Politics Blog

Inside the numbers: Conservative turnout clearly better in November

In the story that ran Sunday about voter turnout making the difference in the 42nd Legislative District races, I illustrated the point by pulling out 16 precincts in Whatcom County: the eight that were most favorable to Democrat Joy Monjure in her state House race, and the eight most favorable to her opponent, incumbent Republican Vincent Buys. The article pointed out that turnout was 69 percent in the eight most partisan Republican precincts in the Monjure-Buys race, and just 61 percent in the most Democrat/Monjure-friendly precincts.

Over the weekend, having slept on it as they say, I questioned my methodology. Under the deadline pressure, it was easy to snag the top eight districts on both sides of the voting spectrum. But how representative were those districts in terms of the overall voting pattern? After all, countywide voter turnout was 60 percent in the 42nd District, according to the numbers used for the story. (They were based on the ballots counted through Thursday, Nov. 6.) That means the voters in the “top-eight” Democratic precincts and the top-eight Republican precincts both turned out in above-average numbers.

So I decided to drill just a little deeper, to see if my turnout results held up.

I again took the top-D and top-R precincts, but this time I chose those precincts which, when added up, gave Monjure or Buys 75 percent of the vote. So these were precincts in which, when taken altogether, 3 out of 4 voters picked one of the candidates. I thought that would level the playing field in one way at least, because in the “top-eight” approach used for the story, 88 percent of the voters in the Republican precincts voted for Buys, whereas 82 percent of voters in the top-eight Democratic precincts voted for Monjure.

Like I said, going with “top-75-percent” precincts in my second turnout analysis, I came up with 58 percent turnout in the Monjure precincts (there happened to be 19 of them), and 64 percent turnout in the 52 precincts which, when added together, gave Buys 75 percent of the vote.

This is more reassuring, as the two turnout percentages fall on either side of the districtwide 60 percent.

But one more analysis was worth doing: Looking at all precincts — those that went for Monjure and the rest, which went for Buys. One precinct was dropped because it was a tie as of Thursday evening.

So looking just at the precincts that voted majority-Monjure (39 in all), turnout was 56 percent. In all the precincts that went for Buys, even if just by one vote, turnout was 62 percent (in 79 precincts).

I know, that was a lot of math. But it was all to reinforce the point of Sunday’s story: Republicans won the 42nd Legislative District because precincts that vote conservative showed up to vote. Even deeper analysis would look at the history of voting patterns in these precincts, but my more casual observation over the years indicates the Monjure precincts (mostly in Bellingham) vote liberal, and the Buys districts (Lynden and the unincorporated county, primarily) vote conservative.

See you next August, and November. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do on this blog with coal and other land-use decisions.