My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday.
Norfolk and Chesapeake have two different systems of electing local officials. Norfolk uses the ward system while Chesapeake uses an at-large system. With both having elections Tuesday, I thought it might be useful to compare the two systems, taking into account that one had a top-of-the-ticket race – Norfolk’s mayoral contest – while the other did not. But it was absolutely an impossible task.
Norfolk’s registrar has me spoiled. The results are posted to the website in a pdf as they come in. Chesapeake, on the other hand, doesn’t give any results information. In fact, the results page is outdated and doesn’t even direct the viewer to the SBE site.
I did locate on the Chesapeake site the voter registration numbers by precinct for April 2014 (bottom of the page), which is better than what I could find on the SBE website. The site has recently been redesigned – which may account for its unreliability – but as a data source, it’s getting worse: no registration statistics since January, and no turnout statistics except for November elections. There used to be turnout reports for each locality for each election – see 2005 primaries, for example – but November 2005 was the last time it was provided.
I find it ludicrous that we are getting less information than we were nine years ago.
But back to Chesapeake. The SBE is the only source of information on last Tuesday’s elections. Don’t bother clicking on that “Export Results to Excel” link at the top: it gives no more information than what you see on the screen. There is no breakdown by precinct. And there is no count anywhere of the number of people who voted in the election. The total votes are SO misleading, since each voter could cast a ballot for up to five candidates in each race.
At least in 2012, there was a mayoral race that could be used as a proxy for total votes cast in order to determine turnout but even that is suspect. Sometimes, people don’t vote for the top of the ticket, but do vote downballot.
Surely someone in the Chesapeake registrar’s office knows how many ballots were cast. How hard would it be to share it with us?
Without the data, I can’t begin to determine the effects, if any, of the different systems on voter turnout. I’m surprised the campaign folks in Chesapeake are not clamoring for this information.
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 nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.Follow @vpaige