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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Thursday, March 6
Uncounted Ballots & Ohio's Delegate Math
Yeterday, I raised some questions regarding as-yet-uncounted ballots in Ohio -- specifically, the number of provisional, residual, and absentee ballots that aren't included in the official vote totals. In this post, I discuss how these ballots could actually affect the result of yesterday's election, despite the clear margin by which Senator Clinton won the statewide popular vote.

Of Ohio's 141 pledged delegates, 92 are to be assigned based on the vote within congressional districts, as set forth here on the Green Papers site. You can find a map of Ohio CD's here. [Update 3/7/08: Green Papers' Ohio page has now been updated to include the most recent vote totals.] Current unofficial votes totals for each district can be found here on the Ohio Secretary of State's site. CNN's current estimate is that Clinton will net 10 delegates from Ohio.

Based on the latest district-by-district vote totals, I find two congressional districts in which a realistic change from the unofficial results could affect the allocation of delegates.

- CD 1 (Cincinnati area, 4 delegates). Senator Obama has 62.32% of the votes cast for qualifying candidates (i.e., himself and Senator Clinton). If he were to get over 62.50%, he'd get 3 and she would get 1; if not, they split them 2-2. For Obama, picking up a third delegate would require an additional 512 votes.

- CD 17 (7 delegates, northeastern Ohio). Senator Clinton currently has 64.24% of the votes cast for qualifying candidates. If she can pick up enough votes to get to 64.29%, she'd get 5 to his 2; if she stays below this threshold, she gets 4 to his 3. For Clinton to pick up a fifth delegate would require an additional 242 votes.

Each of these scenarios would result in a net change of two delegates, since one candidate would be gaining a delegate and the other losing a delegate. Note that both scenarios assume that the other candidate wouldn't pick up any additional delegates, which isn't realistic; but if the candidate could pick up enough votes relative to his or her opponent, it's possible. What this means is that changes in vote totals might affect delegate allocation in Ohio, particularly when provisional ballots are counted. It's also possible that a recount of paper ballots cast in optical-scan counties could result in additional votes being counted. Could we even see litigation over one or both of these districts, say over the counting of provisional ballots or the recounting of residual votes? I doubt it, since it's probably not worth the resources it would take to litigate such an issue for a two-delegate swing, but in the current environment I suppose you never know.

Interestingly, in the district where the two candidates are running closest -- my own district, CD 15, where Senator Clinton currently has 55,070 votes to Senator Obama's 54,544 -- who "wins" is inconsequential. That's because this district has 4 allotted delegates, which they'll split down the middle.

[Note: If you come across any errors in the above post -- particularly a mathematical error, which is quite possible since my algebra is a bit rusty -- I'd be grateful for your calling them to my attention.]

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