ICYMI: What Tuesday’s primary showed us

IVOTED.gifMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. (Those who subscribe to VPAP’s VaNews also got a chance to read it yesterday. So good to be back in!)

Although the statewide results were important, it was the Norfolk results that I watched the closest, for a couple of reasons. Of course, I wanted to see what was going on in the Commissioner of the Revenue primary contest.

But I also wanted to see how close my turnout predictions – done in February – were. As I updated my spreadsheet for the registration totals for May – my February numbers were based on the 1/1 registrations – I was a bit concerned that I had overestimated turnout. Norfolk’s registered voters dropped from 130,473 to 114,993. But delving a little deeper, it appeared that my overall number was going to be OK, just the precinct-by-precinct numbers were going to be off. I had expected between 9,785 and 10,043 votes to be cast; the final number was 9,825.

As I was writing my column Wednesday morning, I got sidetracked into looking at where the turnout actually came from, not only for this election but all of the ones that I had tracked in making my prediction. Over the course of the 6 races I factored in (primaries and local contests), Ward 2 consistently accounted for the largest percentage of the vote. You might expect that to be the case when there is a hotly contested race – the Superward 6 race, for example, last year and Ward 2 is within that Superward – and because it makes up the largest percentage of registered voters in the city. But Ward 2’s percentage of the votes cast almost always exceeds its percentage of the city’s registered voters.

Tuesday, Ward 2 voters made up a little more than 25% of the registered voters in the city. But they accounted for nearly 36% of the votes cast. (The number could be a little higher if I had the absentee ballots broken down by precinct.)

Another thing that jumps out in looking at the numbers: the black vote. If I can use Wards 3 and 4 as a proxy for the black vote – and they are, by definition, the predominantly black wards – then the turnout there is generally at or below the percentage of registrations the two wards represent. Tuesday, the two wards contained 43% of the registered voters but only accounted for 34% of the votes cast. In other words, just the votes cast in Ward 2 was higher than the votes cast in Wards 3 and 4 combined.

It is worth noting that there was little drop off between the votes cast overall and those cast in the Commissioner of the Revenue race. Only 127 fewer votes were cast, and in two precincts, there were actually more votes cast in the CofR contest than overall. It’s always good to see folks cast votes in downticket races.

I’ll be working on my November numbers for estimated Norfolk turnout in the coming weeks. One thing’s for sure: I know Norfolk numbers a whole lot better than I know statewide 😦 One of the first things I’ve got to do is figure out what went wrong in my statewide projections. I was way off there.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.