Horowitz: Election Day 2018

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


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It will take until tonight-- perhaps longer, if there are a number of races that are very close--to know whether the Democrats take back the House or the Republicans succeed in staving off the much talked about blue wave.  Similarly, we will not know until at least tonight whether as predicted the Republicans maintain control of the Senate or the Democrats manage to overcome a difficult electoral map with nearly all the competitive races being held in the Red States and eke out a Senate majority.

 But we already know with near certainty that turnout in these hotly contested mid-term elections will well exceed recent past mid-terms and that is a good thing. Nationally, early voting is on pace to exceed 40 million, doubling the number of early votes in the 2014 mid-term elections.  Additionally, measures of voter enthusiasm which roughly correlate with turnout are far higher than in recent mid-terms. 

Turnout in mid-term elections hovers around 40% of eligible voters. This compares to the about 60% of eligible voters that come out in presidential elections. The composition of the electorate in mid-term elections is usually older and whiter than it is for presidential elections, making it a friendlier electorate for Republicans. The strong indicators are that this traditional Republican advantage will be significantly reduced this year as indicators of enthusiasm and early vote tabulations point to younger voters and minority voters coming to the polls in far greater percentages than years past.

The main reason for this increase in interest and enthusiasm about voting in the mid-term elections are strong feelings about President Trump. While all mid-term elections are in large measure a referendum on the incumbent president, this one is even more so.  And despite the impressive crowds at Trump rallies and the constant talk of his strong base, there are far more likely voters that strongly disapprove of the president than strongly approve of him.  Overall, he remains historically unpopular with only 42% of voters approving of his job performance as opposed to 53% that disapprove, according to 538’s weighted poll average.

 As a result, President Trump putting himself front and center in the closing weeks of the campaign by holding rally after rally at best has been a mixed blessing for Republican candidates. His incendiary anti-immigrant message may be providing some boost in targeted Senate races being held in Red States, but, at the same time, it is repelling independents and moderate Republican suburban voters, reminding them of what they least like about the president. Doing well in these sub-groups are essential for Republican House candidates in most of the competitive districts and the president’s rhetoric and actions are simply unhelpful. These House candidates would much prefer that President Trump stay focused on the good economic news and stay away from divisive cultural issues.

Today, candidates, political parties and organizations on both sides are engaged in the age-old practice of get-out-the-vote.  Thousands of volunteers are knocking on doors, making phone calls and sending out last minute emails and social media messages--all for the purpose of getting their identified supporters to the polls.  Election day activities are the culmination of months of hard work in identifying support and persuading less frequent voters to cast ballots.  With our politics so partisan and polarized, resulting in a declining percentage of swing voters, mobilizing one’s supporters has become perhaps the most important campaign activity.  For those of us. like myself, who have concerns about the strength of our democracy, this robust and vibrant activity by committed volunteers-- no matter what candidate they happen to support --is a welcome sign of health.  And the prospect of higher turnout for this mid-term, whatever the outcome, is a welcome positive sign as well.



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Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island. 


Related Slideshow: 10 Things to Know About Election Day 2018

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Watch for Youth Voter Turnout

Traditionally, young voters are one of the least likely demographics to vote. 

But this year may be different. Early voting in some state is showing heavy turnout for Millenials. 

John Della Volpe of Harvard, Tweeted on November 3 "Early voting is surging for all age groups, but young voters are surging more at this time - In 91% of states, 18-29 share is higher than 2014; in 100% of states, 30-39 share higher. 68% states 1st time share up."

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, approximately 50 percent of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 voted in 2016, despite making up 21 percent of all eligible voters in the United States.

However, younger voter interest has increased in recent years with the rise of Progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders.

"This could be a time when we see an increase in younger voters," URI's Aaron Ley said. "This is a midterm election, and we haven't seen this much interest in a while, since 2006. The carryover from Bernie Sanders could have an impact."

Ley added that he has not seen a large amount of interest in the election from his students at the University of Rhode Island.

"There hasn't been a huge outpouring of enthusiasm from my students so far, but that could be impacted by several factors, including that I'm mostly teaching graduate students," Ley said. "You could ask a different professor and get a completely different response."

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Find Your Polling Place

There are several ways to find out where to vote. The easiest way is to go to the Secretary of State's website, where voters can put in their address to find out their polling place, as well as view and print a sample ballot.

"We're really encouraging voters to go online ahead of time to see their sample ballot, so they know what to expect," said Joseph Graziano, Communications Coordinator for the Rhode Island Secretary of State's Office.

Voters are allowed to bring materials into the polling place with them and can fill out a sample ballot ahead of time if they choose to.

If internet access is unavailable, voters can also locate their polling place by calling their local Board of Canvassers or the Rhode Island Board of Elections. 

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What Do I Do If I'm Told I Cannot Vote?

Issues such as forgetting a proper voter ID or not being found on the polling place's list of voters could cause problems when going to vote.

"As long as you're registered to vote in the state, you still have the right to fill out a ballot," Joseph Graziano, Communications Coordinator for the Rhode Island Secretary of State's Office.

To do so, request a provisional ballot at the polling place.

A provisional ballot is filled out the same way as a regular ballot and is put aside to be verified. The board of canvassers will verify the signature and eligibility on the ballot, and the vote will be counted later. 

To be considered valid for voting, photo IDs must meet certain criteria. It must not be expired, though the address listed does not need to be current.

Valid Forms of ID Include (per the Secretary of State's Office):

  • RI driver’s license/permit 
  • U.S. passport 
  • ID card issued by any federally recognized tribal government 
  • ID card issued by an educational institution in the U.S. 
  • U.S. military ID card 
  • ID card issued by the U.S. government or State of Rhode Island (RIPTA bus pass, etc.) 
  • Government-issued medical card 
  • RI Voter ID card 

A Rhode Island Voter ID card can be obtained from the Rhode Island Department of State.

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Election Results

The age of digital media has created a demand for instant access to information, and the election process is no exception.

"You can find out election results online in real time [after the polls are closed at 8 p.m]," said Dottie McCarthy at the Warwick Board of Canvassers. "New voting machines are wifi-connected and constantly send results to the Board of Elections, which are then posted online. You get the results as fast as we do." 

Official election results must be certified by the State Board of Elections, and are made available on the organization's website. The Board of Elections website states that election night results will be made available after 8 p.m. on Tuesday. 

If a candidate contests the results of a close election, he or she has the right to request a recount. The candidate must fill out a request, have it notarized, and deliver it to the Board of Elections headquarters on Branch Avenue in Providence, where the recount will take place. The public is welcome to attend recounts, which are conducted in the headquarters' lower level warehouse.

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Election Security

Assistant United States Attorney Terrence Donnelly has been appointed to serve as the District Election Officer for Rhode Island for the November 6 general election, announced United States Attorney Stephen Dambruch.

Donnelly will be responsible for overseeing the District’s handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses in consultation with Justice Department Headquarters in Washington.

“The Department of Justice has an important role in deterring election fraud and discrimination at the polls and combating these violations whenever and wherever they occur.  The Department’s long-standing Election Day Program furthers these goals, and also seeks to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the election process by providing local points of contact within the Department for the public to report possible election fraud and voting rights violations while the polls are open on Election Day,” said Dambruch in his press release.

Dambruch added that Donnelly will be on duty in this District while the polls are open.  AUSA Donnelly can be reached by the public at (401) 709-5068.

“The franchise is the cornerstone of American democracy.  We all must ensure that those who are entitled to the franchise exercise it if they choose, and that those who seek to corrupt it are brought to justice,” said Dambruch.

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How Does Weather Impact Voter Turnout? 

The current forecast from The Weather Channel shows a chance of unsettled weather on election day, with the chance of scattered thunderstorms between 40-90 percent from about 10 AM into the evening.

Traditional political wisdom says inclement weather causes a slump in voter turnout. But, much of the morning on primary day this year rain came pouring down and did not seem to impact turnout when the voting day was done.

"Usually, the research we see surrounding this phenomenon [of bad weather] focuses around the general election over the primary. Primary elections are a whole different animal, so it will be interesting to see if that carries over," said Aaron Ley, Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

"A lot of times we see larger concentrations of Democratic voters in urban areas, which can make it harder to get out in bad weather. These polling places tend to be more crowded because they're in the city. People are going to be less inclined to wait in a long line if it's raining."

The journal Frontiers in Psychology published a study in 2017 that looked at the link between voters turnout and temperature. The study's authors examined voter data from 1960 to 2016, to examine the impacts of both turnout and voter outcome based on temperature.

With each increase of one degree Celcius, voter turnout also increased by 0.14 percent. In addition, the study concluded that temperature-based increases in voters are largely motived by those pushing for political change.

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Emergency Ballots

Emergency ballots are available to anyone who requests one, regardless of the nature of the "emergency."

A voter unable to make it to the polling place on election day can apply for an emergency ballot through the day before the election. Emergency ballot requests can be completed at the voter's local city or town hall. Once the application is submitted, the emergency ballot will be distributed and can be filled out the same way as a traditional ballot. 

Once completed, the ballot must be placed in an oath envelope and signed. Two witnesses or a notary must be present at the signing.

Emergency ballots must be submitted to the Board of Elections before 8 p.m. on election night. The completed ballot can be left with the city or town clerk, who will submit it. The ballot can also be hand-delivered or mailed to the Board of Elections by the voter.

More information on emergency ballots is available here.

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2018 Election Race Compared to 2014

In 2014, 324,055 Rhode Islanders cast their vote for Governor.

Gina Raimondo tallied 131,899 votes for 40.7%

Allan Fung: 117,428 36.2%

Bob Healey: 69,278 21.4%

Two other candidates and write-ins were less than 2%

According to the Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University, incumbent governors are successful when seeking re-election just over 72 percent of the time. 

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Biggest Races

There are some significant competitive races that will help to define the future of Rhode Island. Some of the biggest races to watch are:

United States Senate: Sheldon Whitehouse (D) and Bob Flanders (R)

Governor: Gina Raimondo (D), Allan Fung (R) and Joe Trillo (I)

Providence Mayor: Jorge Elorza (D) and Dianne "Dee Dee" Witman (I)

House District 15: Nick Mattiello (D) and Steve Frias (R)

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Watch GoLocal LIVE for Election Night Coverage 

GoLocalProv is your election night headquarters.

Watch GoLocal LIVE all day and night as the latest results come in and to hear input from Rhode Island's leading political minds.

In studio includes:

* Spencer Sullivan, Washington, D.C. political consultant

* Brendan Doherty, Former State Police Commissioner and  Congressional Candidate

* Rob Horowitz, Democratic Consultant

* Ray Rickman, Former State Representative and civil rights leader

* Joseph Molina Flynn. RI Latino PAC President

* Val Endress, Professor of Communications, Rhode Island College

* Lincoln Chafee, Former United States Senator, Rhode Island Governor, and Mayor of Warwick

On Wednesday, GoLocal will have follow-up an analysis from University of Virginia Political Science Professor Jennifer Lawless and former Providence Journal editorial page editor and now GoLocal columnist Bob Whitcomb.

Reporters will be stationed at campaign headquarters around the state, bringing up-to-the-minute information.

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Tip Line

If you see something that needs news coverage call GoLocal at (401) 522-9007.

Press the number for the correct departments as follows:

1 - Tipline
2 - Newsroom
8 - Employee Directory

Or email us at news@golocalprov.com


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