Chicago Mayor Post Mortem

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Late last night the Chicago Board of Elections made their ward by ward (and precinct by precinct) numbers available and I was able to plug those numbers into the tracker I would have used had those numbers been available earlier in the night. Most of these insights are derived from a quick glance at the tracker.

2015 Chicago’s Mayor’s Race Election Night Tracker

A few thoughts:

  • In majority AA wards (by census) Emanuel (42%), Garcia (26%), Wilson (22%), Walls (6%), Fioretti (5%). In wards with an AA majority 32% of the vote went to candidates that will not be in the runoff so it will be interesting to see where these voters fall.
  • In majority Hispanic wards (by census) Garcia (52%), Emanuel (37%), Fioretti (7%), Wilson (3%), Walls (1%). Only 11% of this vote went to candidates not in the runoff.
  • In wards with a white majority (by census) Emanuel (52%), Garcia (34%), Fioretti (10%), Wilson (4%), Walls (1%). 15% of this vote went to candidates not in the runoff.
  • In wards with no majority (by census) Emanuel (49%), Garcia (35%), Fioretti (9%), Wilson (5%), Walls (1%). 15% of this vote went to candidates not in the runoff.
  • Reminder, the “2011” numbers in my tracker were reconfigured to match the current ward maps. In the majority AA wards the 2015 numbers for Emanuel were about 12-20 points lower than 2011.
  • It was harder to draw conclusions about the Hispanic majority wards, some showed Emanuel improvement (10/13/14/31), others big drop (22/25/33/35).
  • In only a very few wards did Emanuel improve over his 2011 numbers but somehow in the 13th ward he did almost 15 points better. Interesting.
  • It appears that 19 aldermanic races are headed to an April runoff (2, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 29, 31, 33, 36, 37, 41, 43, 45, 46). So while the overall numbers were Emanuel (45%), Garcia (34%), Wilson (11%), Fioretti (7%), Walls (3%), if my math is correct in just the 19 wards that are headed to aldermanic runoff the numbers were Emanuel (46%), Garcia (31%), Wilson (12%), Fioretti (8%), Walls (3%). The Mayor did slightly better than average in these 19 wards but there is also 23% of the vote in these 19 wards that went to candidates that won’t be in the runoff so it will be interesting to see where those voters fall. Obviously these 19 wards are likely to have higher turnout in April than the wards without Aldermanic elections.

Here are some of the big questions going into April:

  1. Of the 21% of voters who voted for one of the candidates who didn’t qualify for the runoff, where does their support go? These voters are largest among wards that have an AA majority by census so you’ll likely see a significant focus of the campaign in those communities between now and April.
  2. Can Garcia expand on his 52% of the vote in Hispanic majority wards and can the Mayor continue to make inroads among Hispanic voters despite having a Hispanic candidate in the race?
  3. What happens in the 19 wards with Aldermanic runoffs and how does that affect the Mayor’s race?

Now we have a six week sprint until April.

Chicago Municipal Election Useful Info

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UPDATE: our election night tracker for the Chicago’s Mayor’s race is now live:

2015 Chicago’s Mayor’s Race Election Night Tracker

End of update.

The Chicago municipal elections are on Tuesday for all 50 aldermen/women, the Mayor, the City Clerk and the City Treasurer.

Since the last Chicago municipal election in 2011 the City of Chicago has redrawn their ward boundaries. The Mayor’s race is not expected to be close on Tuesday but it is expected that Mayor Emanuel will come very close to reaching or exceeding the 50% + 1 threshold needed to avoid a runoff. I thought it would make sense to take the precinct level data from the 2011 Mayoral election and reconfigure those vote totals based on the new ward map. Some of the wards are similar to the 2011 map but some, such as the 2nd ward, are very different. I think it will be interesting to see how the Mayor’s 2015 numbers compare to his 2011 numbers and this will give a better apples to apples comparison.

Download 2011 Chicago Mayor by 2015 Ward Boundaries

I took the shapefiles for the 2011 citywide precincts and dumped that into some GIS software and ran an “Intersect” against the shapefiles for the current ward boundaries. I then used the percent of land area to assign a percentage to precincts that covered multiple wards. This is not exact for reasons I won’t bore you with but it’s pretty close. If you download the link above you’ll see a summary sheet with the data I just described as well as a worksheet that shows the precinct by precinct analysis and also there’s a sheet that shows the percentage of voters by race in each ward from census data. You may find any or all of that useful.

State of the Mayor’s Race

Both the City Clerk’s race and the City Treasurer’s race feature unopposed incumbents so the only actual citywide race is the Mayor’s race.

Thanks to the team at Aldertrack, this cycle’s indispensable daily must-read for all Chicago related election news, who teamed up with pollster Ogden & Fry for a regular tracking poll we have this graphic below showing how little traction the challengers have made.

Prior to the start of early voting the Mayor was polling in the low 40’s, undecided was in 2nd place in the low 20’s and the challengers were either in the teens or single digits. Since the first week of February when early voting started they have stopped offering undecided as an option and the Mayor is hovering right around 50% with his challengers well behind. Unless something really unexpected happens Emanuel will finish first on Tuesday and the main point of interest will be to see if he can beat the 50% + 1 threshold needed to avoid a runoff. (Emanuel avoided a runoff in 2011 with 55.28% of the vote)

I am going to spend some time over the weekend looking at building a dashboard for the Mayor’s race. If I can make it work the way I hope I may turn it on for election night on Tuesday. I’m mainly interested in seeing in real time how the Mayor is doing against his runoff threshold and how each ward compares to his 2011 numbers. If I can build a straightforward easy to read dashboard that auto-updates every 2 minutes or so I’ll make it live and distribute the link. Keep an eye on the Illinois Election Data Twitter account @ILElectionData and I’ll try to let you know by Monday if I think I can do something for Tuesday night. (Why is there always a Hawks game on election night?)

Chicago Board of Elections Website

The Chicago Board of Elections already has live links to their 2015 Municipal election results in their Election Results section. If you go to their website then click on Election Results you’ll see that in the dropdown below you can select “2015 Municipal General – 2/24/15” as one of the options. From there you can select whatever race you want. None of the race pages have numbers yet, obviously, but it’s nice that the links are live and available so that you know where you can find the results when they’re available.

A note about Aldertrack: this group of political hobbyists have spent the last few months amassing a wealth of political information and making it widely available for little or no cost. You can buy their data-rich Racing Form for $10 (it’s actually currently free until election day but if you find it useful you should give them some money). Also you can sign up to receive a free daily email that includes original reporting, polling, reports from the field and a news roundup for all the Chicago races. I highly recommend.

At at time when news organizations are downsizing both Aldertrack and the also terrific Illinois Observer have been very welcome additions to the Illinois political news scene. I am not affiliated with either organization.

2014 GE Precinct-Level Election Data

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As I mentioned before starting with the 2014 General Election the Illinois State Board of Elections has made precinct-level vote totals available for all races. The State Board offers flat files in csv format for each of the state’s election authorities. I have assembled that data, formatted it and created some interesting tools.

First, to find this new data click on “ANALYSIS” and then “Precinct Level Election Results“. Here is a rundown of what is available:

  • Download Raw/Formatted Data – Click here to download 1) all of the raw data aggregated from the State Board of Elections (flat file); 2) a statewide csv file of all races formatted for use (flat file); and 3) a sample Microsoft Access database that uses the full statewide formatted file plus has some query examples that demonstrate how the data can be used.
  • View Race by Precinct – Click here to select a race and view the election results by precinct. Every race except for the statwides can be viewed by precinct, the statewide races are too large to load on the screen. Instead there is an option to download each of the statwide races that can be opened in any spreadsheet program.
  • View Race by County – Click here to select a race and view the election results by county. This code aggregates the precinct-level database into county by county results. If you are concerned that there is an error in the precinct-level database file you can use this tool to view the county by county totals and compare them to the certified election results and check for discrepancies.
  • View Statewide Race by Districts (Simple Method) – Click here to select a statewide race and view the election results by districts (congressional, state senate or state rep). This process uses the simple method, which has to do with instances where more than one district are represented in a precinct. Using the simple method the entire precinct data is used for any precinct that is in part or in whole in each district. More complicated methods may be available in the future.

Also if you want to see Statewide Race by Districts in table format we have that too:

The statewide file is large, it’s about 1.8 million records so some pages may take a few seconds to load. Also, when looking at statewide races by district (congressional, state senate, state rep) currently the only method available is the Simple Method which includes any precinct that is in whole or in part in the district. I hope to be able to add a more complex apportionment method where precincts that include more than one district have those votes apportioned to one district or another. For reasons I won’t get into you can’t guarantee that one method is more accurate than the other but the apportionment method is generally favored. If you’d like to develop your own methodology for evaluating the data I have made the raw and formatted data available for easy download so you can use it as you wish. In the meantime I wanted to publish what I had here so I could move on to finishing up the maps and then get the 2014 monthly campaign budgets done later this month.

Feel free to contact me with any questions at Scott.Kennedy (at) or on Twitter at @ILElectionData.


Closing the Book on the Treasurer’s Race

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With at least 89 of the 110 election authorities showing totals that are considered final (mostly just small counties remaining) and the race having been conceded I have stopped updating the tracker.

It’s impossible to say exactly how many votes were counted after election night but we can make some approximations. I didn’t find the county by county totals for the Treasurer’s race until sometime on the afternoon of Wednesday the 5th, and there are still some counties that haven’t made final updates in our tracker but if you look at the list of updates I tracked there were at least 132,000 new votes over what was reported by the AP on election night. The tracker currently lists roughly 3.527 million total votes in this race so roughly about 4% of the total vote was reported after election night.

Despite the fact that this race was decided by the razor thin margin of just a few thousand votes (roughly one quarter of one percent) this late counted vote had a decided Democratic lean. Frerichs won this late counted vote 56%-40%-4%, a 16 point spread and in doing so gained an advantage of roughly 21,000 raw votes (at current count).

This leads to two questions:

  1. Why did this happen?
  2. What assumptions can we make for future elections?

Let’s look at these questions by type of vote. First, why were there so many votes that were not counted until after election day?

  • Early vote and mail vote that arrived by election day – in the past these were often counted prior to 7pm on election night and then these numbers were the first posted results you would see while waiting for all the precincts to be counted. However it was determined that the law does not allow for the clerks to count these votes before 7pm on election night and the Attorney General sent a notice to all of the election authorities to offer specific guidance on the issue. Many election authorities were still able to get these votes counted and included in their election night totals but not all. A number of election authorities were still counting these votes and adding them to their publicly available totals for a few days after the election. The General Assembly may want to review the law and consider if there are options that would allow the clerks to count these votes in advance if doing so would not harm election integrity. If the law was changed to allow all of these votes to be counted at a convenient time for the clerks then we may not see a repeat of this in the future, if not these votes may not be counted on election night depending on each election authority’s size, capacity and execution.
  • Election day votes – by the end of election night 109 of the 110 election authorities had 100% of their precincts reporting, only Chicago had 23 of its 2,069 precincts left to report so the vast majority of these votes were included in the election night totals. We haven’t had major problems counting election day ballots since 2006 so for future elections I would expect these vote totals will be available on election night.
  • Late arriving mail votes – any ballot with a post mark before election day can be legally valid and counted if it arrives at the election authority up to 14 days after the election. Most election authorities counted the mail ballots they had as of election day and included them in their election night totals. However for the ballots that arrived after election day most did not provide regular updates of these votes (a few did, but not many). Instead most election authorities waited until the 18th and just posted one large update with these new totals. This will likely be true for future elections.
  • Same day registration votes – this was the first year for same day registration, unregistered voters were allowed to register and vote on election day at select locations. The law that authorized same day registration expired so unless it is reauthorized it will not be part of future elections. These votes were included in the provisional ballot totals and were not added to the publicly available vote totals until two weeks after the election.
  • Provisional ballots – there will always be provisional ballots and those votes won’t be included in the totals until they have been properly evaluated on a case by case basis. These votes weren’t included in the publicly available totals until the 18th. There was some anecdotal evidence that in Chicago many voters who had recently registered to vote had to vote provisional because they weren’t listed on the voter rolls at the polling places on election day. If that was the case there may have been many more provisional ballots than normal (and some valid voters may have been disenfranchised), better clerical work could reduce this number for future elections.

Since vote by mail appears here to stay there will always be late arriving vote by mail ballots, although the amount will vary from election to election. Also, if same day registration is renewed then those votes will likely continue to be counted after election night. On the other hand you could potentially reduce the number of votes that need to be counted after election night by giving the clerks the power to count early vote and on time Vote By Mail votes somewhat earlier in the day on election day and better clerical work could reduce the number of traditional provisional ballots that need to be reviewed. So while there will continue to be votes that need to be counted after election night any number of changes could make that universe smaller than what we had in this election.

The next question has to do with partisan advantage. According to our non-exhaustive list of vote total changes since election night these votes had a 16 point advantage for Democrat Mike Frerichs (56%-40%-4%) despite the fact that this race overall had a razor thin margin of roughly one quarter of one percent. Can we expect the Democrats to have the same advantage among late arriving votes in future elections? Again, let’s look at this question by each type of vote:

  • Late arriving mail votes – there are two questions to consider here: 1) is there a partisan skew for procrastinators? and 2) what are the mechanics of executing a Vote By Mail program that could impact the timing of vote arrival? On the first question I don’t think there is a partisan skew to procrastination. Perhaps polling or an academic study will show that there is but until we see some supporting data I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that one party’s voters will wait until the last minute while the other party’s voters will mail their ballots in well ahead of time. The more likely factor in the timing of mail ballot arrival has to do with the mechanics of the VBM programs. I was told that both the Democratic and Republican parties in Illinois has significant VBM programs this year to make it as easy as can be for their most likely supporters to vote by mail. I was also told anecdotally that in this election the Republicans started their program before the Democrats. Both parties likely reached out to their most likely supporters who requested a VBM ballot to remind them to mail in their ballot. Obviously the earlier and more frequent those reminders took place likely affected when some of these ballots were returned. If both parties followed essentially the same process but one started earlier than the other then it would affect the timing of VBM ballot arrival. There is no guarantee that in the next election the timing of these efforts will remain the same or even that one or both parties will put the same amount of effort into Vote By Mail. For example in the next election one party could decide to focus on early voting instead of VBM. It’s in every party/candidate’s best interest to have their voters get their ballots in as early as possible so neither party/candidate necessarily wants to have a large number of their voters among the late arriving mail ballots. There is no guarantee that the timing of the VBM ballot arrival in this election will be the same in future elections and since the timing is likely to be the most significant determining factor of partisan skew there is no guarantee that either party will have a significant advantage in the late arriving VBM ballots in future elections.
  • Same day registration votes – if same day registration is renewed and used again in future elections I think this will still vary by some factors unique to each election authority. If same day registration is limited to select locations how convenient are those locations? Next, and probably more important, in that jurisdiction which parties/candidates have workers or volunteers actively working the precincts and how well versed are those workers/volunteers on the rules of same day registration and are they actively encouraging unregistered voters to participate? Unregistered potential voters are likely the least motivated/informed voters in the electorate. Of all of the people who could potentially know that same day registration exists I would expect the subset of people who couldn’t find the time to register in advance the least likely to be aware of same day registration. I wouldn’t expect a groundswell of organic same day registration voters, that universe will probably be defined by the efforts of county clerks to make it available and campaign/party precinct workers to take advantage of it. Having said all of that this universe will probably still lean Democratic since the demographics of unregistered voters leans Democratic as well: the young, the frequent movers, ethnic minorities and urban moreso than suburban moreso than rural. Still, a well organized suburban Republican effort could outproduce Democratic numbers if the Democrats were not similarly well organized.
  • Provisional ballots – people who have lived at the same address for many years (and have been registered to vote there) don’t vote provisional. Provisional ballots skew towards the recently newly registered and/or the voters who have to frequently re-register. Like the list above this universe has demographics more likely to skew towards the Democratic party.

Some of the late arriving ballots will skew towards the Democrats, specifically the traditional provisional ballots and possibly the same day registration ballots (but not certainly) while the late arriving mail ballots could skew towards either party depending on the get out the vote programs of each party and their candidates. There is no guarantee that future elections will see late counted votes skewing towards the Democrats by 16 points as they apparently did in this Treasurer’s race according to the best numbers we have available.

If a future election is as close as this one was at the end of election night we’re just going to have to study it in detail again and see what characteristics that are unique to that election will have an impact on the final result.

Updating the Treasurer’s Race

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Illinois Treasurer’s Race Tracker

UPDATE: 11/10 (6:30pm)

Ok, I went through all of the election authorities that have a website and data, here are the updates:

  • Kane County – there are 241 new votes over what was previously reported and Mike Frerichs had a net gain of 50 votes.
  • Logan County – There are 337 new votes over what was previously reported and Tom Cross had a net gain of 148 votes.
  • Ogle County – there is 1 new vote over what was previously reported and it went to Cross so a net gain of 1 vote for Cross.

Tomorrow is a holiday so I wouldn’t expect many updates. I’ll keep an eye on Cook, Chicago and the various collar counties just in case.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/10 (2:30pm)

Just checked Cook and Chicago and Cook had an update. There are 1,244 new votes over what was previously reported and Mike Frerichs had a net gain of 254. The margin now stands at Cross with a lead of 393 votes.

I’ll check all of the election authorities for updates tonight when I get home from work.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/10 (8:00am)

Before work this morning I double checked Chicago, Cook, Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane, Aurora, Will, Winnebago and Rockford. The only update was in Kane where there were 1,314 new votes over what was previously reported and Tom Cross had a net gain of 1 vote.

I’ll check all of the election authorities for updates tonight when I get home from work.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/9 (10:30pm)

I haven’t looked through all of the various election authorities to see if there are any additional updates, it being the weekend I wasn’t expecting any, but I got a text from Rich Miller tonight telling me there were new Chicago numbers and he’s right so I have updated the tracker. The City of Chicago added just shy of 14,000 votes to their already reported totals and Frerichs netted a little more than 8,500 of them. The difference is now down to a very slim lead for Tom Cross of 646 votes.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/7 (6:30pm)

Today’s updates:

  • City of Rockford – they added 423 votes to their existing totals, Frerichs had a net gain of 164 votes.
  • Cook County Suburbs – they added 7,454 votes to their existing totals, Frerichs had a net gain of 2,029 votes.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/6 (11pm)

I went to all the election authority websites again tonight and updated any data that was new in the tracker. Here’s a summary of what’s new:

  • City of Chicago – they finally included the last 6 uncounted precincts in their totals, they now have 100% precincts reporting. It appears that the City of Chicago totals only show regular votes, it doesn’t appear they have vote by mail votes or any provisionals (including same day registration) counted. See more on that here. Frerichs had a net gain here of 1,171 votes.
  • Cook County Suburbs – they added a little over 6,500 votes to their existing numbers, I’m guessing these were vote by mail ballots. Frerichs had a net gain here of 1,509 votes.
  • Jackson County – they added almost 1,700 votes to their existing numbers, Frerichs had a net gain of 53 votes.
  • City of Rockford – they added about 600 votes to their existing totals, Frerichs had a net gain of 231 votes.
  • Ogle County – they added 4 votes to their existing totals, Frerichs had a net gain of 2.

I had heard that Will County was supposed to have some updated numbers, which most likely would have added to Cross’ advantage but they haven’t updated anything yet.

Also here are a few known issues:

  • Fulton County – I went to check to see if there was any update and tonight I couldn’t find a link to their totals. Not sure if I am just missing it or what. I swear it was there last night.
  • Jersey County – I am still using the AP’s numbers here. The numbers they have listed on their website are so small they can’t be right. The AP’s numbers are consistent with historical norms, the numbers they have listed just seem like there has to be an error. I’ll keep an eye on this.
  • Marshall County – their website was down tonight and displaying a server error.
  • 20 Small Counties – all the data in pink on the tracker is still just what the AP reported for these 20 small counties. Most of them don’t even have a county website so short of calling them all I can’t verify the AP’s reported numbers.

End of Update.

Illinois Treasurer’s Race Tracker

As of right now the tracker shows Tom Cross with a 14,373 vote lead. There are still 6 precincts in the City of Chicago that have not reported, all the rest in the state are in.

These are the six Chicago precincts left to report:

However that doesn’t tell the whole story, there are still many additional uncounted votes, I’m just not sure how many. The Illinois Attorney General instructed election authorities that they could not count any of the early vote or vote by mail until after 7pm on election night. It used to be that the first results you would see on election night were the early voting numbers because those were counted in advance, but not anymore because they were instructed that they could not count them in advance.

So even though 109 of the 110 election authorities are showing 100% of their precincts reporting we are still likely to see the vote totals increase as more votes are counted. These are the three types of votes that may still need to be counted:

  1. Early Vote votes – these should be the easiest/quickest to count and may already have been counted in most jurisdictions but I can’t say for sure.
  2. Vote by Mail votes – I’m told that in the larger election authorities these didn’t even start to get counted until yesterday at the earliest for some and not yet at all for others, also because of the mail these may still be coming in. As long as they were postmarked by Monday 11/3 the election authorities can still accept them up until 11/18. Also, since they were not allowed to open and count these in advance there are some election authorities that are still counting them.
  3. Provisional Ballot votes – this includes same day registration votes, and we saw the long lines for these votes in the City of Chicago as the last voters weren’t done until 3am. Also, there were reports of voters in Chicago who had registered recently having to fill out provisional ballots. Typically provisional ballots do not have a high success rate but it seems that there will be some valid provisional votes that need to be counted.

The problem is that of the vote totals currently publicly available you cannot tell which of the three types of potentially uncounted votes above are included or not included in the totals and it will vary by election authority.

For example, yesterday Chicago reported 17 of their 23 uncounted precincts (only 6 remaining) and Frerichs picked up a 4,800 vote advantage. Chicago appeared to only be updating election day votes, not mail or provisional votes.

Then late last night the Cook County Board of Elections updated their numbers even though they had already been reporting 100% of the precincts reporting and Frerichs gained another 1,100 vote advantage. Also at some point both DuPage and McHenry added votes to their totals over what was in the AP’s election night totals and Cross picked up advantages of 3,680 and 4,891 respectively. I’m assuming that most of these are Vote by Mail votes but I don’t know for sure.

I’m lead to believe that Chicago is still only counting election night votes, they haven’t updated vote by mail votes and provisionals but I can’t say for sure.

Additionally, it’s hard to say for sure that the many counties throughout the state that are counting additional votes are making the updated data available on their websites. It’s customary for these areas to have some data available on election night that are unofficial results and then they don’t update the data again until after the numbers are official in about a month. Not every area has the sophisticated IT systems that you typically see in the bigger counties so the quality of the information varies. In fact, for about 20 election authorities the only data we have is what the AP reported on election night because some of the smaller counties don’t even have a website at all.

Here’s how my tracker works, start by scrolling all the way to the bottom. You’ll see the data for all 110 election authorities listed there. Every report above this raw data on my tracker is just an aggregation of this raw data. This is the data that I went and entered manually after looking up every EA’s website last night. It was manual data entry so it’s always possible that I typed something wrong or accidentally transposed Cross’ and Frerichs’ numbers in one county or another, but I ran a number of checks to see that the math came out right and it appears that it did. Also, you’ll see a URL for most of these election authorities, you can follow those links to lookup the publicly available vote totals in each area. If you see one that has different data or more updated data than what’s in the tracker let me know and I’ll update the numbers. The numbers listed in pink are for the election authorities that have no publicly available data, in most cases they don’t even have a website so the pink numbers are the numbers that the AP was reporting on election night. I can’t verify that these pink numbers are accurate, it’s just the only numbers we have.

But for now this is the most up to date count I know of anywhere. I have a day job that I can’t neglect but I’ll try to keep the info as current as possible, if you see anything new send a note here.

P.S. Projected Vote Totals:
On my tracker it’s best to just ignore the Projected Vote total numbers. Those calculations can’t account for uncounted vote when 100% of the precincts are reporting, those are only useful for election night when only part of the vote is in. Please don’t assume that they are projecting what the mail and provisional votes might be, they are not.

What to Watch For on Tuesday

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First, an announcement:

I know I said I wasn’t going to be able to post any live election results on election night the way were able to back in the primary but I spent some time looking at the way we were able to find data in the primary and I may actually post some stuff on the Governor’s race and the Treasurer’s race on election night if things work out as I hope. No guarantee, but if some data availability is similar to the primary I may be able to automate part of the data collection process. If so and I only have to do a little bit of manual data entry then I’ll turn it on and make it available. I already wrote all the forumlas and built a dashboard to display everything so either it’s doable & we have a bunch of really interesting info or you’re at the mercy of the news orgs again. I’ll do what I can.

What to Watch For:

Election day is two days away, here’s what to watch for on election night to give you a sense of how things are going:

Governor’s Race:

  • Rauner has a publicly stated goal of reaching 20% in the City of Chicago (2010 Brady had 17.41%). Keep an eye on the Chicago returns to see if he’s meeting this goal. Rauner has been a more frequent campaigner on the south and west sides of Chicago than his Republican predecessors, a strategy that has won both praise and criticism, it will be interesting to see if it pays off.
  • In the Cook County suburbs in 2010 Brady only got 39.50% and came up just short while Kirk took 43.47% and had a narrow win. Rauner is going to try to get a level of support that matches Kirk’s 2010 numbers. In 2010 Quinn got 53.63% and he’ll try to hold that. Recent polling in this area has had Quinn in the mid-50’s and Rauner in the low 40’s so it’s worth watching closely. (see below for the poll tracker and regional support tabs)
  • In 2010 the Democrats downstate numbers were historically, abnormally low. The Democrats downstate support bounced back to numbers more historically consistent by 2012 so it should be very difficult for Rauner to repeat Brady’s 58.66% downstate. However as Governor, Pat Quinn has closed a number of downstate facilities for budget reasons and his little known primary opponent was able to win a number of counties in Central and Southern Illinois so Quinn’s downstate bounce isn’t as high as you might expect. (note: you might be tempted to attribute Brady’s 2010 downstate success to being a downstater but actually Kirk won an even greater percentage of the downstate vote than Brady did so it wasn’t a regional support issue, downstaters in 2010 just went overwhelmingly Republican regardless of where the candidate was from)
  • If I am able to publish live election night results you’ll be able to see exactly how the candidates in both the Governor’s race and the Treasurer’s race are performing in each of these regions. If not you’re on your own and it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to find this info from any of the news organizations. If you’re looking for three bellweather counties that may give you an indication of how downstate is going I’d recommend looking at Madison, Fulton and Franklin counties. Each county has traditionally been a county that typically slightly favors the Democrats but that they were only able to score in the low 40’s in 2010.
  • Libertarian Chad Grimm has been polling in the 4-7% range and the conventional wisdom is that he is disproportionately taking those votes from Rauner. In the 2010 Governor’s race the various 3rd party candidates combined to take 7.28% of the vote. The higher Grimm’s support the more voters Rauner is going to have to win over elsewhere to win the race.

Treasurer’s Race:

  • There hasn’t been a lot of polling in this race but what polling there is shows this race is essentially a coin flip. Cross is going to look to replicate Rauner’s goals above, Frerichs is going to hope to match Quinn’s goals in the Chicago media market and hope to exceed Quinn’s support downstate.


Look at the polling list below, I do have some concern. A few of these polls have some issues, the rest all come from the same pollster. Here’s a list of issues:

  • The McKeon poll is so weird it’s hard to have any faith in it. I could be a lot more specific and a lot meaner but let’s just call it weird and move on.
  • The Rasmussen poll doesn’t even list Grimm by name, it just has a category for other. There are some recent CBS/NYT/YouGov polls that have the same flaw that I didn’t even bother listing for the same reason. This is a three candidate race, polling a two candidate race isn’t going to give you great polling.
  • The Tribune poll in September showed a level of Democratic participation that would have been a record in a midterm election if it actually happened, there was probably just an excessive amount of Democrats in the sample. The October poll showed historically high Republican support in some subsets, the Collars in particular. Did they over correct on the 2nd sample? Are they just getting weird samples? Or maybe, are they getting something right that others are missing? Because of the large swing from one poll to the other the latter question seems unlikely but who knows.
  • And then you look at the Sun-Times, Reboot Illinois, Illinois Observer and Capitol Fax polls and you get concerned that they all use the same pollster, We Ask America. It’s nice that we have so many WAA polls and they show consistency within a reasonable range of values but however well researched and well intentioned their likely voter model and weighting is it’s a very hard thing to get right. If their assumptions are off by even a little bit you may find that the results on election night don’t exactly match your expectations from looking at recent polling.

Governor’s Race Poll Tracker

Historical Results By Region (Traditional Collars)

Questions to Ask About Early Voting

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Early voting and vote by mail are about to end and the reports so far seem to indicate that these early and mail voters will exceed the numbers from 2010. This has lead a number of analysts to try to crunch the numbers and figure out which candidate has the advantage from early voting, something that can’t be done unless you know the voting history of each voter. The campaigns and the state parties have this data, pundits typically do not, so the only thing you can do is put together a list of good questions to ask these campaigns/parties and hope it will give you useful information. Let me explain.

I vote in every election, I am a habitual voter. The sun will rise in the east, the Cubs will not win the World Series and I will vote. No campaign should spend any money or effort trying to get me out to vote, that would be like spending money to remind me to breathe. Last week I voted early, as I have in every election since early voting became legal. I didn’t vote early because of any candidate’s GOTV operation, I voted early because that’s what I do.

If you want to measure which campaign’s GOTV operation is performing the best you need to be able to separate out which voters are habitual voters vs. which voters are infrequent voters and early/mail voting GOTV targets. The campaigns have each defined a universe of infrequent voters that are very likely to support their candidate if they make it to the polls and they’re working like crazy to GOTV these voters with either early vote or vote by mail. In order to correctly measure which side is performing best for early/mail voting you need to isolate and measure these efforts.

The campaigns divide voters into three categories 1) will vote for my candidate, 2) will vote for the opponent, 3) don’t know. The size of the first two groups is much bigger than you would probably expect. In the old days they would determine their support group (run universe) from the list of people who’ve pledged support (their plusses) along with other potentially telling factors like the partisan strength of their precinct or their partisan primary voting history and other significant demographic characteristics. These days the national parties are paying to develop modeling scores for their key races which take all of the available information about each voter and uses it to develop a number that measures the likelihood that the voter will support the candidate relative to all the other voters. They can use this info to determine which voters are very likely to support one candidate or the other, although it’s a little bit harder to predict what happens with the 3rd party candidates.

Once you understand all of these variables it’s clear to see why you can’t just look at raw early/mail vote totals and draw conclusions from them. Here are the questions someone will need to ask of the campaigns:

  1. Of the total early/mail voters how many are you certain are voting for your candidate, how many for your opponent?
  2. What percentage of the total early/mail vote universe are habitual voters? How many are you certain are voting for your candidate, how many for your opponent?
  3. What percentage of the total early/mail vote universe are the infrequent voters targeted by early/mail vote GOTV efforts? How many are you certain are voting for your candidate, how many for your opponent?

Also, if you can get them to show their work that would be even better.

Election Night – November General Election

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Back in the primary we pulled together a team of volunteers to manually enter the election returns for the Republican Primary for Governor so that we could break down that data into usable chunks and draw conclusions in real time about how the race was unfolding. We will not be doing that for the general election next month, it’s just not possible. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t pull together the volunteers to perform that full real time analysis for even one race and to do it right it would need to be done for both the Governor’s race and the Treasurer’s race since recent polling shows that both of those races could go either way. (If you would like to do this yourself I’m giving away my tools for free below.)

Someone who is getting a live stream of election data needs to take the lead and format their output to give us the kind of useful data we need. My goal back in the primary was to demonstrate what could be done with all the election return data that comes in on election night if someone turned that data into something usable. These are the most important questions on election night:

  1. Who is leading and by how much?
  2. How much of the vote is in? How much is outstanding?
  3. Which candidates are overperforming/underperforming expectations? By how much? And where?
  4. Of the vote that is not yet reported which candidate does it favor?

Of the four questions above it has long been my frustration that news organizations really only attempt to answer questions 1 and 2 even though they have the means to answer questions 3 and 4 as well. They really only attempt to tell you the entire statewide totals and the number or percentage of the precincts reporting even though the means to provide much more information is easily available to them. You can’t necessarily do this for every race but you can pretty easily put the statewide races into the proper context to either answer questions 3 and 4 or at least provide a pretty good guide.

News organizations can buy a live data stream from the AP, this is where most news organizations get the data they display on their websites on election night. I cannot do this, I tried, I asked for a quote to purchase this data and/or subscribe to the AP’s service and I was explicitly told they would not allow me to be one of their customers because I was not a news organization. Clearly that’s a stupid policy but it’s not exactly shocking news that media people are bad at business.

But since news organizations have access to this data stream it’s not much more work to format this data and run some basic mathematical calculations on the data to display the numbers in a usable format. They already have some developer write code to take the data out of the AP’s data stream and then format it to display correctly on their election night web pages, just add a little extra effort to then display this info in a way that’s helpful for people to understand.

News organizations I IMPLORE YOU use this as a guide and take these tools I am giving away for free and show us the data in a way that allows you to answer all four questions above instead of just the first two. Take the historical data found on this website (and below), take it, I mean literally take it, copy and paste it into your own election night websites or just use iframes and take the data directly from here. Let people compare the real time data with the historical data so they can draw conclusions about which candidates are beating/missing expectations and which candidates are likely to improve their position when the not yet reported election returns come in.

Campaigns, if you’re looking to run your own election night vote counting operation and you want some help you can download the spreadsheets (and instructions) that we used in the primary here:

Download Election Night Vote Counting Spreadsheets and Instructions


About Illinois Statewide Elections
There are 102 counties in the state but there are 110 election authorities (102 county and 8 municipal). The eight municipal election authorities are Chicago, Aurora, Galesburg, Bloomington, Peoria, East St. Louis, Danville and Rockford. The county election authorities in the counties where these cities are located only cover the precincts outside of these cities. So for example if you wanted to know how a candidate is performing in Cook County you would have to add that candidate’s totals from both the Cook County Election Authority and the Chicago Board of Elections. So to get totals by county you have to account for these 110 individual inputs of data and add them correctly to be able to display the 102 county totals.

If you have all of the inputs above everything else is pretty easy. You can then add up the totals by media market and/or regions. Media markets are comprised of whole counties so this is an easy calculation. You can see a map of media markets here.

You can also calculate the totals by region. Typically in a general election the City of Chicago will be just under 20% of the total statewide vote and the Cook County suburbs will also be just under 20% of the total statewide vote. The five traditional collar counties (Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will) will account for just under 25% of the total statewide vote and the remaining downstate 96 counties will account for between 35% – 40% of the total statewide vote. These segments have distinct historical voting patterns from one another and the speed of these election returns can vary so it’s useful to see it broken down this way.

Also, if you’d like you can break the vote down by region using the expanded 11 collar counties instead of the traditional 5, for more on that see here.

Most importantly, if you don’t want to take the time to segment all of these counties into these various definitions (by media market, by region, etc.) just download my spreadsheet from the link above, each of the 110 election authorities is already defined for you.

The whole point here is that if you can segment the returns coming in by media market or region and you have historical data to compare it to with the same geographical boundaries you can compare this partial data to the historical data and begin to answer the questions listed in #3 above: “Which candidates are overperforming/underperforming expectations? By how much? And where?”


Displaying Data by Media Market
Broadcast TV ads for statewide campaigns are segmented by media market. When campaigns purchase ads they do not necessarily purchase ads in every media market and different media markets are likely to see different ads. Some markets are also more efficient than others, for example the Champaign/Springfield/Decatur market and the Peoria media market are both entirely contained within the state’s borders whereas a market like St. Louis bleeds over into Missouri so you would be paying there to air ads to many people (Missouri residents) who cannot vote in the election. Voters who live in inefficient media markets are likely to see fewer ads than voters in more efficient markets. Since campaigns don’t communicate with all of the state’s voters in the same way or with the same frequency in their paid media it is useful to segment the election returns in a way that mirrors the segmenting used when broadcast TV ads are purchased.

Copy/Paste Historical Media Market Data
You can either copy/paste this data for your own use or you can use the iframes below:

Entire Tab Control:   <iframe src="" width="575" height="350" ></iframe>
Dem Perf:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’250′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Rep Perf:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’250′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Vote Share:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’250′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Turnout:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’250′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>


Displaying Data by Region
Bruce Rauner has publicly stated a goal of 20% in the City of Chicago. Prior to 2010 the Cook County suburbs had been a perfect bellweather for the state as a whole, but then 2010 Kirk and 2010 Rutherford became the first two candidates to win statewide without winning the Cook County suburbs for at least the last couple of decades. In the last Governor’s race the downstate vote was historically interesting. Each of these regions has a story to tell.

You can decide for yourself if you’d rather show the regions using the traditional collars or the expanded collars (or both), I’d probably recommend using traditional collars (for an explanation of the difference see here).

Region – Traditional Collars

Copy/Paste Historical Region – Traditional Collars Data
You can either copy/paste this data for your own use or you can use the iframes below:

Entire Tab Control:   <iframe src="" width="575" height="275" ></iframe>
Dem Perf:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Rep Perf:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Vote Share:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Turnout:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>


Region – Expanded Collars

Copy/Paste Historical Region – Expanded Collars Data
You can either copy/paste this data for your own use or you can use the iframes below:

Entire Tab Control:   <iframe src="" width="575" height="275" ></iframe>
Dem Perf:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Rep Perf::   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Vote Share:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>
Turnout:   <iframe width=’500′ height=’160′ frameborder=’0′ src=’’></iframe>


Projecting the Uncounted Vote
The last question that everyone has on election night but very few even attempt to answer has to do with the votes that haven not yet been counted/reported. Which candidate does it favor?

There are any number of really complicated ways you can attempt to project an answer to that question, I’m going to go over two pretty simple methods. However they each have their drawbacks.

Method 1 – Extend the Current Voting Patters
I used this method when we covered the 2014 Republican Primary for Governor last spring. For each of the 110 different local election authorities I simply applied the current vote ratio and extrapolated those numbers as if 100% of that area’s precincts had reported. For example, if in one area 5 out of 10 precincts have reported and Candidate A had 100 votes and Candidate B has 80 votes the extrapolated Projected totals would be that Candidate A is projected to receive 200 votes and Candidate B is projected to receive 160 votes in that area. Do that for all 110 election authorities and add up the results to get the projected totals.

It’s a very simple projection formula and it performs poorly very early in the night when only a few precincts have reported. It obviously gets better with more data. It’s the sum of 110 separate calculations which is helpful but it also assumes an even partisan (or candidate support) distribution within each of those 110 election authorities which in some instances is an incorrect assumption. But it’s a pretty basic calculation that is easy to perform and will get you a decent projection.

However as I learned the hard way on election night last spring early voting can cause some trouble in the calculation. There were many counties that were reporting only their early voting totals and listed zero precincts reporting for a few hours before any of their returns started showing up. This will cause some problems with your calculations so you’ll need to account for this.

You can use this method to both project what the final results might look like based on current vote totals and also to predict which candidate is favored to win the support of the yet uncounted vote.

Method 2 – Use A Generic Partisan Baseline
Method 1 creates projections based on actual candidate performance, this method is based on a baseline of generic partisan expectations.

For example, let’s say you started with the Cook Partisan Voting Index for each of Illinois’ 18 congressional districts and assigned them a partisan score. You could then take a weighted average of each district’s uncounted vote weighted by this partisan score. Let’s say that the only uncounted precincts remaining in the entire state were in the 5th and 6th CD’s. Let’s say that 25% of the vote in the 5th CD was still not reported and 50% of the 6th CD. If the 5th is D+16 and the 6th is R+4 then you could use these figures and get a weighted average of the expected generic partisan makeup of the yet unreported vote. Obviously you wouldn’t want to use this method if you’r expecting a strong 3rd party candidate vote.

The other problem with this methodology is the Cook Partisan Voting Index itself, you’d probably want to normalize it to more realistically match the current election. The Cook PVI combines the last two Presidential elections by congressional district and scores them relative to the national average. So if a district is listed as R+4 it means that the Presidential vote in that congressional district over the last two Presidential elections was 4 points more Republican than the national average. If you were to take an average of all 18 congressional districts in Illinois you’d come up with a Cook PVI for the State of Illinois at a little over D+8, this means that in the last two presidential elections the State of Illinois was about 8 points more Democratic than the country as a whole.

Well obviously there are a few problems with that, 1) this isn’t a Presidential year election, it’s an off year election and the electorate is going to be more Republican leaning than in Presidential years, and 2) in the last two Presidential elections Illinois elected a favorite son so that would artificially inflate the Democratic support. If you were going to try to use the PVI in this way you’d want to normalize it to offset both of the issues above.

Please, please, please give us better, more useful data on election night. Please. If you have any questions you can find my contact info here.

IL-GOV 3rd Party Support

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With Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm on the ballot for Governor’s race I thought I’d pull up some data on historical 3rd party support. Here’s a table showing the 3rd party support for each statewide race since 2002.

Race 2012 2010 2008 2006 2004 2002
President 1.65% 1.30% 0.70%
US Senate 5.57% 3.63% 2.98% 1.65%
Governor 7.28% 10.95% 2.74%
AG 3.63% 3.30% 2.51%
SOS 3.11% 4.15% 2.24%
Comptroller 6.49% 4.26% 4.23%
Treasurer 5.06% 4.82% 1.92%

I knew there was strong 3rd party support in the 2006 and 2010 Governors races but until I looked this up I didn’t realize that a non-trivial level of support for 3rd party candidates is pretty common. There are a lot of races here between 3% – 5%.

The other thing I have noticed is that Grimm’s polling has been really consistent (see the tracker below). For the polls in the last month (at the time of this writing) his support scores are 5.88%, 5.00%, 5.00%, 6.00%, 6.00%, 5.00% and 7.27%, it doesn’t get much more consistent than that.

I’m still not entirely sure where Grimm’s election day support will fall, it’s entirely possible that a number of poll respondents who are pledging support for him could either not show up or undervote the Governor’s race. They could still also be won over by one of the two major party candidates. But for now I feel a bit more confident about a narrower range than I was expecting before I looked this up.

IL-GOV Predict the Regional Totals

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With Rauner publicly acknowledging a goal of at least 20% in the City of Chicago and our recent in-depth discussion of the downstate vote in this race I thought I’d put together a little utility that allows you enter predictions for each candidate’s performance in these various regions and see how your predictions affect the statewide total based on the 2010 vote share numbers.

You can find historical Democratic and Republican performance by region here:

Also, a summary of recent polling, including by region where available, is below.

Also, this utility defines collars as the traditional 5 collars of Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will. For more on that topic see the FAQ here.