As I previously indicated, I decided to take a look at the
numbers that came out of the election to try to see what happened. My
supposition is that by comparing the detailed election results for my county
from this year’s gubernatorial election against the results from the 2009
election, I should be able to learn something about what is happening to GOP
voters or find some indicators about any nefarious goings on. The following is
an accounting of my journey through these numbers. If you are so inclined, grab
a cup of coffee, and join me in what will be for most a boring adventure in
numberland.
Sources
There are few sources that I pulled from for this analysis.
For election results from the 2013 election I got the spreadsheet export from
the Board of elections site here.
Similarly, for the numbers for the 2009 election, I pulled
from the Prince William County site, which had the results in a much less
helpful format of a PDF file. This meant that I had to painstakingly hand enter
the numbers from the PDF file into my own spreadsheet. I will freely admit that
though I was careful, there may be one or two errors that resulted in that
process. Here is the source PDF.
Methodology
In preparing the data I had to make some decision. As a
rapidly growing county in the suburbs of Washington, DC, Prince William County
has had its voting districts big and small redrawn a bit during this time
period between 2009 and 2013. This makes it sometimes exceedingly difficult to
do a precinct by precinct comparison. To account for that, I compared each
precinct and matched up names. I discarded results from precincts that either
was eliminated or was created for the 2013 election. I know that every vote
counts, but this is a statistical analysis and I had to base it on something comparable. I ended up with 63
precincts. For this analysis I also did not analyze the absentee ballots as
they are indeterminate from a geographical viewpoint. If I have time I will
come back to them.
Population vs. Voting
The only definitive numbers from the census that I could
find indicated that there were 402,002 persons living in the county in 2009 and
430,289 in 2012. That’s a 6.57% change in two years, or 3.29% annual change.
Applying this percentage across the years you get the following:
With that in mind, let’s look at some overall voting
numbers. In 2009 there were 75123 votes cast for Governor. That means that only
19.32% of the county population participated in the election. In 2012 there
were 97060 votes cast for Governor. Applying the same formulas, that means that
population participation jumped to 21.98%, or a 2.65% increase in
participation. This all looks perfectly reasonable right? Given the fascination
with the first black president, a modest increase in participation of 2.65% seems reasonable, right. Well, don’t eat
that cookie quite yet. Let’s look at it just a little differently. The population increased at an annual rate
of 3.29% right? Thus, from 2009 to 2013 that would be a total increase of 13.16%. So if voter rates were to follow
population trends, then you would expect a similar increase in total number of
voters. Given the number of votes for both years above, the actual number is
13.74%. Since that is less than a 1% variance, it appears reasonable. No Flies in my soup yet, though I may see a very tiny hair in there.
Of course just looking at total number of voters is not
enough because elections are about people making choices and a winner being
chosen. An important, nay the important
question is how they voted and how did that change since the last election.
Taking overall numbers from the fore mentioned 63 precincts, in 2009, you have:
 McDonald (R) 58.38%
 Deeds (D) 41.62%
In 2013 we have:
 Cuccinelli (R) 43.43%
 Macaliffe (D) 52.37%
That’s
a decrease of 14.33% in republican votes and an increase of democrats by
10.12%, or a net change in votes for democrats by a whopping 25.70%. Now let’s consider those population
numbers again. Even if every single new participating voter that moved into the
county was a democrat, this swing is twice as much as you would expect. There
is something very odd going on here that warrants a deeper look at the specific
numbers. Ah, I think I see a tip of the a fly wing down in there hiding behind a meatball...
Here’s a more detailed plot of all the precincts net change:
Now admittedly that really isn’t unexpected, given that you
already know that the overall net loss for Republicans was 25%.
Let’s take a look at a ‘typical’ precinct. Here are the 2009
and 2013 results for the Chinn precinct:
2009

2013


Rep

Dem

Tot

Rep %

Dem %

Rep

Dem

Ind

Tot

Rep %

Dem %

463

351

814

56.88%

43.12%

377

582

42

1001

37.66%

58.14%

Note that total for that precinct only increased by 187
votes, or 22%. While the Republicans had a decrease in 86 voters, the Democrats
saw an increase of 231 voters. Now let’s assume for a minute that half of the
missing Republicans were disaffected voters that decided to cast a ‘pox on both
your houses’ vote and account for all of
the Independent voters, and the other half got sick, had to work, etc. That
still doesn’t explain how in a precinct where only 1001 votes were cast, the
Democrats managed to generate 231 new votes
or an increase of 28%. Now if you are going to say these are Obamabots,
remember that the 2009 election was just one year after Obama first won the
presidency. Those voters were already there! The question then is
where did all these new voters come
from?
I am very familiar with it as I go to that library all the
time. All those roads at the top of the region are a townhouse community where
the majority of the population for the precinct lives. The bottom 2/3rds of the
precinct are older established homes. So if there were a turnover in the
community, I would expect most of it would come from the townhouse community.
Now it really isn’t reasonable to assume all of those new voters are Democrats, so lest use the election results to divvy them up and we come up with:480 * 20% = 96 voters
96 * 58% = 55 Democrat voters
That seems a really far
cry from 231 voters needed to satisfy what is being reported. The other assumption
is that rate of sales has remained constant throughout the last four years.
Anyone who has thought about selling a house in this area can tell you that is
just not true. Along with the rest of the country, sales (and prices) have been
very depressed over the last four years and have only picked up in the last year. Yep! I can see it now... A big old nasty horse fly, swimming in my soup; and I think he's doing a backstroke!
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