Dependable Erection

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Straight party ticket voting

A commenter at Kevin's place asks the question: "Interesting that 20% of the county's Democrats did not vote straight ticket -- I'd love an analysis on which races caused democrats to forgo that option."

I'm not sure where the 20% figure comes from. There were just under 58,000 straight party tickets cast for Democrats, and there are about 108,000 registered Democrats in the county. (All figures from PDF files available at the county BoE website.)

So even if you assume that all of the straight party tickets cast for Democrats were cast by Democrats, you're just a little over half. By contrast, there are 27,000 or so registered Republicans, and there were 12,000 straight Republican ballots cast. That makes sense, since local races such as County Commissioner, DA, and some of the state house races had no Republicans running.

For the most part, Democrats in Durham generally picked up around 100,000 votes in races that covered the whole county. Obama, for example, got 102,237 votes. Kay Hagan, 99,382. Tracey Cline, with over 105K votes was actually the leading vote getter in Durham County. Ronnie Ansley and Mary Fant Donnan, the two Democratic Council of State candidates who did not win (Agriculture and Labor, respectively) both got 93K votes in Durham. That was a few thousand below other Democratic CoS candidates.

The real drop off comes in the County Commissioners races. No candidate received more than 85,740 votes, and two candidates (Becky Heron and Ellen Reckhow) received 80,053 and 77,930 respectively. For that we look, i think, to the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black people, which endorsed only the 3 African American candidates for County Commissioner (Joe Bowser, Brenda Howerton, and incumbent Michael Page.) The Committee has volunteers at most of the predominantly African American precincts in the city handing out their endorsements, and as i've seen personally the past two elections, most voters take them and refer to them. Joe Bowser's success, coming after being rejected by the voters 4 years ago after a tempestuous term on the Commission, has to be attributed to both his endorsement by the Committee, and the large turnout of people voting for Obama.

Two things to add here. first, in the interests of disclosure, i'm one of those registered Democrats who didn't vote straight party ticket. And Joe Bowser was the reason why. I thought his actions in his previous term meant that he should not have been invited back to the Commission. So i left him off my ballot. And second, i spent the afternoon handing out Democratic Party literature and voting guides at Antioch Baptist Church, the precinct 18 polling place. 18 is a predominantly African American district, over 81% of its2253 registered voters identify as African American, a number almost exactly congruent with the number of Democrats. When i got there, folks were handing out literature for the Committee, for B.J.Lawson (she didn't stick around very long after i got there) for Judge Kristin Ruth, and in favor of the prepared meals tax. Based on conversation, i'm pretty sure that the Committee folks and myself were the only ones not being paid for our time. I have no way of knowing what happened before i got there, but during the hours i was there, the folks representing the Committee took the time to explain to each voter how to vote straight party, and did not make any special effort to discourage straight party ticket voting, even though they were not endorsing all of the Democratic candidates for County Commission. So, there's that. But i think anyone interested in analyzing voting patterns in Durham this election needs to take that into account.

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7 Comments:

  • For me, it was the gubernatorial race. I know a couple other Dems who also traditionally vote straight ticket and voted for Munger.

    By OpenID jeffstern, at 9:06 PM  

  • seems like california decided straight was a fine box to check.

    By Blogger Beaver, at 9:35 PM  

  • Ouch!

    Yeah - i know more than a few Democrats who didn't vote for Perdue, which is why i predicted McCrory to win. Obviously, my sample size was too small.

    Perdue pulled a little over 94,000 votes in the county, significantly less than either Price or Kay Hagan, but not that far out of line with the rest of the ticket. Also significantly higher than any of the County Commissioner candidates.

    So i think the numbers point to the Commissioners race as being where people left the party ticket.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:13 PM  

  • In North Carolina, IIRC, voting straight ticket allows you to override down-ticket races by marking the individual races.

    I made the (poor) decision not to vote straight ticket, but voted for just Dems, out of undervote concerns (the M100s are notoriously insecure)... a decision I regretted as my hand cramped up before I got to the end of the first page.

    By Blogger Dan S., at 1:42 PM  

  • I declined straight party for two reasons -- I wanted to think twice about my Perdue vote (I'm sorry, I just can not vote Libertarian under any circumstances I can imagine), and I wanted to not vote for Bowser.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 12:26 PM  

  • while your on the subject of Joe Bowser...I was greeting folks at a precinct on Tuesday when I met him for the first time. He was telling me how the democratic party was split because white elitist did not understand the problems of poor blacks. He was offensive and seemed like he would be very difficult to work with. I did not vote for him during the primary and when I did vote later that day I did make sure not to vote for him even if it did not matter anyway.

    By Blogger legsley, at 6:23 PM  

  • My problem with Joe Bowser had more to do with his prior term on the Commission, where he inappropriately inserted himself into personnel decisions which he is legally obliged to stay out of.

    That shit matters.

    By Blogger Barry, at 1:01 AM  

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