Thursday, May 3, 2007

Notes on the final returns

Now that the final numbers are in, we can follow up our initial reflection on results with a final bit of analysis.

Yawn... wrong again: Virtually everyone predicted low voter turnout due to a uninteresting election. Boy, were they wrong. 80,566 interested Denverites submitted their ballots, representing 42.5% of active voters. That blows away the last Denver campaign without a competitive mayoral election (1999, when just 26% of active voters went to the polls), and begins to approach some of those exciting campaigns that the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News actually covered.

Depends where you are: Even without a serious mayoral contest, some districts showed turnout comparable to 2003. Open seats in Council Districts 7 and 8, for instance, brought 93% and 87% of their 2003 totals. However, a competitive race in Council District 3 (with far less money) earned just over two-thirds of last cycle's voting totals. And interest in Council District 1 declined precipitously, reaching exactly half of the 2003 voters. Guess that proves the old notion: "All politics is local."

None of the above: While there were 80,566 votes in all, not everyone voted in each race on their ballot. Only 79,231 voted in the mayoral race, 71,612 voted for auditor, and 65,270 voted for clerk & recorder. Such disparities are called "undervotes," and generally reflect disaffection with all of the given choices. The results for citywide offices were thus less impressive than generally presented. Stephanie O'Malley was only supported on 63% of the ballots submitted (not 78%); Dennis Gallagher was the darling of 69% (not 78%) ballots; and John Hickenlooper earned the respect of 84.9% voters. Funny, this last figure is virtually identical to the approval rating announced by the mayor's consultants last month.

Let's count that again: The Election Commission's final vote counts generally reflected the same percentages found in earlier returns... with one exception. Somehow, Councilwoman Judy Montero actually lost 78 votes from yesterday to today, going from 2,704 votes to 2,626, while challenger Waldo Benevidez received 7 additional votes. At this rate of decline, Montero could lose the election in less than a month.

Anyone but him: Among the uncontested incumbents, Councilmen Rick Garcia and Charlie Brown were the most disliked, receiving 4.7% and 4.2% write-in votes against them. While that is unsurprising for Garcia, who had an active write-in candidate in Gerald Styron, Councilman Brown's result seems to reflect a more sustained opposition to his politics, as found in both the election results and an earlier Internet poll. Thankfully, Brown's business friends have given him $174,796 reasons to think his seat is safe.

Can't think of anyone but you: In contrast, Councilman Michael Hancock received only 94 votes against him (2%). While write in votes dipped even lower in other races, his was the most impressive performance for an unopposed candidate, and was also reflected in the earlier Internet poll.

Where are you? JoAnn Phillips is going to a runoff in Council District 3, you say? I wonder whether this will finally spur her to get up a campaign website. Out of 29 candidates, she was among only 7 who didn't care to provide such a device for potential supporters. The unopposed Charlie Brown was the only winner among them.

Quick as a cat: The only candidates who have updated their website since Tuesday's election are Chris Nevitt (who asks for your support) and Ike Kelly (who immediately withdrew his campaign site from cyberspace).

MoneyVotes: Now with the final figures for all district candidates for City Council.

Also read our initial reflection on Denver's election results.


Jeffrey Beall said...

What percent of voters "blanked" (i.e., did not vote for either candidate) the ballot for mayor? I think this might be a significant measure of anti-Hickenlooper sentiment.

George said...

A little "however" is required here. Seems the eligible voters for the 2006 General Election totaled 278,878. Eligible voters for this charade, ho-hum election totaled 189,527. Now, shall we acknowledge that the ineptness of Denver's Election Commission managed to disenfranchise about 100,000 voters. And, in light if this, percentage totals do seem a bit skewed...given all those folks who were removed from eligibility by, yes, Hick's disinterest in assuring the Denver Election Commission fulfilled its obligations. Before we get all ruffled about some notion that Hick had no oversight over the Commission, let's just remember the saga of Wayne Vaden, shall we.

Dave Burrell said...

Sure, a lot of people didn't vote. But taken in context, it was still surprising.

Before Tuesday, people suggested this was one of the least interesting races in Denver history. Yet they need go back only 8 years to find a far, far less interest among the voting public.

80,566 voted in 2007.
51,494 voted in 1999.
That's raw numbers, so there's no percentages here being "skewed."

Even so, people WERE wondering whether turnout of active voters would make it over the 26% mark, and the truth is that we sailed over that mark.

There has been far more interest in other races, but way too much has been made if it.

I would submit that a city election without a competitive mayoral race is just like a national election without a presidential vote.

For presidential elections, 50% of the electorate comes out, while just 37% vote in "off-year" elections. Dividing 50 into 37 shows that nearly 26% fewer people are willing to vote on congressional seats than on the presidency.

In the 2007 municipal elections, 28% fewer people voted than Denver's historical average. Since we had no real mayoral election, this was all just about Council seats.

See the correlation?

It's not hard math, but it becomes harder when folks aren't paying attention. The dailies kept saying folks weren't interested, and as a self-fulfilling prophecies go, it became more and more true.

But the interest was there, and in due proportion to the seriousness of the race. I only wish we had more focus on issues and candidacies rather than the constant drumbeat of "booooring!" and handwringing over the supposed lack of interest.

George said...

Let me suggest here that an "all mail" ballott is a boon to voter participation. Let me also suggest, that when the Hick goes foward with a property tax increase to fund the remediation of the city's sorely neglected infrastructure, there will be a traditional election: a precinct or voting center process.

Having said that, I'm wondering if percentage of turnout in prior elections--as you've detailed--could be correlated to all-mail and traditional balloting?

I suspect what you're ballyhooing as a victory for democracy (the turnout) should be scrutinezed with an eye toward all-mail vs. traditional process.

The skewing of turnout numbers might be more meaningful if such is taken into account.

Just a thought. I may be wrong.