While the introduction of third party candidates may offer voters additional options to the two major parties and create more election possibilities in theory , can they actually impact the outcome of a legislative special election in Delaware? One measurement is whether the third party vote total exceeds the margin of victory. Did the third party candidate (or candidates) get more votes than the difference between the winner and loser among the two major parties.
Maybe looking at special elections over the last 15 years can give some insight. There have been twelve special elections held in Delaware since 1994. Is it an admittedly small sample to make assumptions from,but it is the only measurable data we have. In five contests there were only two candidates, one Republican and one Democrat. In five other contests, there was at least one third party candidate and the third party vote total did not exceed the margin of victory,so did not impact the countable outcome.
In two other races, we can not be sure the third party votes changed the final outcome, but they did exceed the margin of victory and could have been a deciding factor in the determination of the winner. In the 5th Levy Court race total turnout was only 1223 votes so it is possible that third party candidate Kevin McCarthy may have reached his saturation point at the 207 votes he received. If that is the case any increase in turnout would have diminished his impact.
The 41st state rep race can not happen again because John Atkins received 14% as a write-in candidate and write-in candidacies have been banned since then ( see Delaware Code link below). Candidates must make known their intention to run as a write-in which I am assuming take's some of the perceived urgency out of a write-in campaign and inherently makes them less of an outsider tool. It is doubtful anyone other than John Atkins,who has represented the area from both major parties, in the 41st could have pulled this off in an area as big as a state rep district, although Newark City Council member Jerry Clifton won a write-in campaign in a smaller district.
John Burton's Independent Party candidacy also exceeded the margin of victory, making this the only race in which two nonmajor party candidates each had vote totals that exceeded the margin of victory.
These races indicate that for a third party candidate to impact the election outcome the two major party candidates have to be fairly close in votes.
In the 19th Senate District I doubt the two nonmjaor party candidates will have enough combined votes to exceed the margin of victory. Turnout is the central issue in a special election because there are no other races to draw voters out. The Democrats and Republicans can more accurately locate party loyalists for the get-out-the-vote from prior voting patterns in party primaries. How do the Libertarians and Independent Party candidates know who they should target? Because someone is not a D or R, does not mean they espouse any particular philosphy or voting pattern.Money will likely be more plentiful for the two major parties for promoting their messages. With less money and less structured organization I assume less results.
New Castle County 5th council-no 3rd party candidate
6th state rep dist-no 3rd party candidate
There were five races, two did not have a 3rd party candidate. In the 14th Senate race Joanne Christian ran as the Republican candidate and as the candidate of the Independent Party of Delaware, but her third party votes did not exceed her loss margin as the Republican candidate. In the 41 st Rep District race the Independent Party of Delaware candidate did have a vote total ,but the nonmajor party candidate whose vote total most exceeded the margin of victory was a write-in candidate ---John Atkins who had resigned as a Republican legislator and has since been elected to serve the district as a Democrat. In the 5th Levy Court District in Kent County Kevin McCarthy's 207 votes or 16.9% more than exceeded the 5% margin of victory.
There was one race with a third party candidate who vote total did not near the margin of victory.
There were two special elections. One had a third party candidate whose vote total did not exceed the victory margin. In the other contest there was no 3rd party candidate
One contest with a 3rd party candidate whose vote total did not exceed the margin of victory.
There was one race which had a third party candidate,whose vote total did not exceed the margin of victory
The upcoming special election in teh 19th senate district is the second special election of 2009. In the first one there was no third party candidate. Election Date: 02/19/09
Voter Turnout = 5%
COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICT 5
DEMOCRATIC PARTY ELISA C. DILLER --808 --59 . 7 %
REPUBLICAN PARTY JAMES MOULTHROP --545 --40 . 3 %
In 2008 there was one special election and there was no third party candidate
Election Date: 12/20/08
STATE REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 6
12 of 12 Districts Reported
DEMOCRATIC PARTY MICHAEL P. MIGLIORE --1467 --48 . 8 %
REPUBLICAN PARTY THOMAS H. KOVACH --1540 --51 . 2 %
In 2007 there were five special elections
Election Date: 01/20/07
Turnout = 8%
5TH LEVY COURT DISTRICT
DEMOCRATIC PARTY GEORGE SWEENEY --477 --39 . 0 %
REPUBLICAN PARTY W. G. EDMANSON II-- 539-- 44 . 1 %
INDEPENDENT PARTY OF DEL KEVIN MCCARTHY-- 207-- 16 . 9 %
7th Representative District
Bryon Short Democrat 2,275
James Bowers Republican 2,048
Special Election - 05/05/2007
REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 41
BULLOCK LYNN R. (D)
HASTINGS GREGORY A. (R)
BURTON JR. JOHN M. (I)
JOHN ADKINS (WRITE-IN)
ROBERT JOHNSON (WRITE-IN)
BRUCE COLLUM (WRITE-IN)
HENRY MC GOUL (WRITE-IN)
G.G. MESSICK (WRITE-IN)
GREG HASTINGS (WRITE-IN)
UNOFFICIAL OFFICE TOTAL
14TH SENATE DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION
November 3, 2007
ENNIS BRUCE C DEMOCRATIC 4,272
CHRISTIAN JOANNE M REPUBLICAN 1,704
CHRISTIAN JOANNE M IND OF DEL 309
28th Rep District12-8-2007
William Carson ( D) 1446
Christine Malec ( R) 703
2ND REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION
January 20, 2001
HAZEL D. PLANT (D) 846
BEATRICE PATTON CARROLL (R) 453
ROBERT E. BROWN (L) 44
9TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION
November 13, 1997
J. CHRISTOPHER ROBERTS (D) 1,758
RICHARD C. CATHCART (R) 1,966
12TH SENATE DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION
April 12, 1997
DEBORAH L. CUOMO (D) 485
DORINDA A. CONNOR (R) 2,554
RICHARK K. TRUBEY (L) 64
1ST REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION
August 12, 1995
DENNIS WILLIAMS (D) 1,757
KAREN J. MILLER (R) 879
LAWRENCE SULLIVAN (L)122
2ND SENATE DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION
April 16, 1994
HERMAN M. HOLLOWAY, JR. (D) 1,036
MARGARET ROSE HENRY (R) 1,487
SAMUEL GUY (K) 225
Sources on election results:
Delaware Election Commissioner’s website:
the New Castle County Board of Elections website:
Here is an excerpt from the relevant section of the Delaware Code regarding write-in candidates:
Primary Elections and Nominations of Candidates
CHAPTER 34. WRITE-IN CANDIDATES
§ 3402. Write-in candidates for a general election.
(a) Superior Court shall only count a write-in vote for a person who has declared himself or herself a write-in candidate for the office for which that person was written-in in accordance with this chapter. Superior Court shall count a write-in vote for a candidate on a general or special election ballot if the write-in vote is for the office for which the person is a candidate.