Wonky Wednesday: Election Day Voting 2021 General Election

Welcome back to #wonkywednesday. Every week I take a write a column dedicated to election and registration data in Onondaga County and New York State. Election Day voting has changed dramatically over the last two years with the addition of Early Voting giving voters another option starting in 2019. Furthermore, the pandemic has increased voters’ reliance on mail-in balloting. Election Day voting is still the preferred method of most voters. This week I investigate the data behind Onondaga County’s Election Day voters.

For the 2021 General Election, Election Day vote accounted for over 83% of the overall vote, by far the most popular option. Early Voting only accounted for 10% of the vote and Absentee voting 6% of the vote. Of the 78,564 votes cast on Election Day, Democrats and Republicans nearly tied in turnout consisting of 37% of the electorate each. Democrats make up 38% of the electorate of Onondaga County so they slightly underperformed. The GOP slightly makes up over 27% of the electorate of the county so they significantly over performed on Election Day. Once again, the blank or non-enrolled underperformed as they account for 27% of the electorate but only 20% of the Election Day vote.

The reforms of 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly decreased the election day portions. It is notable that during the presidential election only 51% of the electorate voted on Election Day, however in a time before vaccines amid a pandemic and in a high turnout election it is not the best comparison. The best comparison remains to 2019 and we do see a drop off in Election Day participation. The overall raw numbers drop from 95,352 in 2019 to 78,564 in 2021 is mostly due to a lower turnout year in 2021. The percentage of voters choosing Election Day though is lower as well. A drop of over 5% means voters are getting use to the alternative voting methods in Early and increase use of absentees. This is likely to continue to drop over time.

Eight of the top ten polling places throughout Onondaga County are located outside the City of Syracuse. Suburban sites usually have more parking and can accommodate more people than city sites that must account for more pedestrian traffic. The two city sites, Bellevue Heights and American Valley Legion are results of poll site consolidations due to COVID restrictions on senior homes and the wish to get out of some public schools. When we look at evaluating polling sites and whether to add more sites it may be to lessen the burdens on these large sites. All of these sites have extra inspectors and ballot on demand printers to help accommodate the crowds.

Polls are open between 6am and 9pm on Election Day, the longest day in the United States. This graph shows the number of votes cast in the previous hour on Election Day. Though polls close at 9pm there are a small number of votes cast after 9pm since voters in line at close of polls are allowed to check-in and cast ballots. This data is new and made possible by our Knowink Poll Pads poll books which were implement in the 2019 General Election. This year we saw a steady increase of voters throughout the morning Cresting after work and then falling dramatically. Last year we saw a dramatically different pattern with long lines in the morning and falling all day long. Unfortunately, our 2019 data was never saved for the hourly performance, so we are unable to make that comparison. Still the wildly changing patterns make it difficult to determine proper staffing levels on a shift basis and that is why we rely on all day inspectors.

That is it for this week. Next week on #wonkywednesday I will look at the polarization of voting methods over the last three years. The much-discussed Red Mirage vs Blue shift that we have seen as races change after Election night and the reasons why that is.


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