Yet another item to add to Florida’s list

Turns out, there’s plenty of “that” to fix in Florida’s elections.  One more item to add to the list: how results are reported.  There’s been growing concern about results reported in St. Lucie County (one of the counties in the Patrick Murphy-Allen West race), with allegations of massive fraud due to a purported 141% turnout rate.

It actually turns out that the turnout rate in St. Lucie was about 70% of registered voters, well in line with the rest of Florida’s results.  But St. Lucie first posted its official results tabulating the number of voters and the number of “cards” cast — 175,554 voters and 247,713 “cards,” fueling the conspiracy theories.

There’s an explanation far simpler than massive fraud: St. Lucie had a two-page ballot this cycle (with races on both front and back of each of the two pages); each page of the ballot was listed as a separate “card.”  Some voters didn’t complete both cards (the second page was entirely lengthy ballot initiatives), so the number of cards isn’t exactly twice the number of voters.  But some voters did complete both cards, leaving the number of “cards” well over the number of total voters — and to some, looking like solid evidence of fraud.

For President, St. Lucie initially reported 124,031 ballots cast, which looks a whole lot more normal than the total number of “cards.”  The kerfuffle seems to be a product of observers misunderstanding data and leaping to conclusions, something I’ve noted in other contexts before.  But St. Lucie’s reporting structure certainly didn’t help.  Might well be time to put some more prominent disclaimers on the front page of the election-night reporting spreadsheet, to prevent similar confusion in the next election.

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