Tuesday, November 07, 2023

What to Watch For in the Election Night Results in Cincinnati

For news junkies like myself, election night gives off a holiday eve vibe with lots to get exited about.  Here is a list of what I look for:

What time will the initial results come in from the Hamilton County Board of Election? The board of election reports actual voting results as fast as it can, but the first report is what I call "The Flop." This initial report is of no election day votes, but does include nearly all of the absentee and early voting results.  Under the old punch-card system, the BOE would report these results in a few minutes after the polls close.  Since we changed to an optical scan system around 20ish years ago, they don't move as fast.    I like to guess the time it posts, a friendly game to play while we wait for results.  For most elections it is within 30 minutes of polls closing.  After The Flop the next time to look any additional results is when the first precincts are reported.  That time is widely variable and has far more elements and people to determine when that information is reported. I don't expect those before an hour after polls close.  Unless there were long lines or other delays with certain precincts, all of the precincts are reported by midnight. There are still some absentee mail ballots pending for days and the provisional ballots, which have many other steps to go before all votes are tabulated.  This can take many days.

What will the Flop tell us about who will win? In the past The Flog was mostly just mail in votes, but since Obama's first election in 2008 this has grown bigger. Early voting has become a normally large portion of voting, especially for Democrats.  For Ohio the tilt to Democratic voters is still a clear variation, but the variances now are not as drastic as 2020, but still show a clear lean for Democrats.

For County or lower level races this gives a very telling snapshot, depending on the snap shot.  In the case of the City of Cincinnati, it really sets the table on any likely outcome.  For all of the City elections you should have a very clear idea of possible outcomes and likely the winners.

There are two main factors to consider: 1)What area does the race cover and 2) what is the variance between choices in the race.  For example, let's look at Issue 23 with fairly uncontroversial elements. This issue covers the City of Cincinnati only.  This means that the City results are what to watch.  The City is heavily Democratic, so The Flop is providing a more common representation of the overall vote.  The variance between the Yes/No results is then considered. There is no magic number or chart to check, but the bigger the lead one result has, the more likely it will win, no matter what variance may occurr with the election day vote base. For Issue 23 if is winning 58% to 42% after the Flop, it will win. If it is winning 52% to 48%, then odds are good it will win, but not as good.  The closer it gets, the more the electorate on election day could sway.  One VERY IMPORTANT thing to remember, these odds are not going to be enough in most cases to call the race.  The number of votes out there will be such that the other side "could" still win.  Issue 22 is one race that has less predictability on it, as the variation of which voting blocks are for or against the issue are not clearly drawn. That being said, on any ballot issue in the City, you NEVER want to be behind on the Flop. This ends up being a situation when people confuse possibility with probability.  This happens to often.

For the City Council race, with a non-binary voting options, the issues are different.  The gaps between each candidate then become the first question.  After the Flop the key issue is the vote result gap.  How far out is the 10th place from the top 9 places.  The bigger the gap, the smaller the chance that #10 can over take that candidate. The next question would the voting blocks each candidate relies upon. For the Democrats this year, they have the Dem Ticket and that block is strong. If they have all 9 slots and Republican Keating is last, her gap needs to be very small with the 9th place to give her the chance to pick up the small influx of Republican voters on election day (vs early voting). If Keating is not in 10th Place, she would be in a great position to win.  The higher she is in order, the more she locks in finishing in the top 9. There is far less certainty is this type of race, so less certainty comes from the Flop. If this was a mayoral election, it would be a different story.

What about State Wide Issues? Hamilton County results are not going to be an indication of anything alone with State wide issues, but there is an expectation game.  On Issues 1 and 2 HamCo would be expected to beat the polling numbers for those issues to pass.  That gets more pressing when look at just the City of Cincinnati results.  The same factors on what will happen can come from The Flop, but then the party swing with early voting becomes a bigger factor. What this means:  If the Yes polling result for Issue 1 is 58% for the State, Hamilton County should be significantly higher on that for it occur.  That direction is what should be examined.  When The Flop happens, Issue 1 should be dominating the county. Then as the election day results come in, when more Republican voters go to the polls, the Yes percentage should drop.  There is no set number to watch for, beyond The Flop. If they Flop is close or less than the polling numbers, that is a indicator of where things are going.  Again, this is not anything definitive on actual results, but it can tell you that the polling was off.

Where are the Election Night Parties? Ok, this is one that is far less fun than it used to be. Firstly it is less fun for me as I've gotten much older and can't stay out late.  The other reason is the toxic state of politics.  In the past, you could be friendly with those that don't agree with your politics.  Today, it is very difficult to put aside politics and be humans.  This is even true within political parties as well as between political parties. The negative and very nasty way the Anti-Issue 22 campaign waged demonstrated this more than anything.  It is so toxic.  I've seen people behave so terribly online with this campaign that it is very troublesome.  People could put aside the conflict once the polls close.  I will do my best to hold my tongue when Issue 24 crash and burns, but there are political groups who just spew so much negativity, I am not going to consider myself congenial if I just say nothing at all.