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Data reporting shows partisan strategy in US primary voting

People wait in line to vote in the Georgia primary election in Atlanta, May 24, 2022. AP’s analysis of the voting data and interviews with voters found that an unusual number of people who previously voted in Democratic primaries crossed party lines this time to defeat a Republican election denier backed by former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo / Brynn Anderson)

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Steve Peoples and Aaron Kessler relied on voting data available to the AP to demonstrate how some Democrats were voting in Republican primaries in an effort to block candidates backed by former President Donald Trump.

Earlier this year, the AP announced that it would prioritize coverage of threats to democracy in the U.S. One of the key components of this mission is to more deeply analyze voting patterns and what motivates voters to cast their ballot for a particular candidate.

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Incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger talks with reporters as he arrives for an election night party in Peachtree Corners, Ga., May 24, 2022. Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, avoided a runoff with the support of Democrats who crossed party lines to block his opponent, who was supported by former President Donald Trump. – AP Photo / Ben Gray

The Georgia primary in late May offered one of the first real opportunities to translate this ambition into action. Intrigued by Brad Raffensperger’s ability to narrowly avoid a runoff in the secretary of state race, national political reporter Peoples and data journalist Kessler teamed up to mine voting data. They found that 37,000 people who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary cast ballots in this year’s GOP primary — an unusually high number of so-called crossover voters.

The pair tracked down and interviewed some of these voters, learning that some Democrats were so worried that an election denier backed by Trump could ultimately run elections in Georgia, they decided to cross party lines in the state’s open primary to support incumbent Raffensperger, a conservative who famously resisted the former president’s pressure to overturn the 2020 election results.

The result is a perfect blend of traditional political reporting and data analysis that tells a broader story about unusual decisions voters are making in an effort to protect democracy in the U.S.

The story, including an interactive map with county-by-county data,received nearly 100,000 page views and was the fourth most-read story on AP News on the day it was published. It was also cited by Axios and Politico and was featured on Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast.

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