History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: December 2016

How Democrats could have won the Thurston County Commission

[EDIT 12/26/16 at 3:50 p.m.] I added an explanation of the chart and added a link to Steve Salmi’s post at Green Pages that I meant to include.

Okay, so it’s true that there was more voter participation by south county voters in the last county commission election.

But, I’ve have had a hard time reconciling the data I see in this chart below with the map I put together in that linked post above.

This chart ranks independent and Republican returns across a partisan spectrum in Thurston County. The most conservative precincts towards the left, the more liberal on the right. What is shows is that independent returns tracked well with Republicans and a consistent number of otherwise Democratic voters across nearly every precinct switch independent. They had the same slope, just one was a bit higher.
The map included in the post I linked to shows greater participation by south county voters than in recent elections. The story is that that there was increased participation driven by the rural policies of the current commission. The chart above shows voter confusion across the board. That no matter where you landed on the partisan scale of Thurston County, more people voted for conservative independents than for down-ballot Republicans.
The pro south county argument would be that a Democratic voter in rural Thurston County would vote independent because they were tired of how the county was treating rural residents. Well, sure, okay. But, that doesn’t explain the behavior of typically Democratic voters in the cities, were the plight of the rural landowner is less well expressed.
So, if you erase what I call voter confusion from the north county cities (Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater) by pasting the partisan down ballot results over the county commission results, you get a 1,600 vote margin for Democratic county commission candidates. Here’s my spreadsheet (column O in “if cities stayed pat”).
This sort of contradicts what Steve Salmi is talking about at Green Pages:

What the data suggests is that urban Democrats will not win a county commission seat unless they are competitive in unincorporated parts of the county — which even in a high-turnout, Democratic wave election like 2008 represent the majority of votes. In 2016 both of the Democratic candidates got clobbered in that realm. To make matters worse, as I discuss here, neither Hulse nor kindred spirit Jim Cooper did very well in Lacey or Tumwater. Interestingly, these two cities saw their proportion of total votes jump 2.5 percent over 2008 while Olympia went down by .1 percent. 

This is why I suspect that in 2016 something more was going on than high turnout in the south county. Steve Klein may be at least partially right — Donald Trump had coattails. However, the most important single factor may have been that Gary Edwards and John Hutchings ran as independents, which appealed to swing voters throughout the county.

What I’m saying is that if Democrats maintain a more typical partisan lead in the three northern cities, then they’d be able to overcome even a very energized rural vote.
So, if the Democratic candidates had been able to sew the story that independents really were Republicans in sheeps’ clothing, then they would have been able to tighten the results. That said, I know they did try to do that. In low information races, it’s hard to create an effective narrative sometimes. But, maybe in two years, with a strong majority, the conservatives will shed their sheep clothing and progressives will be able to make a better case.

Well look at that, it really was a south county revolution

Back a few days after the election, Ken Balsley had this to say:

I’ll be honest, I really doubted Ken’s assessment of the election of two party-independent conservative candidates over two Democratic ones. I was looking at the graph below, and I saw something totally different in the election returns:

What I saw was voter confusion, a thick-enough layer of voters that wouldn’t vote for a Republican but would vote for a party-independent conservative across every precinct, from the most conservative ones to the most liberal.

But, that chart doesn’t deal with voter turnout, only percentage of vote across a precinct.

I had to wait until the precinct level turnout data was available earlier today, but I was able to put together this map (based on this spreadsheet) that compares ballots issued against votes returned for conservative candidates.

And, if you do that, this is the map you get:

Just a quick word of warning: this is the back-of-the-napkinest of back-of-the-napkin maps. Because precincts have changed a lot since 2008, I did a lot of deleting of precincts because they didn’t match up anymore. That said, think the analysis stands.

This isn’t a map about winning percentage, but rather conservative turnout compared to possible turnout. And, it really shocked me. It really does show that conservative turnout really did increase this year when there were two independents on the ballot and that turnout was centered mostly in south county.

If I had been right, the colors would have been much less stratified across the map, much more dark in the north county and much more bright in the south county. But, the pattern here is clear. Conservative voters were much more active this year in the south compared to the last four commission cycles.

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