Using Voter Registration to Predict Votes for President

Updated March 17th, 2017

In mid-2014, Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy helpfully published a listing of all then-available data on state voter registration:

I was curious to what degree this info could be used to retroactively predict the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election.

If you quickly glance at their list, you might wonder where Alabama is. Well, Alabama doesn’t require party registration (as the chart title suggests). The same is true of Mississippi and of Georgia. Due to these omissions, you might think that this undertaking already doesn’t make much sense. There are still 31 states listed, though, so it could still be an interesting exercise.

So, how do we go about figuring out prediction rate? My solution was to first figure out the differences between percentages of registered Republicans and Democrats in each state. For example, the difference here in Arizona is 29.5% Democrat vs 34.8% Republican for a roughly 5 percentage point Republican advantage. Ultimately, Trump won the state by 3.6 percentage points. So, not too bad for Arizona.

I then performed that calculation for all 31 states that require voter registration compared to the Clinton/Trump outcome by state. The results are here:

The states where registration is most predictive:
NJ — 1.0 percentage point difference (ppd)
AZ — 1.6 ppd
AK — 1.7 ppd
ME — 1.9 ppd

And where it’s least predictive:
OK — 38.0 ppd
LA — 39.4 ppd
KY — 45.1 ppd
WV — 63.7 ppd

Some of these numbers are obviously incredibly high. Why? Well, look at Democratic registration in some of these states that are obviously red states:

State — Dem — GOP
OK — 44.7% — 43.2%
LA — 47.4% — 27.8%
KY — 53.9% — 38.5%
WV — 50.3% — 28.8%

I’m tempted to think that this has something to do with the Dixiecrats.

But if we look at states Dixiecrat chief Strom Thurmond won in 1948, only Louisiana tracks with that hypothesis:
State — Percentage of Vote Won
MS — 87.2%
AL — 79.8%
SC — 72%
LA — 49.1%.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Louisiana is the only state of those four that requires party registration.

On the other hand, Thurmond hugely lost those other states with unexpectedly high Democratic registration, getting…
under 1% of the vote in Oklahoma (Truman won the state with 63%),
under 1% in West Virginia (Truman won the state with 57%), and
1.3% in Kentucky (Truman also won with 57%).

Putting aside for now an explanation for why some of these states have unexpectedly high Democratic registration, what are we left with?

Well, even with the outliers, this method is 71% predictive with a mean state predictive score of 12.8. Not bad but not great. And if we remove those four biggest outliers, we get a more respectable 81.5% predictiveness with a mean state predictive score of 7.8. A little better but of questionable usefulness.

Regardless of that dubious utility, I maintain that the exercise was interesting in itself. Perhaps residents of some of these outlier states will stumble across this info and throw in their two cents for an explanation. Is it that they all have a lot of old timers who never bothered to change registration because cross-party voting isn’t a problem in those states? Is there some other reason?

Keep in mind too that California’s result was 15 percentage points different from expectation based on voter registration. How come? I don’t know. Feel free to chime in if you think you know.

2000 Census and Redistricting

The 2001–2002 round of congressional redistricting was the most incumbent-friendly in modern American history, as many pundits have noted. But the new district lines not only insulated incumbents from competition. They also froze into place a key feature of the 1990s districts that has escaped the notice of the press, political scientists, and most redistricting attorneys and experts: a “distributional bias” that gives Republicans a roughly 50-seat head start in the battle for control of Congress. In combination, these two features — extreme protection of incumbents and a powerful pro-Republican bias — might prevent Democrats from regaining control of Congress in this decade even if public opinion shifts heavily in their favor.

Sam Hirsch, The United States House of Unrepresentatives: What Went Wrong in the Latest Round of Congressional Redistricting, Election Law Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, 2003

Arizona Voter Registration 1924-2016

Updated February 20th, 2017


  • Democratic registration has fallen from 40% in 1998 to 30% in 2016
  • Republican registration has fallen from 45% in 1998 to 35% in 2016
  • Independent registration has risen from 14% in 1998 to 34% in 2016
  • Greens have ranged between .13% and .20%
  • Libertarians have ranged between .58% and .87%


    View in Google Docs.


    Independents: Cans and can’ts

    • Can vote in partisan primaries but must select either a Democratic or Republican ballot and stick with it.
    • Can’t jump between parties. Even if on the permanent early-voting list, must let elections officials know each election cycle which ballot they want.
    • Can’t vote in the Presidential Preference Election.

Ona Judge

George Washington and the Slave Who Got Away – History in the Headlines

As America’s most beloved founding father, George Washington has long been credited with having a relatively enlightened outlook on the issue of slavery. Most famously, when he died in 1799, the former president freed all 123 slaves he owned in his will.

As America’s most beloved founding father, George Washington has long been credited with having a relatively enlightened outlook on the issue of slavery. Most famously, when he died in 1799, the former president freed all 123 slaves he owned in his will. But Washington notably did not free the 153 slaves owned by his wife, all of whom remained the property of her inheritors when she died. Three years earlier, one of Martha Washington’s slaves, Ona Judge, had liberated herself, slipping out of the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia and onto a ship bound for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Though Washington soon tracked her down and tried to get her back, Judge eluded his efforts, and would live out the rest of her days in freedom. She is featured in a new exhibition at Washington’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon, and is the subject of a new biography published this week.

US Holocaust Museum Poster Gets Patron “Shook”

I’ve been seeing this post floating around a lot lately. I was curious about the origins, so I called the Holocaust Museum. I got transferred to a guy named Luke who I think was in “exhibitions.” I asked if this was still on exhibit. He said it was never on exhibit, but that it was available in the gift shop. He then said that it was no longer being sold in the gift shop. I hadn’t realized the price tag on some of the images. Of course, there it is!

Turns out the list comes from a gentleperson named Laurence W. Britt who fleshed out these points in a March 2003 issue of Free Inquiry magazine. The full text appears to be included here. Britt is referred to there as a political scientist, but there doesn’t appear to be anything available on the web to suggest that he’s more than an aficionado.

He wrote the op-ed in the context of the Bush administration. Here’s the conclusion of an interview he gave to a Rochester paper in December 2004 (worth a read, I’d say):

City: Looking at the world right now, do you consider the US a fascist state?

Britt: No. By definition it’s a democracy. My article is a cautionary tale. This is what I’ve researched; this is what I’ve seen; this is what’s happened in the past. You can draw your own conclusions: No, this has nothing to do with the United States; or, there are some disquieting trends here that we certainly have to be aware of, and the powers that be exhibit many of these characteristics, and we’d better damn well be careful.

One thing I’d add is that most of these attributes would probably be ascribed to the other side by people of any political persuasion who felt disenfranchised to some degree.

Ultimately, I think US politics wastes far too much energy on political maneuvering and expends far too little on governance. If you’re devoting any energy whatsoever to trying to personally discredit an opponent by whatever means available, then you’re wasting energy that should be used on trying to make the city, state, country, and world better.

I think the answer is to let AI run things. We’ve trusted humans with government for far, far too long. Experts from relevant fields should reach a consensus on various policies and these policies should be implemented by computers. The computers should be overseen by other computers. Those computers should be overseen by technicians who have no idea what the computers do so that they cannot consciously or unconsciously influence their functioning.

Humans simply should not be allowed anywhere near the government. We can’t handle it. Maybe in a world where every person undergoes at least two decades of rigorous critical thinking education humans stood a chance. This isn’t that world.

Liberal Cannibalization Update

First, let’s get this out of the way: Congress has a low approval rating. Why? The main reason is partisan gridlock.

So what would happen, as a congressperson, if you voted in such a way that you might be perceived as less partisan? It might go something like this:

The Intercept: “Fourteen senate Democrats joined all but one Senate Republican in confirming Rep. Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director on Monday evening, failing a crucial first test of whether Democrats would present a united front to defend human rights and civil liberties in the Trump era.”

Common Dreams: “With Help from Dems, Torture Supporter Pompeo Confirmed for CIA Chief”

A bit of reality (not mentioned in either of the above articles) from Vice:

Democrats do not have many tools at their disposal other than delays. Even if Democrats embraced a strategy of unified resistance, the 52 Republicans don’t need any of the 48 Democratic votes to confirm all of Trump’s nominees. In 2013, Democrats changed the rules requiring a 60-vote majority for such confirmations to only needing a simple majority.

The article goes on to say how much many liberal activists love Kirsten Gillibrand for not bending to the will of Trump. Of course liberals should vote for her in 2020 if she’s the candidate. If left-leaning people want to take back the government, though, they need to vote for the most liberal candidate who can get elected, even if that’s someone they don’t agree with 100% (which, face it, isn’t possible). Moreover, they should focus their criticisms on that person’s opponent rather than on the candidate (at least until that candidate is elected).

From Elizabeth Warren on why she voted to confirm Ben Carson: 

Can we count on Dr. Carson to keep [his] promises? I don’t know. People are right to be skeptical; I am. But a man who makes written promises gives us a toehold on accountability. If President Trump goes to his second choice, I don’t think we will get another HUD nominee who will even make these promises – much less follow through on them.

From Vox:

There’s also the strong institutional pull for Democrats to follow historical precedent and let the president choose his Cabinet nominees. In its history, the Senate has only voted down nine presidential Cabinet nominees, according to Josh Huder, a congressional scholar at Georgetown. Almost all of President Obama’s picks sailed through in 2009 without much resistance. And that was at a time when Republicans in the minority could still filibuster them — meaning they could have blocked them, but didn’t.

It may be helpful to revisit a bit more of the Intercept/Common Dreams thinking that helped elect Trump. Here’s Jill Stein on October 12th last year:

It is now Hillary Clinton that wants to start an air war with Russia over Syria by calling for a no fly zone. We have 2000 nuclear missiles on hairtrigger alert. They are saying we are closer to a nuclear war than we have ever been. Under Hillary Clinton, we could slide into nuclear war very quickly from her declared policy in Syria. I sure won’t sleep well at night if Donald Trump is elected, but I sure won’t sleep well at night if Hillary Clinton elected. We have another choice other than these two candidates who are both promoting lethal policies. On the issue of war and nuclear weapons, it is actually Hillary’s policies which are much scarier than Donald Trump who does not want to go to war with Russia.

As a reminder, if everyone who voted for Stein had instead voted for Hillary, Hillary would have won the election:

Yes, it’s possible (probable?) that those Stein voters would have stayed home and not voted at all, but this doesn’t change the fact that they still failed to vote for the most liberal candidate who actually had a chance of winning.

By allowing differing degrees of ideological commitment to divide them, left-leaning people helped invite in a president who hopes to do everything in his power to undo or undermine decades of global diplomatic progress as well as environmental and energy progress.

Hillary advocated for a no-fly zone to help ameliorate what António Guterres, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees called, “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”

Why do you think Stein left that part out? Yeah, I don’t know either. And where on earth would she have gotten that terrifying idea? Tough to say for sure, but maybe it came from Russian ultra-nationalist and Putin ally Vladimir Zhirinovsky who said the same thing she said the same day she said it.

Just to sum that message up briefly: “Don’t elect the candidate who wants to stop us from killing thousands of children and other civilians and displacing millions of people. If you do, you’re going to start a nuclear war with us.”

Sounds like something a bully would say, right? Well, it convinced Jill Stein apparently. Stein, being extraordinarily highly ideologically aligned with Bernie could have recognized the stakes of the election as Bernie did:

Perhaps the worst offense that one can level at Obama was his use of drones. Obama used drones a lot. And civilians were killed. Drones will probably continue to be used. Is this justified? It’s difficult to say. The individual cases appear to be classified. So it must come down to whether or not we trust Obama. Is he the type of person who would sign off on drone strikes likely to kill civilians just for the hell of it? I would submit that no sane person would do so.

So I’m inclined to take him at his word:

As commander-in-chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties—not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places — like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu — where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

Abortion: Efficacy of Criminalization, Biblical Position on the Fetus

There are a few good studies that may help us figure out what to do about abortion. In a recent study, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization found that making abortion legal neither increases nor decreases abortion rates.

In another study, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that making birth control widely available did reduce the abortion rate by 62–78%.

The aforementioned Guttmacher/WHO study echoed those findings.

In a 2006 study, WHO researchers estimated the number of maternal deaths worldwide from women obtaining illegal abortions to be 68,000. Millions more women, they say, have complications, many for the rest of their lives.

To me, these studies are sufficient to direct us in forming reproduction-related policy. However, I recognize that a lot of people are uncomfortable with abortion based on religious beliefs. The contention of people basing their opinion of abortion on the Bible seems generally to be that a fertilized egg has the same status as a person. If a zygote is a person, then the commandment to not kill must surely apply.

The closest thing in the Bible that I can find related to abortion is a passage from Exodus 21, verses 22-25. Here is the direct quote from Jehovah from the New Jerusalem Bible used on

If people, when brawling, hurt a pregnant woman and she suffers a miscarriage but no further harm is done, the person responsible will pay compensation as fixed by the woman’s master, paying as much as the judges decide. If further harm is done, however, you will award life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stroke for stroke.

No indication here is given of the stage of development. The fetus could have been 8 weeks along or 8 months along. To reiterate: if the fetus is killed, Jehovah demands a fine; if the mother is killed, Jehovah demands “life for life” or “wound for wound.” Jehovah clearly does not view a fetus at any stage of development as equal to a person.

The Exodus passage will probably seem familiar if you’ve ever looked at the Code of Hammurabi (the oldest known code of laws after the Code of Ur-Nammu): “If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.”

Ten Steps to Government Gridlock

1. Have vague political leanings
2. Consume media that generally agree with these leanings
3. Become more convinced of political views
4. Read/watch only news sources that agree with own opinions/Refuse to entertain opposing arguments
5. Vote for ideologically extreme politicians
6. Fail to notice common ground gradually seeping out of government
7. Do notice that government eventually stops functioning
8. Fail to connect this to polarized electorate of which you are a part
9. Blame government for ever-worsening gridlock
10. Confine involvement in government to emphatic shaking of fist in general direction of Washington once every 4 years

Who said it? Trump or MLK?

Have you ever noticed how interchangeable the inspirational quotes of different visionary leaders are? As two of history’s most inspirational figures, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Donald Trump have no shortage of such quotes. Here’s a quiz I made where you can try to figure out which of the two leaders said what. Trust me: most of you will only get a few of these right!

1. “I’m here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. Eternally so, absolutely so. It’s wrong to hate. It always has been wrong and it always will be wrong. It’s wrong in America, it’s wrong in Germany, it’s wrong in Russia, it’s wrong in China. It was wrong in 2000 B.C., and it’s wrong in 1954 A.D. It always has been wrong, and it always will be wrong.”

Trump or MLK?
From a sermon delivered at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church, February 28th, 1954

2. “Must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

Trump or MLK?

Comment to Brande Roderick on The Celebrity Apprentice, air date March 3rd, 2013

3. “The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.”

Trump or MLK?
From a sermon delivered at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church, February 28th, 1954

4. “But we’re fighting a very politically correct war. And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

Trump or MLK?  

5. “If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence.”

Trump or MLK?

King said this to an anxious crowd outside his home after a bomb was thrown onto his front porch where it exploded. His wife and infant daughter were home at the time. January 30th, 1956

6. “We are not wrong, we are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until ‘justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ ”

Trump or MLK?
Address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association Mass Meeting, Holt Street Baptist Church, December 5th, 1955

7. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

Trump or MLK?  

8. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

Trump or MLK?
King: From his book Strength to Love, 1963

9. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Trump or MLK?  

10. “Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.”

Trump or MLK?
King: From his book Strength to Love, 1963

11. “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”

Trump or MLK?
Trump: Regarding Carly Fiorina, Rolling Stone interview, September 2015

12. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Trump or MLK?
Speaking to Don Lemon on CNN Tonight about debate moderator and then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, August 7, 2015

13. “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat. And I would approve more than that. Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work…. Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”

Trump or MLK?
Speaking at a campaign rally, Columbus, OH, November 23rd, 2015

14. “Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.”

Trump or MLK?
Speech delivered at Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3rd, 1968

15. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump or MLK?
Presidential announcement speech, June 16, 2015.

16. “I am deeply moved by your courage in fasting as your personal sacrifice for justice through nonviolence. Your past and present commitment is eloquent testimony to the constructive power of nonviolent action and the destructive impotence of violent reprisal. You stand today as a living example of the Ghandian tradition with its great force for social progress and its healing spiritual powers.”

Trump or MLK?
King: Telegram to César Chávez, September 19th, 1966

17. “Wow! Just think — in a couple of years, I’ll be dating you.”

Trump or MLK?
Trump: Comment to two 14-year-old Christmas carolers outside the Manhattan Plaza Hotel, December 1992

18. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”

Trump or MLK?
Trump Credible Birther
If you guessed Trump, you’re right! If you’re wondering why “extremely credible source” is in quotation marks, you’re not alone. (We also shouldn’t spend too much time wondering why they are single quotation marks.)