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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Alexandria School Board Special Election

There is a special election coming up for Alexandria School Board, due to the resignation of Claire Eberwein who moved out of the country, not a day too soon from my perspective.

I have been looking at local voting trends and have been trying to figure out how many voters are going to show-up to the polls in early August to vote. There are four candidates running, and the election does have a divided community, due to the early retirement of Superintendent Rebecca Perry.

I was trying to figure out how many votes any of the candidates would need in order to win the election. To figure this out we first need to figure out how many people are going to show-up. Well, if you look at historical trends on voting across all of Alexadria, by office, you see an interesting dynamic.

You see that local elections are the poorest performing in terms of total voters turning out. To me that is amazing, as the local elections are probably the most important and have the biggest impact to your immediate world. You can see from this chart that, within Alexandria City, the average turnout over the past 30+ years for local elections has been around 30%. Compare that to Congressional (60%), Presidential (58%), and Governor (52%), this is about ½ of the turn-out on a good day.

Even more alarming is the fact that the local election trends have headed south. Look over the past 30 years how the turn out was in the high 30%’s if not 40% range. By 1990’s the turn out started to hit around 30% to 28% and then most recently heading to low 20%’s, if not worse. Note, 2007 was a special election for the vacancy of a City Council seat when Andrew MacDonald realized that he could not fulfill all his promises to the 100’s of groups that got him into the Vice-Mayor seat (note – this is speculation on my part, but I have plenty of data to support the theory).

Once again we are in the middle of the summer and are facing a special local election, though this one is only in the “B District” so the totals will be much lower. But looking at trends, and how people turn-out to local elections and special elections, I think we are in for a pretty low voter count, with even lower number of voters that will make the difference for the winner.

It is plausible that 10-20 absentee ballots or 5 rides to the polling place could actually make the difference in this special election. Note, last year Cleveland lost to Wilson by only 300 votes citywide, though had beat Wilson in Absentee turnout by 3x. The strategy did work for Cleveland, though not enough to get him into office.

Now, if we use the last special election as an indicator of what will happen this summer, we are going to have around 2,600 voters turn out to vote. The only kicker on this assumption is “B District” does have a tendency to turn out for School Board Elections. If you look at the past 10 local elections that were deciding the School Board seats and there was real competition, “B District” had a much higher turn-out than the rest of the city, as a proportion to their normal local voting behavior.

I have crunched the numbers, and with the different factors, such as summer travel, 4 candidates, hot topics/issues, and compressed election cycle, I think the final number of voters for this election will be around 3,500. Maybe I am crazy, because this would mean there would be almost 500 more than the Wilson/Cleveland campaign, and not everyone had kids (though this doesn’t preclude them from voting), I think it will be higher than the 2,600 or so that the data tells us.

Either way, when you split the vote between four highly qualified candidates, okay maybe three highly qualified candidates and one buffoon, someone could actually win the election with as little as 1,000 votes, though I think the winning number is actually closer to 1,250.

We will have to wait to see. Luckily we only have a few weeks to go. Then we can go back to enjoying our summer. Maybe the new school board member will run on the platform of longer summers.

Sounds good to me!

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