Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 2

Explaining the Blue Shift in Election Canvassing

Edward B. Foley, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University, USA, , Charles Stewart III, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA,
Suggested Citation
Edward B. Foley and Charles Stewart III (2020), "Explaining the Blue Shift in Election Canvassing", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 2, pp 239-265.

Publication Date: 11 Jun 2020
© 2020 E. B. Foley and C. Stewart III
Voting,  Elections,  Electoral institutions,  Public administration
Electionselectoral institutionsvotingelection administrationvote counting


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In this article:
The Big Blue Shift Described 
The Partisan Gain since 1948 
The Nationwide Overtime Vote and Blue Shift in 2016 
Discussion and Conclusion 


We conduct statistical analysis of the rise in the number of votes counted after Election Day ("overtime votes") and the growing tendency of these votes to disproportionately favor Democrats in presidential elections (the "blue shift"). We provide a historical description of these two time series, from 1948 to 2016, and establish that the timing of the persistent growth in the blue-shifted overtime vote began with the 2004 election. Variation in the size of the overtime vote is associated with the number of mail and provisional ballots and with the partisanship of the state, while the blue shift is associated with state partisanship but not with the number of mail and provisional ballots. Our analysis has relevance to post-Election-Day dynamics, especially in elections where a close election-night results that favor one candidate may yield to close final-canvass results that favor the other candidate. We conclude by discussing the conditions under which overtime votes counted in the 2020 presidential election could prove especially problematic.



Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 2 Special issue - Election Administration and Technology
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.