Washington state's mail-in based election system unfortunately means that in a close race you can't get a good read until several weeks after the election, when every ballot has been counted and the results certified. That finally happened on September 3rd, but the details weren't posted on the internet until a few days ago when I got my first peek at the e-Canvass, a 160MB file with exact counts in each race, organized by precinct. It's a long-running theme of this blog that local is the most important grouping for just about anything, especially politics, so I spent a little time analyzing one of the races, Steve Litzow vs. Marcie Maxwell to see what insights I'd get beyond what is written by the "mainstream press".
The headline, Marcie beat Steve by 52 to 47%, of course doesn't tell much for several reasons. First, this is a primary with very low turnout so the top-level results don't necessarily matter when it counts, which is the real election in November. Of the 80,000 registered voters in Legislative District 41 (my local district), only 30,000 bothered to show up. Incidentally, I'm one of the no-shows: I was busy and realized there were no races where my vote would affect the outcome, since each choice I cared about was between candidates who'll be on the ballot in November anyway. The primary result is further deceptive unless you understand the drivers of the turnout: was this a vote for something else (e.g. governor) that happened to trickle down into the legislator choice too?
I hope to get time later this week to write this up in more detail, especially if I can finally get my precinct map to work. But meanwhile here are some interesting high-level observations:
- Marcie's margin of victory was broad (113 out of 186 precincts), but very shallow except in one place: her home territory of Renton, which gave her about 900 of her 1500 point win. Renton's much smaller than other cities, so this could be a weakness if Steve finds a way to appeal to the undecideds and those who didn't vote in the primary. (My guess is that a lopsided victory in home territory indicates close friendships are carrying the day more than the other factors like name recognition or party affiliation that matter more in November).
- Steve earned fewer votes than Dino Rossi (another Republican) in most precincts outside Steve's home territory of Mercer Island. Even Bob Baker, another Republican who lost by a 40-60 margin to Democrat Fred Jarrett, had more votes than Steve did in Renton -- more evidence that Steve has plenty of upside.
- Steve's biggest margin in a single precinct is 44%; Marcie's is 42%.
I placed my raw data on Facebook; if you want to see it and play with it yourself, please add me as your friend.