Thursday, November 07, 2013

Bars More Interesting Than People

We had some great candidates this election, even the ones I didn't like. I think Yogi Berra said that first.

But the buzz was all about the bars, and the numbers prove it.

Every time we have an election where you vote for multiple candidates and get more than one winner, the pre-election scuttlebutt and post-election analysis turns to "bullet votes," a colloquialism describing the tactical choice of using less than all of your votes to maximize your number one choice's chance of winning.

Also, some races are simply more interesting than others. You see it clearly in general elections. The top races get almost complete participation, but by the bottom of the second side, barely half of voters are marking the soil and water commissioners.

This week, we have a little of each. The 800 pound gorilla of the 21 Bar vote makes it almost impossible to measure the impact of bullet voting in the four candidate, vote for two at large race.

The last 21 bar vote coincided with the 2010 general election. In an unheard of statistical quirk, there were about 2000 more total voters than votes for governor and US Senate, the "top" races on the ballot. My best back of envelope math indicated that roughly 2500 voters, primarily student early voters, marked ONLY the bar issue and nothing else, while about 500 people marked straight party tickets and skipped the non-partisan items like the judges and bar issue.

We see the same thing this year. The table below shows the total voters in each precinct and what percentage of the available votes - two in the at large and one in District B and 21 Bar - they used in each race.

Precinct Voters At Large B 21
Early Voting 5141 67.4% 73.8% 99.0%
IC01 Lemme 565 87.7% 90.8% 99.5%
IC02 Horn 265 85.7% 83.4% 99.6%
IC03 Quad 40 62.5% 75.0% 100.0%
IC04 Lincoln 301 91.0% 84.4% 98.7%
IC05 UI Library 40 76.3% 87.5% 100.0%
IC06 Mercer 369 89.3% 92.7% 99.7%
IC07 West High 135 87.4% 83.0% 96.3%
IC08 Weber 307 82.9% 81.8% 99.0%
IC09 Hall of Fame 207 86.5% 87.0% 100.0%
IC10 Parks/Forestry 135 87.4% 88.9% 98.5%
IC11 Courthouse 45 68.9% 73.3% 97.8%
IC12 Grant Wood 160 90.0% 92.5% 98.8%
IC13 City Transit 44 94.3% 90.9% 97.7%
IC14 Twain 260 89.4% 96.2% 97.3%
IC15 Tate 147 79.9% 89.1% 95.9%
IC16 Mercer 345 87.4% 89.0% 98.6%
IC17 City High 476 90.2% 88.0% 99.2%
IC18 Longfellow 477 92.2% 92.0% 99.4%
IC19 Rec Center 35 70.0% 74.3% 97.1%
IC20 Senior Center 115 80.0% 82.6% 98.3%
IC21 Horace Mann 274 90.5% 87.2% 99.6%
IC22 Shimek 209 89.7% 88.5% 98.6%
IC23 Regina 487 90.9% 93.8% 99.0%
IC24 St. Patrick 349 88.1% 90.3% 99.7%
TOTAL 10928 78.3% 81.8% 99.0%

Look at the At Large and District B races in the student-heavy early voting and student areas. A quarter to a third of the ovals were just left blank. Which isn't a surprise based on past years and based on the anecdotal, "do I have to vote for everything?" questions.

(Note: there's never going to be a breakout of absentee results by precinct. We only get that in general elections.)

But even in the townie precincts , in neighborhoods like Windsor Ridge and Oaknoll and Manville Heights 10 to 15 percent of candidate choices were null. 

One notable exception: Precinct 14, where 96 percent of voters marked the District B race. Royceann Porter worked the Twain neighborhood hard and she won that precinct.

Now. Look at the right column, the 21 bar issue. In a typical "big" ballot issue on a multi-contest ballot, at least 10 percent of voters skip it - IF the election is candidate-centered.

But this election wasn't. It wasn't the "city council" election. It was the "21 Bar" election.

Only ONE voter at St. Pats, the Windsor Ridge precinct, skipped the bar issue. NONE of the 200+ Precinct 9 voters skipped it. City wide, 99 percent of people marked a Yes or No. To give you perspective: in a typical general election 3 to 5 percent are skipping the US House race, the second or third line on the ballot. In a PRESIDENTIAL race, a half a percent even skip president.

In the school board election, the numbers made it clear that a lot of Coralville voters were skipping a third choice and marking just two candidates. But the near-unanimous participation rate on 21 Bar makes it impossible to ferret out how many bullet votes the at-large candidates drew. You can't tell how many ballots have just one of two choices marked when so many have NO choices marked.

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