Deep-diving for truth in numbers in the JOCO election juggernaut

How Mass Mail-In Voting Changes Everything. “When the emphasis in elections shifts from turning out conventional in-person voters to chasing mail-in ballots, we have entered a qualitatively different electoral world than the one we inhabited before.”
– William Doyle, The American Conservative, Dec. 26, 2023.

JOHNSON COUNTY – Everyone claims to want integrity in their elections, but the road to proving it one way or another can be a tough one without real numbers and real context. The massive weight Johnson County throws around in state elections, not to mention the decision for a U.S. Congressman in the 3rd District, demand these numbers and mechanics be understood by policy makers.

On Tuesday the Kansas Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs held a hearing on SB 365, which would require all advance ballots be returned by 7 PM on election day. Senate President Ty Masterson was the first to testify in favor of the bill. View the testimony of those for and against the bill here.

This hearing and other hearings about elections often have discussions on the topic, but few statistics from any election for guidance. Better business accounting metrics on elections would help decision makers in the Kansas Legislature.

Stats for Advance Voting in Johnson County from the Nov. 2023 election are shown below, which might be helpful.

For example, SB 365 if enacted would have affected 3,439 ballots returned to the Johnson County Election Office after the Nov. 7, 2023 election.

But, what would similar data from elections prior to 2017 show, which is what we’ll return to if SB 365 is enacted? Time series are often better than a single point for making decisions.

As far as I know, advance data from elections prior to 2017 are not available. Was there a statewide problem in 2017 that was measured by actual data? Is the sky really falling if we return to 2017 deadlines as those on the left claim?

A total of 343 ballots were not counted in Nov. 2023 in JoCo (see below). How does that compare to other years and is there a trend?

There were 121 ballots postmarked after election day and were rejected. Prior to 2017 did election offices tally how mail ballots were returned past the deadline?

Where are the stats on the ballots mailed and returned as undeliverable by the post office?

In Sept. 2023 the JoCo Election Office mailed out 417,856 advance ballot applications, which cost over $65,000. Over 375,000 of those applications were wasted since only 42,381 ballots were mailed to voters!

Why are exorbitant fees charged for voter data (compared to many states), which can impede interested citizens from monitoring what is going on in the election process?

For those on the political left, why are the deadlines for mail ballots being returned on election day different than other deadlines faced in many aspects of society?

(* Editors note: click boxes for graphs below – they may not transmit visually in this website file)


Nov 2023 JoCo Election Stats

Shown below are advance voting statistic from the Johnson County Nov. 2023 election.

The Sent, Returned, and Early Voter stats were derived from 34 files created by the JoCo Election office and sold to anyone wanting to buy them:

  • 12 Mail Ballots Sent files from 10/18 through 11/2,
  • 14 Mail Ballots Returned files from 10/24 through 11/10, and
  • 8 Early Voter files sent from 10/28 through 11/6.

For each of these three sets, there is a summary table followed by charts showing breakdowns by gender and age, and party and age.


Mail Ballots Sent: 42,348

Note the number of unique voters IDs above (42,348) was less than the number of ballots sent (42,381). There were 33 more sent ballots than voter IDs when analyzing all the data, even though there were no discrepancies in the analysis of any single date.

Diane Burnette, JoCo Election Office, provided the explanation:

These are all replacements where we had to reject the first ballot and issue another one.


Mail Ballots Returned: 30,178

There were 11 more returned ballots than voter IDs when analyzing all the data, even though there were no discrepancies in analyzing any single date.

Diane Burnette, JoCo Election Office, provided the explanation:

These are voters that were sent replacements and the replacement has now been returned. 
1st ballot was returned, rejected and second has been returned, provisional

Tuesday, Nov. 7 was election day. Current law allows returned mail ballots postmarked by election day to be counted until Friday, Nov. 10.

So, 26,750 ballots (88.61%) were returned on election day or before, and 3,439 ballots (11.39%) were returned after election day but on or before the Friday deadline.

If voters understood the deadline rules, it’s likely a number of these 3,439 ballots could have been cast earlier, or voted in person, and still be counted had the rules been different.

Note: The category counts below differ by as many as 8 from the table above for technical reasons.


Early Voters – Ballots Cast in Person: 28,387


JoCo Advance Voting Summary

An “UpSet plot” provides similar information as shown in a Venn diagram, but is often easier to interpret, especially when there are many sets being compared.

The blue horizontal bars at the lower left are the sets to be compared, which would be the circles in a Venn diagram. The black vertical bars show the set intersections.

The first vertical bar shows 30,178 ballots were sent and returned.

The second black bar column shows 28,386 ballots were cast in person before election day.

The third column shows 12,169 ballots were sent and never returned.

The fourth column suggests one ballot was sent to a voter and the voter also voted early. Diane Burnett, JoCo Election Office, explains this case:

This is a voter that requested a mail ballot, but went to Early Vote before it went in the mail. We pulled the ballot and did not mail it and deleted it from her record. The ballot did not go in the mail, but was on the list that went out early in the morning

Here we mix Nov. 10 advance totals with the final election turnout totals.

The 28,387 early voters represented 23.28% of the final turnout.

The 30,178 mail ballots returned represented about 24.75% of the final turnout.

Overall, advance turnout was 48.03%.

Sadly, in Johnson County there is no separate accounting for exactly what happened on election day. One must subtract the advance numbers from the overall totals to back into election day statistics: about 52% voted in person on election day.


Ballots Not Counted: 343

The Johnson County Election Office archive page shows a “CG2023 Canvass Summary” file for issues discussed in the final canvass by the Board of County Commissioners.

The last page shows reasons why 343 ballots were not counted.

Only 20 ballots were rejected for voter signatures not matching the signature on the envelope.

How does a 0.06% rejection rate on over 30,000 signatures compare across other elections and other localities? Do we mostly have an “honor system” for signature verification for mail ballots?


Related

Nearly 418,000 Advance Mail Ballot Applications sent to "active" voters in Johnson County for the Nov. 2023 General Election costing almost $129,000Nearly 418,000 Advance Mail Ballot Applications sent to “active” voters in Johnson County for the Nov. 2023 General Election costing almost $129,000EARL F GLYNN·SEPTEMBER 12, 2023Read full story

How Mass Mail-In Voting Changes Everything. When the emphasis in elections shifts from turning out conventional in-person voters to chasing mail-in ballots, we have entered a qualitatively different electoral world than the one we inhabited before.
William Doyle, The American Conservative, Dec. 26, 2023.

Check online for revisions and updates.

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Earl Glynn – Watchdog Lab

Earl F. Glynn is a mostly-retired data scientist, scientific programmer, software engineer and physical scientist living in the Kansas City metro area, and the publisher of the substack Watchdog Lab.

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