Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Does A Low Voter Turnout in Special Elections Favor Republicans?

Common wisdom has said yes. So I was interested to see an analysis by Matt Glazer on Burnt Orange Report that gave facts that belied this so-called truth.

And I was not convinced.

Yes, I was also interested in the HD 97 results that had the same two opponents with opposite results, favoring the Democrat in the low voter turnout special election, as opposed to favoring the Republican in a general election. But thanks to Elbridge Gerry the patron saint of district boundary manipulation, districts vary in their affinities to one party or another.

So what I decided to do was to look at nearly every state house or senate special election or special election runoff held since 2000 and look for central tendencies. Nearly every special election because some of these are held in lopsided districts where no member of the minority party would bother running.

And by my count, there are about 13 special election races between then and now, with 7 of them, or just over half, classified as low turnout. Low voter turnout, by my definition, is any election where total voter participation is 12% or less.

And of these 7 races, 5 were won by Republicans and 2 were won by Democrats.

If voter turnout is moderate (20-30%) or high to very high (35% and greater) it doesn’t seem to matter. 3 races with moderate turnout favored Democrats 2 to 1, and 3 races with high turnout favored Republicans 2 to 1.

It’s only the low voter turnout elections that seem to be anomalously tilted toward Republicans.

Glazer also cited the extremely low turnout in HD 29, pointing out that “House District 29 hasn't elected a Democrat since 2000” which is absolutely true. However, HD 29 is a consistent R:D 60:40 district, even when a dead woman is the R. However, in 2006, Democrat Anthony DiNovo could only scrape together 22.5% of the vote in a district that by all rights should have delivered 40% of its votes to him.

So I am still pessimistic about Democratic chances in low turnout special elections.

Which is why it is more important than ever that Texas Democrats should band together in SD 17 and help deliver the upcoming special election to Chris Bell.

The trouble is, and has been pointed out here, that, in Fort Bend County at least, there is no information on where a voter is to go and vote in next month’s runoff election. And it’s obvious that this is some basic information that a phone banker or a block walker would want to have to better inform the voters.

It’s one thing to tell voters to go and vote. It’s yet another that they know where to go when it’s time.

Now, in reaction to my posting from yesterday, I was contacted by a reader who went ahead and phoned the Fort Bend County elections office and got some information. That yes, they had settled on a list of voting locations, and no they would not be making that list public anytime soon. The voting locations, it turns out, need to be approved by the County Commissioners, and they only meet on Tuesdays.

And, oops, Tuesday was yesterday.

Oh, wait, they don’t meet on the third Tuesday of any given month.

And, oops, that was the Tuesday of last week.

So the earliest we get an idea of the special election voting locations is Tuesday December 2nd.

What better way to keep the vote totals low than to have a special election 9 days before Christmas, and withhold the voting locations until a less than a week before early voting starts?

This is your Republican-dominated county government, playing those 5 to 2 odds, 24/7.


Anonymous said...

If low voter turnout favors the GOP, what does that say about the kinds of people that support the Democrat party? There is no way to avoid the obvious thought that they must be somewhat less responsible as citizens, says me.

Hal said...

Actually it's less about responsibility and more about focus. In a low turnout election Republicans turn out in statistically greater numbers because of their attitude. It goes part and parcel with being a conservtive.