PEW CENTER: Higher rates of residual votes found in Florida among African-American, Hispanic, and senior voters

October 1, 2010
Paul Gronke, Charles Stewart III, James Hicks

This report describes a project that examined the residual vote rates in the state of Florida’s 2008 presidential preference primary, taking advantage of a state law that, for a time, required all jurisdictions to report over- and under-votes at the precinct level.

Our findings are these:
1. Precinct-level data significantly enhance the ability for elections officials and researchers to evaluate system performance and identify potential trouble spots in the elections ecosystem.
2. Though comprehensive, low-level elections data are generally available, local jurisdictions do not always make them accessible. Finding the right person to speak to –– not always the Supervisor or Director –– is typically crucial to obtaining the desired data.
3. The wide range of data formats significantly hampers research at this level.
4. In keeping with past research, over- vote rates are highest where ballots are counted at a central location (i.e., absentee voting).
5. In parts of Florida, a high concentration of African-American, Hispanic, and in some cases senior voters, is correlated with higher residual vote rates.