Friday, November 14, 2008

The 'Dodson wins' myth

Blake's got a post up about some of the numbers from Election Day, and he puts forward his belief that Elton Dodson 'might' have beaten Mike Hamby ... despite the fact that Dodson dropped out more than a month prior to the election, thus rendering any ballot cast for the outgoing District 10 commissioner invalid.

A surface look at the totals might go along with that assertion seeing as Hamby, running unopposed, garnered 10,741 votes out of a possible 24,868 cast in that district (43 percent). Actually though, it's not accurate at all to suggest that Dodson might have 'won' for a variety of reasons that are evident when you research the other numbers.

Arguably down ballot races garner less attention and focus than more high profile ones such as president, governor, mayor, etc. And with only one commission race contested in the Ed Robinson/Red Petrovs showdown in District Six, there was much less focus on local races than in years past.

If you want an accurate assessment of how the numbers broke down, it's important to consider the other trends in the voting choices. Three other commissioners were running unopposed in Alice Kinman, Harry Sims and Andy Herod. Let's look at what they did.

In District Two, Sims took 3,312 out of a possible 4,477 votes (74 percent). In District Four, Kinman took 2,809 out of a possible 3,955 votes (71 percent). In District Eight, Herod took 3,986 out of a possible 5,485 votes (73 percent. This leaves an average of 27 percent of the ballots being left blank.

OK, let's also look at some other down ballot, low-information races.

Steve Jones ran unopposed for Superior Court and took 34,341 out of a possible 45,727 votes (75 percent). Lawton Stephens ran unopposed for Superior Court and took 33,611 out of a possible 45,727 votes (74 percent). Ethelyn Simpson ran unopposed for State Court and took 31,931 out of a possible 45,727 votes (70 percent). Charles Mikell ran unopposed for the Court of Appeals and took 31,657 out of 45,727 votes (69 percent).

The same appears to hold true in down ballot, low information contested races. Doug Everett and John Monds combined for 35,702 out of a possible 45,727 votes (78 percent) in the race for Public Service Commission.

If we keep running these numbers, we see that anywhere from 25 to 30 percent of the electorate would leave uncontested and/or low information races blank. Knowing that anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of the voters who turned out did not cast a ballot in these races, this directly contradicts the perception put forward by Blake.

Consider then that out of the 24,868 voters in District 10, only 75 percent opted to cast a ballot. Hamby would then have garnered 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Dodson. Overall, this breaks down to Hamby earning 43 percent of the votes, 32 to 33 percent going for Dodson (which isn't hard to believe seeing how his name remained on his ballot and he had the incumbent status, which more often than not is an asset for local officials in low information races) and 25 percent being left blank.

The numbers would then suggest that Hamby posted a double-digit win over Dodson in this hypothetical matchup with margins similar to Robinson's win over Petrovs. The numbers don't exist for Dodson to win based on other information evident in other races that suggests a consistent pattern of blank ballots throughout.

Of course, the simplier answer is that Dodson opted to drop out of the race, meaning one vote for Hamby is tantamount to a mandate.


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