Note: I originally wrote this on Thursday and planned to publish it on Friday morning. However on Thursday night news broke about some complications at the Chicago Board of Elections and I wanted to take some more time to think about it in that context. (you can read the CBOE's response to these issues here.) But then on Friday we saw some adjusted numbers in Wabash County when they found and corrected a previous error, a normal part of the process and I decided that it still made sense to try and explain this process and to point out that it has enough moving parts that simple errors are a normal part of the process and are not necessarily a sign of fraud or incompetence.

Important note: I am not an election attorney, this is for reference only.

We continue to see vote totals update in the Illinois State Treasurer's race despite the fact that the election was well over a week ago. Since this will go on for a little while I wanted to put together a quick primer with some key dates and explanations about the process plus a small FAQ for some of the more common questions.

Key Dates:

11/18/2014 - Deadline to validate and count ballots.

Deadline for the county clerk or board of election commissioners to complete the tabulation of absentee ballots that were (1) postmarked by midnight preceding the opening of the polls on Election Day, and were received after the close of the polls on Election Day but not later than 14 days after the election, or (2) not postmarked at all, but did have a certification date prior to the Election Day on the certification envelope, and were received after the close of the polls on Election Day but not later than 14 days after the election. (10 ILCS 5/19-8)

11/25/2014 - Last day for canvassing.

Last day for canvassing election results by proper canvassing board (county canvassing board or board of canvassers). (10 ILCS 5/18A-15(a), 22-1)

11/30/2014 - tentative date of board meeting of the State Board of Elections to certify the results.

So 11/18 is the last day that the election authorities can accept valid Vote By Mail votes and then they are supposed to finalize their vote totals so the canvass can begin. The canvass must end by 11/25 and by that date the election authorities are supposed to certify their results and submit the certified results to the State Board of Elections and the Illinois SBE is tentatively set to meet on 11/30 to certify the results.

Most counties should have their final updated results sometime by the end of the day on 11/18, although some counties have said that their updated results would not be made publicly available until 11/19. Either way, unless any errors are found during the canvass the final updated totals from each election authority should be available on the 18th - 19th.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why are only some counties still counting votes while others are not?
This is inaccurate. Every county and municipal election authority can still receive valid, legal votes so every election authority in the state is still going through the process of potentially receiving and counting votes. Some county and municipal election authorities (such as Chicago and Cook County) have been giving regular updates throughout which is why they have received so much attention while most have not provided any new updates since election night. For example, this is what Sangamon County lists on the top of their election night election results page:


This is the most common method, most counties are not updating their totals with these new additional votes and will not have any further update until 11/18.

For example, see this article on the Champaign News-Gazette about the additional votes expected to be made public in the counties of east central Illinois.

This happens in every election every year. The results announced on election night are not final and the totals that get certified about a month later always include additional votes. Usually the various races are not close enough to be affected by these additional votes which is why most people are unaware of how this process works but everything that is taking place right now in the vote counting process is perfectly normal and typical.

Why is it so complicated to count all the votes?
There are 5 different ways a person can vote and the clerks have to manage and track all of these different types of votes and then take steps to ensure that valid registered voters voted no more than once. This requires that they keep and manage very detailed records yet at the same time they need to protect the integrity of the secret ballot so they have to protect each voter's privacy as well, that is very challenging. Then when it comes time to tabulate the final totals they need to count them by precinct despite the fact that many votes (early vote, vote by mail) were not made in the actual precinct on election day. It would be very easy to make simple mistakes so the clerks take careful steps to ensure they get it right.

Here are all the different types of votes:

  • Election Day Votes - these are the traditional votes made by a voter in person at their precinct on election day.
  • Early Votes - these are votes made by the voter in person at an early vote location prior to election day.
  • Vote By Mail - a voter may now for any reason complete an application to have a ballot sent to them by mail which they may fill out and return by mail. The ballot must be post marked by the day before election day and can be received and counted up until 14 days after election day.
  • Same Day Registration - this is the first year for same day registration, eligible voting age people who were not yet registered to vote could register on election day and cast a ballot.
  • Provisional Votes - voters who attempted to vote on election day but for whatever reason were deemed ineligible are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. The election authority then reviews these provisional ballots on a case by case basis to determine if the ballot is valid and should be counted or not.

What votes are included in the publicly available totals?
In most cases the following types of votes are included in the totals that are already publicly available from each election authority:
- all early votes made prior to election day.
- all election day votes made in each precinct on election day.
- all Vote By Mail votes that were received by the election authority by election day.

What votes are still being counted and/or are not yet publicly available?
In most cases these types of votes are not yet included in the publicly available totals:
- valid Vote By Mail ballots that were received after election day. (a very few election authorities have made these totals available via updates, but very few)
- provisional ballots. Also, I believe that the clerks are treating the same day registration ballots as provisional ballots so those votes are not yet updated as well.

When will all the votes be counted and the totals publicly available?
11/18 is the last day that the election authorities can accept valid Vote By Mail votes and then they are supposed to finalize their vote totals so the canvass can begin. The canvass must end by 11/25 and by that date the election authorities are supposed to certify their results and submit the certified results to the State Board of Elections and the Illinois SBE is tentatively set to meet on 11/30 to certify the results.

Illinois Treasurer's Race Tracker

UPDATE: 11/15 (11:00am)

I checked every election authority that has public data on a website this morning and the only further update was in Clark county where 3 new votes were added, all for Tom Cross. The new margin is Cross by 381 votes.

Also, Tom Kacich of the Champaign News-Gazette has some more information about the votes expected to be made public early next week in east central Illinois.

Later this afternoon I will have some info on what to expect this upcoming week when the clerks finalize their totals.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/14 (5:00pm)

I was told about some additional counties that had updated numbers, here is what I have found:

  • Wabash County - according to the employees in the county clerk's office they found that they had accidentally counted some votes twice so after a careful review their updated numbers actually declined. There was a net total vote reduction of 690 votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross lost a net of 306 votes. I am told that these will be their final numbers.
  • Livingston County - there were a total of 51 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 10 votes.
  • Piatt County - there were a total of 21 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 10 votes. Per their website these should be their final totals.
  • I was also told that DeWitt, Jasper, Marshall, Pope and Richland had updated numbers however Marshall and DeWitt do not have new totals on their websites, the rest don't have websites and by the time I was able to call all of them their offices were already closed. I will hopefully find time to call them when they reopen on Monday.

I will check everything again most likely tomorrow. I will also put up an explanation about what to expect for next week.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/14 (1:00pm)

I was told that Hancock County had updated numbers so I called during lunch and sure enough they do. They added 511 votes over what was previously publicly available and Cross gained 127 votes. They also said this was their final count and would have no further updates. The current margin is Tom Cross by 664 votes.

I will check everything again either tonight or more likely tomorrow.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/13 (6:00pm)

I went through all of the election authorities that have a website and data again tonight and here is the update:

  • Kane County (only, not including Aurora) - there were a total of 564 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 44 votes.
  • Lee County - there were a total of 18 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 2 votes.

The current margin is Tom Cross by 537 votes.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/12 (9:00pm)

I went through all of the election authorities that have a website and data again tonight and 1 vote was updated. One vote. It was in Ogle County and it went to Frerichs so the difference changed by 1 vote, now it's Tom Cross by 491 votes.

End of Update.

Previous Updates

With so much attention being paid to the Treasurer's race and the ballots being counted/updated in Cook County you could be forgiven for thinking that Cook County is the only area where ballots are still being counted, it is not. All 102 counties (and all 110 election authorities) are still counting late arriving vote by mail ballots, same day registration ballots and valid provisional ballots. Both Cook County and the Chicago Board of Elections have been updating their totals as they count their ballots and they are also giving us some public updates about how many ballots they have left to count, which is why we are seeing so much discussion of their totals. But the truth is every county is going through the exact same process, most of them are just not updating their totals while they're doing it and they're not likely to give us any updates until 11/18 when they stop accepting vote by mail ballots.

Analyzing the difference between the Treasurer's race and the Governor's race is suffering from the same Cook County focus, the most significant portion of the explanation lies elsewhere. When you look at the unofficial totals in the Governor's race and the Treasurer's race you'll see:

  • In Cook County Tom Cross underperformed Bruce Rauner by about 2 points while Mike Frerichs and Pat Quinn ran essentially the same, within 0.2% of each other. The difference in Cook County is the Libertarian candidate in the Treasurer's race got almost 2 points more than the Libertarian candidate in the Governor's race in Cook County and since Frerichs and Quinn received essentially the same percentage here this basically came out of Cross' pocket.
  • In the 5 traditional collar counties Cross underperformed Rauner by almost 2.5 points while Frerichs did better than Quinn by a little more than half a point.
  • In the downstate 96 counties the gap was the most pronounced, Cross underperformed Rauner by 3.5 points while Frerichs did better than Quinn by more than 4 points.

The difference maker in this race is downstate, not Cook County.

Here's a table that shows the difference between the party candidates for Treasurer and Governor (sorted by Republican underperformance):

St. Clair3.20%-3.46%0.26%
Rock Island2.73%-2.87%0.14%

Two things stand out, 1) Cross only outperformed Rauner in 13 of 102 counties, and the two most favorable were Sangamon and Logan where a lot of state workers live; and 2) while some of the counties where Cross most underperformed Rauner include parts of Frerichs' senate district like Vermilion and Champaign counties they also include other parts of the state like far western Adams County, southwestern Pike County and southern Marion and White counties.

Even in Cross' home base of Kendall County he only outperformed Rauner by about 3 points whereas there were 12 counties where Frerichs outperformed Quinn by more than 10 points. The downstate vote makes up the lion's share of the difference in these two races, Cross was unable to match Rauner's example and Frerichs outperformed Quinn throughout.

Cook County is getting all the attention right now simply because they're offering the most information but if you really want to understand why this race is incredibly close and the Governor's race wasn't the explanation mostly lies in the other 101 counties.

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.

I am going to attempt to display some very detailed live election results and also some projections based on those live results (and using historical data when no live data is available). Also, you can find real time insights on the Twitter feed here.

Illinois Governor's Race Live Results

Illinois Treasurer's Race Live Results

You can also find a full explanation of how all of the projections are calculated here.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

© Illinois Electon Data