From the EPEC Team Newsletter:
After 45 days of early voting, and based on live feeds from localities to Virginia’s Dept. of Elections, Democrats held the Commonwealth assembly by capturing 21 seats in senate races on Election Day to Republicans’ 19 Senate seats.
Many of the races were decided by 1,000 votes or less, including for House Districts, of which Democrats gained control with 51 seats won to 48 for the Republicans.
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As of Thursday, House District 82 was still officially undecided with the incumbent, Republican Kim Taylor ahead by 228 votes with 14,201 or 50.32% of the total vote. Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams had 13,973, or 49.51% of the tally.
According to the Daily Absentee List, 866 ballots are listed as “issued” for the district. The deadline to receive them is Friday. The deadline for local election results certification and provisional ballots is next Tuesday, Nov. 14th.
The Dept. of Elections’ DAL shows 104,769 absentee ballots are still in “issued” mode as of Thursday, Nov. 9.
Another close race for Virginia House District 89 was decided with Republican Baxter Ennis being named the winner after he reportedly received 14,514 votes, or 51% of the vote, while his Democratic opponent Karen Jenkins received 13,773 votes, with 93% of precincts reporting.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said the close results and ultracompetitive races reflected Virginia’s “history of alternating between Democratic and Republican control” as he pledged to work with the next assembly.
Election Day results had their share of glitches across other states and commonwealths, such as vote-flipping in ES&S touch-screens in Pennsylvania, and pollbook problems in Kentucky.
In Louisville, 17 polling districts experienced issues with their electronic poll books, in which voters sign in to cast their ballots, reported local CBS News affiliate WLKY. As a result, the districts resorted to using paper rosters to sign in voters, JustTheNews.com reported.
Virginia reported no major issues throughout. The issues it continues to grapple with are more about process, such as whether the VERIS system is allowing voters to be assigned multiple voter IDs, which EPEC has documented here and here and will be following up after the 2023 General Election results are finalized.
What About the Oscillating Vote Tallies on Election Night?
EPEC’s monitoring of Dept. of Elections’ live voting feed on election night, the same feed that VPAP.org and other outlets use, has raised a few questions on how the initial reports of vote tallies are managed.
EPEC’s tech lead Jon Lareau logged all of the election night return files posted by the VA department of elections (“ELECT”) at 5 minute increments on Election Day in order to plot the results over time as the numbers came in later that night.
The data is from this link on ELECT’s website: https://enr.elections.virginia.gov/results/public/api/elections/Virginia/2023-Nov-Gen/files/json
The data feed used a simple wget script to grab this file once every 5 minutes (approximately).
However, when time came to plot the results, EPEC found some data curves that defy explanation. Take, for example, the VA House of Delegates race in the 22nd District, which Lareau plotted straight from the Dept. of Elections feed:
When accumulating counts of ballots, one does not expect vote tallies to go down, let alone oscillate back and forth.
But that’s what we see in the results.
Election technology experts would point out that raw data coming into the main voting database, in this case VERIS, can be filled with errors in the rush to get results out across thousands of voting precincts. That’s fair.
Your humble EPEC volunteers have been a part of that process of transporting the thumb drives with the results of the ballot scans from the precinct to the locality, which then reports out to the state. The goal is to be swift, but accurate to get the thumb drives delivered to the central reporting district in the intense phase that follows the closing of polls. There is a lot to do. We realize errors may happen while the results are being transferred from thumb drives to the central database.
But the way the results fluctuated up and down among Republican and Democrat votes, as if in tandem in some data plots, warrants a closer look. For example here’s how House District 70 race was plotted as the results came in:
This is not the only race where Lareau found ballot curves that have a decrease in one of the ballot counts after a data update. Of the 183 races whose data feed he looked at so far, 79 had a ballot trace that had its count total reduced after a data update.
Here are a few more examples:
Again, one expects some issues and corrections to the election night reporting data. But when 43% of the races sampled have obvious data quality issues like this, we think it deserves some explanation. EPEC has reached out to the Dept. of Elections to ask:
- Why do 79 (and counting) races (~43% of races sampled) in the VA election night reporting have obvious issues where the vote totals decreased after a data reporting update?
- What was the cause?
- Why was it not caught by your QA/QC procedures?
- How will you be addressing it going forward?