Obama Got Zero Votes in At Least 38 Precincts in 2012

Mitt Romney’s failure to receive any reported votes in 49 Philadelphia election precincts in 2012 has been viewed suspiciously by some commentators, including Donald Trump, who recently said:  “Philadelphia is one that’s mentioned.  I think Romney got no votes and McCain got no votes.  I mean, like no votes, and Philadelphia is certainly one.”

Professor Stephen Ansolabehere and I decided to examine whether there were a significant number of precincts in which President Obama likewise received no votes.  We do not believe anyone has systematically looked at this issue before, because you need election return data by precinct throughout the country.  We limited ourselves to precincts in which at least 20 votes were cast and used the Harvard Election Data Archive.  On an initial estimate, we found at least 38 precincts with more than 20 votes cast in which Obama received no votes.  Twenty-one of these were in Kansas; another 10 were in Texas.

But this initial estimate probably understates the total number.  The data set does not have data on four states – Utah, Nevada, Florida and Indiana — where it would seem quite likely there were additional precincts in which no votes were cast for Obama, particularly rural precincts or those in the panhandle area of northern FL.    By limiting our count to precincts with more than 20 voters, we have inevitably left out a lot of rural precincts that might well have had zero Obama votes; this story indicates there were Utah precincts, for example, that voted 17-0, 14-0, and 14-0, for Romney.

So even without Utah, Nevada, Florida, and Indiana in the count, we found 38 precincts of more than 20 votes with no Obama votes.  By the way, those 49 precincts in Philadelphia had, on average, 338 total votes cast in each of them – people sometimes think precincts are much larger than is often the case.

As a separate matter, as others have noted, because Democratic voters tend to be more geographically concentrated than Republican ones, we would expect to see more Democratic precincts than Republican ones in which the opposite-party candidate received very few or no votes.

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