Thursday, August 13, 2009

More information on possible turnout pattern in legislative special elections

Of the ten legislative races I have so far been able to get approximate registration numbers for , only one has not fit the patten of turnout of 18% or below if more than 120 days before or after the Delaware legislative session June 30th end date and 25% or above turnout if held within 80 days of the June 30th legislative deadline.

On August5,2009 I did a post suggesting a potential turnout pattern, based on seven legislative special elections held between 2001 and the present.

I can not verify cause-and-effect,but the numbers I am gathering continue to lend credence that this might be a pattern,not a series of anomalies.
Here are three more earlier special elections, two of which fit the pattern.

(1)On 6-11-1983 there was a special election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Rep Herman H Holloway,Jr.
James Sills, who would later serve two terms in the 1990s as Wilmington’s mayor, was the Democratic candidate. The Republicans did not field a candidate in the heavily Democratic district which included Wilmington’s east side, South Wilmington and the Hilltop neighborhood on Wilmington's West Side.
None of the other political parties fielded a candidate either.
The lack of nominated competition on the ballot did not create a lack of competition since same day write-in votes were still within Delaware law.
Sills won with 1194 votes. Marlene Holloway Dryden (Herman Holloway’s sister) received 204 write-in votes. 1,397 votes were cast,according to the Front Page story in the Sunday News-Journal on June 12, 1983 ( available on microfilm,but not online). A telephone verification with the Board of Election indicates there were 6 additional write-in votes cast for other candidates for a total of 1404 votes cast.
Total registration was 5,247 on 11-2-1982 and 5,990 11-6-1984 (the closest dates with registration figures on the Election Commissioner’s website) ,so I am assuming registration on 6-11-1983 was somewhere in between.
1404 would be 26.8% of 5,247 and would be 23.4% of 5,990, so the turnout was somewhere in that range despite only one major party candidate. 25.1% is midway between these two percentages,so will serve as a rough estimate.
I am thinking that the date of the election 19 days before the end of the legislative session may have meant more potential voters were thinking about the legislature at that time of year.
(2)When Lonnie George resigned his seat in the General Assembly in the summer of 1995, a special election was held on 8-12-1995. The winner was Rep Dennis Williams, who continues to hold the seat. He received 1,757 votes . Republican Karen J Miller received 897 votes and Libertarian Lawrence Sullivan received 122.
Total votes were 2776. There is no AGP report for special elections,so I can not establish exact registration figures. Here is the best approximation from the AGP reports of the general election before and after this special election: on 11-8-1994 there were 8,654 registered voters. On 11-5-1996 there were 10,089 registered voters. I assume the registration on 8-12-1995 is somewhere in between.
2776 is 32.1% of 8,654 and 27.5% of 10,089. Midway between these two would be 29.8%..
This election was held 43 days after the legislative session ended on June 30th .It had turnout of at least 27.5%. and maybe higher.

(3)In 1997 Rep Oak Banning died ,creating the need for a special election on Nov 13, 1997.This was 136 days after June 30th. Republican Dick Cathcart,who continues to hold the seat, defeated Democratic county council member Chris Roberts 1,966 to 1,758. Total votes cast were 3103. Registration figures for 1997 & 1998 are not available online, but on 11-5-1996 the election commissioner reports total registration as 10,923. 3103 is 28.4% of 10,923. That makes this the only legislative special election I have reviewed in which turnout did not fit the pattern.

We will know by 9-13-2009 whether the legislative special election in the 37th Rep District provides additional support for the theory there is a turnout pattern or challenges the theory by having a turnout less than 25%.

For election results:

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