The turnout in the Board of Education AL-8 race, in which Cynthia Briscoe Brown defeated incumbent Reuben McDaniel, was determined by the voter turnout or lack thereof. While the City as a whole turned out 34.4% of the voters who cast a ballot in the general election, District 4 turned out 52% and 93.4% of those voters cast a ballot for challenger Cynthia Briscoe Brown. In fact, District 4 – by itself – delivered 85.1% of Brown’s margin of victory.
The numbers in the chart below are just stunning – in total, only 6.0% of registered voters across the City bothered to show up for the runoff as compared to 19.7% in the general election. That means that nearly 70% of the voters that showed up for the general election decided to stay home yesterday. (Click the chart to enlarge.)
So let’s take a look at what happened district by district and keep in mind several things.
- Runoff election turnout traditionally comes in at about 50% of the general election turnout – but yesterday’s 34.4% turnout was significantly lower than expected;
- Traditionally the incumbent has a difficult time increasing their voting percent in a runoff; and
- Excluding D-4 (which skewed the results upwards by nearly 5 points), the average turnout in the City was 29.8% of voters who had voted in the general election.
District 1 – The local race was decided in November and so there was no local candidate to attract additional voters. The 29.2% turnout was below the average for the City, but right on the average when D-4 is excluded. The voting pattern remained essentially the same as in November when McDaniel received 37.4% as compared to 40.0% yesterday. This percentage was a slight improvement, but insignificant to the final outcome.
District 2 – Again, no local candidate in the race and the general election was uncontested. The turnout just cratered and came in at 19.5% of the previous general election voters – the lowest turnout in the City. Even worse, only 2.5% of the registered voters showed up at the polls on Tuesday. Additionally, contrary to the assumption above, incumbent McDaniel did increase his share of the vote and garnered 59.1% yesterday versus 51.9% in the general. However, the turnout was so low that the difference was irrelevant.
District 3 – This district did not have a local candidate to generate additional excitement, but still managed to beat the City average (excluding D-4) by a couple of percentage points. The district went strongly for Brown who polled 75.5% of the voters that showed up and contributed 1,206 votes to Brown’s margin of victory. McDaniel’s, who had received 29.4% of the vote in the general lost ground and only received 24.5% – a drop of nearly 5 points.
District 5 – In light of the general decrease in voter turnout, District 5 outperformed the City-wide average (both with and without D-4) and had 35.5% of the general election voters show up. It appears that the get out to vote initiative led by local candidate Steven Lee had a positive effect on turnout and this benefited McDaniel as well. McDaniel saw his percent of the total vote increase by 4 ½ points to 51.6%.
District 6 – Besides the D-4 surprise turnout, this district surprised me the most. The local candidates – Collins and Byrd – should have generated additional excitement resulting in a strong turnout. Instead, only 28.0% of the general election voters showed up – nearly 6 ½ points below the City-wide average. McDaniel did well here and improved his percent of the total from 53.6% in the general to 63.4% yesterday. However, as a result of the low turnout in the district, his 604 vote margin of victory in the district barely dented Brown’s overall margin across the City.
And again, reflecting on the District 4 turnout performance – simply amazing in comparison to the rest of the City! Yesterday, as I communicated with the various campaigns and the individuals that were pressing for turnout throughout the day, it was an amazing operation to watch. No one was paid a nickel, no one was in charge and no one was pulling the levers of a political machine. Instead, a number of concerned citizens decided to take action – and the emails urging their neighbors to vote went viral – and the results speaks for themselves.
Concerned and engaged citizens make a huge difference. The energy and self-organization that the friends and neighbors in D-4 showed yesterday was outstanding and should be held up as the model for future election participation and engagement.
Next up is an analysis of AL-9 – but it may take a while as I need to finally get some sleep.
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