Sunday, August 3, 2008

Some Thoughts On Relative Turnout

I don’t know who will win the New Castle Countywide Democratic primary in September 2008,but I have an idea where the votes will come from.

Some areas with Democratic registration leads in Wilmington, New Castle and Elsmere that have had local primaries in recent years do not have as many as usual or have none. This may dampen down turnout in these Democratic strongholds. They may still have larger raw numbers of votes. But in a countywide primary their relative impact may be more limited. Some swing districts that are not used to have primaries have a state senate primary in the 6th District that may generate a larger than usual turnout in the Newark-Hockessin area. In Brandywine Hundred there is also a primary in the 4th State Senate District, an area that has been represented by a Republican for many years.The number of actual Democratic voters may be less in these districts than in the more heavily Democratic districts since to have a small percentage of a bigger pie can be larger than a large portion of a much smaller pie mathematically, but the relative impact may be more.

As Bill Clinton might say “The issue is one of proportionality”. The 1st District in Northwest Wilmington has a 9363-1504 . Democrat-Republican voter margin, The 2nd has a 8477-1263 D-R margin. The 16th in the Wilmington/New Castle area has a 8588-1567 D-R margin. The 13th in the Elsmere area has 6798 Dems to 2467 Republicans . The 17th in New Castle has a 7210 to 2924 D-R margin. In theory all of these districts are powerhouses with at least 2-1 Dem-Rep registration rates. I think the only two likely to make a relatively dramatic impact are the 1st and 2nd Rep Districts , due to local primaries giving voters an additional local reason to vote.

While the city of Wilmington is having primaries for mayor ,president of city council, district city council seats and an at large race for 3 of 4 at large seats on council, none of the incumbent state legislators or county council members representing Wilmington has a primary. In the 13th , 16th & 17th there is also no incumbent state legislator or county council person with a primary. The 13th & 16th each has one election district (the basic voting unit of the polling place,sometimes called precincts in other areas) in the city of Wilmington,but not enough to impact relative turnout. In the 3rd ED of the 13thRD only 63 voters of a possible 249 cast votes in 2004 election. In the 6th of the 16th 194 of 776 voters cast ballots in 2004. During 2004 the 16th & 13 th each had a local State rep race and a local county council race, neither of which will take place in 2008.

The 23 RD in Newark has 5384 Democrats. The 22nd RD has 5060 Democrats . The 22nd & 23RDs comprise 13 of the 16 election districts within the 6th state senate district which is having a Democratic primary for the first time in at least decades. In 2004 these two districts had combined voter total of 1656 and 6.4% of the total votes in the county council president’s race. I assume with the additional state senate race, the total turnout will increase,but also the turnout relative to the districts without local primaries.

My brother asked “And how does knowing this help anyone?”. If a candidate has unlimited resources and can campaign effortlessly countywide, this research is unnecessary. If you have limited resources and have a rough guess at where your effort can either generate new voters or help you persuade likely voters to actually vote for you, I think this process has value. It may also help in assessing voter saturation points above which it becomes unrealistic to expect additional votes in a given location. If a candidate can isolate permanent voters (people who vote no matter what is on the ballot – I think those who have repeatedly voted in the primary for the US Representative District when there is no local primary would qualify) from the more casual voters, different messages could be structured to each of these groups. The permanent voters may need less urgency implied and more persuasion. The casual voters may need a sense of urgency to motivate them to even participate.

One area that I think that will potentially produce a high relative turnout is the 1st Representative District along the Baynard Blvd-Washington St corridor in Wilmington. While it usually ranks highest among Representative Districts in actual numbers, it’s relative turnout was lower percentage wise in 2004 than compared to 2002 to 2006. I think this is because the local 1st State Senate seat faced a Democratic primary both 2002 and 2006. One of the things that reduced the relative impact of the turnout in the 1st Representative District in 2004 was that many areas that usually do not have primaries on a regular basis years had primaries. These included the 17th Rep District and 5 of the 6 newly created open seats on County Council. Four years later only two of the 6 county council seats up for election have primaries.

In addition to it’s tradition of producing a lot of votes, the voters in the 1st Representative District have at least six local reasons to vote within the 2nd City Council District in the Baynard Boulevard area . Like other Wilmington residents they have the mayor’s race and president of city council race,but unlike other Wilmington residents they know one of their neighbors will win in the president of City Council contest. Long-time city council members ,Theo Gregory and Norm Griffith, both live in the 2nd City Council District in the First State Representative District. In addition, the race for the local council seat Griffiths is vacating has a four-way race, with one of the candidates being Griffiths ‘ wife, Michelle Griffiths, a former police officer. The other candidates are local Democratic activist Larry Smith, Devon Hynson, who ran unaffiliated in the general election against Norm Griffiths 4 years ago, and Ernest Congo, II, a local funeral director and regular host on Channel 28, the local cable access channel. All six of these candidates have been visible in the community for a number of years ,so name recognition may not be the stumbling block it sometimes is for local candidates.

In the PS Dupont School-Miller Road area in the northern section of the 1st Representative District, Charles Potter, Jr, also a regular on Channel 28 on Sundays, is seeking re-election and faces a primary from another Channel 28 host, Nnamdi Chukwuocha , assistant director of the Kingswood Center and one of the Twin Poets.
These city council primaries should combine to keep the 1st Representative District as the leader in votes produced and highest relative turnout.

Relative Turnout guess for now:
1st Representative District will produce 10-12% of the countywide vote.
The 13th Representative District will produce 3.5% of the countywide turnout.
The 16th Representative District will produce 6% of the countywide turnout.
The 17th Representative District will produce 4% of the countywide turnout.

The 22nd & 23rd Representative Districts will produce 7-9% of the countywide turnout
If these predictions pan out or if the 22nd & 23rd produce a higher relative turnout and possibly more actual voters than the 16th & 17th Rep Districts, it would be notable since the 16th & 17th have over 5000 more registered Democrats than the 22nd & 23rd.


Nancy Willing said...

Awesome analysis! I just sent it off to a county-wide candidate.

John Tobin said...

Great, thanks for the feedback. I am planning on doing at least two more posts between now and the primary about issues affecting the primary. Hope you stop back and find something of interest.
John Tobin