight it could still flip the state. The problem with weighting is that you can argue endlessly about what the weighting function should look like. It is simpler to understand if everything back a week counts and before that doesn't.

A second question that comes up a lot is what about Maine and Nebraska, both of which allocate their electoral votes by congressional district. In principle, Obama could win NE-02 (Omaha) and get one extra EV. But this district is R+9. Obama is not going to be winning R+9 districts unless it is national landslide for him, in which case he will have 350 EVs. The other district that might go in a different direction from its state is ME-02, which is nearly all of Maine except a little piece in the south where most of the people live. This district is D+4, which conceivably could go for McCain, but in this political climate, he has his work cut out for him winning all the Republican districts. Moderately Democratic districts are going to be very hard absent a McCain landslide. So although Nebraska and Maine can split their electoral votes (1) it has never happened in history and (2) this doesn't seem like the year it will start and (3) if it does happen, it will be part of a landslide either way, in which case it won't matter.

The third question that comes up is which polls are used. The answer is all the nonpartisan polls. Some pollsters, like Rasmussen, SurveyUSA, ARG, Mason-Dixon and myriad universities are commissioned by newspapers and TV stations who presumably want the truth. Other pollsters work for political parties or their allies to help them elect their candidates. Polls from the latter aren't worth much and aren't counted here. Other Websites have different strategies. For example, Pollster.com lists all polls including partisan ones. Recently, Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com noted that RealClearPolitics seems to have some subjective way of choosing which polls to include in its tables, raising the subject of its cherry picking polls to get the (pro-GOP) results it wants.

Voter Registration Closes Today in Many States

Today is the last day you can register to vote in 21 states (story also here). If you are not registered, go register NOW. If you are overseas, click on the banner ad on top of this page to print the registration form and also check if your state accepts faxed applications.

However, even if you think you are registered, you may not be. Unbeknownst to them, thousands of people have been purged from the voter rolls. Project Vote lists the names and addresses of purged voters in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas (so far). If you live in one of these states, check the list TODAY to see if you have been purged and also check for friends, relatives, and neighbors.

Voter registration is one of the key battlegrounds of this election although it is under the radar for many people as it operates through tables at shopping malls, campuses, and street corners, one voter at a time. Over 4 million new voters have been registered in key states this year, with the majority Democrats. In North Carolina, new registrants favor the Democrats 6 to 1. In Colorado and Nevada it is 4 to 1. Democrats are working overtime in cities, especially on college campuses and in poor areas. Republicans are working hard in rural areas and in senior citizens homes. Although Obama supporters will hate to admit it, a lot of the credit goes to Hillary Clinton. Her refusal to give up until the last dog died resulted in pitched primary battles in many states in April through June, with both sides registering thousands of new voters. But once registered, a primary voter can also vote in the general election. Because the Republican battle was over early, there was no analogous scramble to register every last Republican in the Spring.

Absentee and Early Voting Has Started

Once you have registered, the next step is voting. In many states, absentee and early voting has already started. Absentee voters request a paper ballot in advance and mail it back. Voting laws differ greatly from state to state. In 28 states, anyone can get an absentee ballot just by asking; no reason is needed. In the other states you need a reason (such as being out of town on business on election day). In some states the signature of a witness or notary is required on the absentee ballot. Furthermore, 35 states have early voting, which means voters can cast their ballots in person prior to election day. The Reed College Early Voting Information Center maintains a list of what the laws are in this area in all the states. Absentee and early voting make it easier for people to vote, so it is becoming increasingly popular. One state (Oregon) doesn't even have in-person voting any more. All ballots are cast by mail.

Comparative Election Turnouts Among Countries

The Wikipedia has a long article on voter turnout discussing the various factors that affect turnout. While Americans like to think of the U.S. as the world's best example of a democracy, if one uses voter turnout as the metric, the data show a different picture. Here are the voter turnout numbers for elections in a number of democracies from 1960 to 1995.

Country # of elections Turnout Notes
Australia 14 95% Voting is compulsory
Malta 6 94%  
Austria 9 92%  
Belgium 12 91% Voting is compulsory
Italy 9 90%  
Luxembourg 7 90% Voting is compulsory
Iceland 10 89%  
New Zealand 12 88%  
Denmark 14 87%  
Germany 9 86%  
Sweden 14 86%  
Greece* 10 86%  
Venezuela 7 85% Voting was compulsory until 1988
Czech Republic 2 85%  
Brazil 3 83% Voting is compulsory
Netherlands 7 83% Excludes compulsory elections (before 1968)
Costa Rica 8 81%  
Norway 9 81%  
Romania 2 81%  
Bulgaria 2 80%  
Israel 9 80%  
Portugal 9 79%  
Finland 10 78%  
Canada 11 76%  
France 9 76%  
United Kingdom 9 76%  
South Korea 11 75%  
Ireland 11 74%  
Spain 6 73%  
Japan 12 71%  
Estonia 2 69%  
Hungary 2 66%  
Russia 2 61%  
India 6 58%  
United States 9 54% Includes only Presidential election years
Switzerland 8 54%  
Poland 2 51%  

As you can see, voter turnout in the U.S. is far less than such beacons of democracy as Malta, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. It is kind of embarrassing having to explain this to your Maltese, Czech, and Bulgarian friends. What the table doesn't show, but is absolutely the case, is that in other countries elections are about the issues and what the parties and candidates will do if elected. Who is the most friendly and likeable person doesn't play much of a role elsewhere. What the U.S. needs is an elected King or Queen who would be chosen for his or her user friendliness so the presidential election could focus on the candidates' respective plans for governing.

Voters Would Like to Replace All of Congress

Rasmussen ran a poll in which he asked people how they would vote if they could keep Congress or replace everyone. An amazing 59% would throw them all out and start all over. Only 17% wanted to keep the current Congress. Undoubtedly this low approval of Congress is closely related to popular anger at Congress giving $700 billion of the taxpayers money to Wall St. firms that made horrible business decisions and now got Uncle Sam to pick up the tab.

Obama Maintains Lead in the National Polls

Four tracking polls published yesterday all show Barack Obama leading John McCain. The results are Diageo (Obama +7), Gallup (Obama +7), Rasmussen (Obama +7), and Research 2000 (Obama +12).

Speculation about Cabinet Appointees Starting Already

As Yogi Berra put it: "It ain't over 'till it's over" and this election is certainly not over, but people are already starting to think about who might be in Obama's cabinet or McCain's cabinet. CQ Politics has an article on the cabinet and also an interactive Web page where you can assemble a cabinet for either candidate from their list of plausible picks and then email your cabinet to friends.

One factor that both candidates will no doubt consider when looking for cabinet members is the possibility of flipping a Senate seat. This will will especially crucial if the Democrats end up with 58 or 59 Senate seats. For Obama, there are three potential choices that will give the Democrats an extra Senate seat: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). All three states have Democratic governors (technically, Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) is up for reelection, but his victory is about as certain as anything in politics can be). In addition, three Republican senators from states with Democratic governors are up for reelection: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH). Any of these who win are also candidates for the cabinet since their governors are Democrats. For Obama, picking one of them would be a twofer: showing his willingness to work with Republicans while flipping a Senate seat. Needless to say, he would emphasize the first point while really being entirely focused on the second one. Snowe and Specter are long-time respected senators and there would be little carping about their appointment to the cabinet.

In theory, McCain has a much wider choice of Democratic senators whose appointment to the cabinet would flip a seat. They are Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sen. Byron Dorgan (DN-D), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--if she is reelected, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). However, many of these come with footnotes. To start with, a Republican senator faced with a choice of having real power as a cabinet secretary or being a member of a powerless minority could easily choose for the cabinet. A Democratic senator in the majority might well prefer staying in the Senate, especially if he or she heads a key committee. Now let us look at the individuals. Landrieu is in a tight reelection race and if she wins would be unlikely to accept a cabinet position. Johnson hasn't fully recovered from his cerebral hemorrhage and can barely vote in the Senate, let alone run a bureauracy. McCaskill would be eliminated from the list if the Democrats capture the governor's mansion in Missouri, as seems likely. Finally, Reid is Senate majority leader and probably the second most powerful person in the country. He would never agree to quitting the Senate. Here is a list of all the senators and governors.

Joe Lieberman is a special case. Technically he is an independent but he caucuses with the Democrats, many of whom are furious with him for endorsing McCain. There is a real possibility that he will be booted out of the Democratic caucus in January no matter who wins the White House. If McCain wins and puts him in the cabinet, his sucessor will be chosen by Gov. Jodi Rell (R-CT). For McCain this will be irresistable. Picking Lieberman rewards his friend, shows his bipartisanship by picking a former Democrat, and flips a Senate seat. What else could you ask for?

Today's Polls

We have four presidential polls today. In Maine and New Mexico, Obama is holding his small but consistent lead of 5 points. More worrisome for McCain is Ohio, where Obama is now ahead by 7 points. As Steve Schmidt well knows, no Republican has ever won the White House while losing Ohio. In Pennsylvania, Obama now holds a 10-point lead. While most observers expected Obama to carry Pennsylvania (a must-win state for him), no one expected it to be a blowout. As an aside, Muhlenberg College is running a 5-day tracking poll there. To avoid overemphasizing this one data source, we will only include it every fifth day, so the Muhlenberg data points are independent. Other Websites refer to this poll as the "Morning Call," but that is just the name of the Allentown newspaper that commissioned Muhlenberg to run the poll.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Maine 51% 46% Oct 02 Oct 02 Rasmussen
New Mexico 45% 40% Sep 29 Oct 02 Research and Polling
Ohio 49% 42% Sep 24 Oct 03 Columbus Dispatch
Pennsylvania 50% 40% Sep 30 Oct 04 Muhlenberg Coll.

We also have one House poll. In IL-10, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is leading challenger Dan Seals (D) again. Kirk beat Seals narrowly in 2006.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
IL-10 Dan Seals 38% Mark Kirk* 44% Sep 30 Oct 01 Research 2000

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