Friday, October 27, 2017

Early Voting Continues At A Low Pace in Special Elections in House District 117 and House District 119

***Only 3,000 Or 4,000 Voters?***

Voting continued at a low rate this second week of early voting for the special elections in House District 117 and House District 119, with an average of only 167 persons going to the polls per day in Clarke County and 97 going to the polls per day in Oconee County.

Voting was even lower in Barrow and Jackson counties, parts of which contribute to the 117th House District.

Only 270 voters cast a ballot in Barrow County in the first 10 days of voting, and only 335 cast ballots in Jackson County.

Of the votes cast in the four counties so far, 970 were in House District 117, and 1,187 were in House District 119.

If the current voting rates hold, only about 1,550 votes will be cast in the 117th House District Special Election in early voting, and about 1,900 votes will be cast in early voting in the 119th House District Special Election.

This makes it likely that the election in the 117th will be decided by about 3,000 voters who cast a ballot, and the election in what is likely to be a first round of voting in the 119th will be decided by less than 4,000 voters.

Early voting continues tomorrow (Saturday) at election offices in all four counties open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Monday through Friday of next week, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Unusual Election

The special elections on Nov. 7 are unusual ones.

Republican Regina Quick stepped down from the 117th to assume a judgeship, and Republican Chuck Williams stepped down in the 119th after being appointed as director of the Georgia Forestry Commission.

The special elections are to fill the unexpired terms of Quick and Williams, and candidates run without a primary.

Deborah Gonzalez is running as a Democrat in the 117th, and Houston Gaines is running as a Republican. Both are from Clarke County, which makes up 56 percent of the district.

Jonathan Wallace is running as a Democrat in the 119th, and Thomas Lord, Steven Strickland and Marcus Wiedower are running as Republicans.

All four of the candidates in the 119th are from Oconee County, though Clarke and Oconee contribute voters equally to the district.

Turnout Projections

Estimating turnout in any election is difficult, and the peculiar nature of this election makes projection more difficult.

In Oconee County, the only other issue on the ballot is a contest for a single Council seat in Watkinsville.

In Clarke County, voters are deciding a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and voters in Winterville will be deciding city contests.

Voters in Barrow County are voting on renewal of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and voters in Statham, parts of which fall into the 117th, have a contest on the ballot.

Voters in Commerce, Jefferson and Braselton, parts of which are in Jackson County, have local contests, but those Jackson County voters in the 117th have no reason to go to the polls other than to vote on the contest between Gonzalez and Gaines.

In the runoff on Dec. 6, 2016, for Post 2 on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners–the only issue on the ballot in the runoff–about half of the 3,846 votes cast were in early voting.

I used that ratio in making the very rough projection of the 3,000 vote turnout in the 117th and the 4,000 vote turnout in the 119th.

Early voting After 10 Days

I called election offices in each of the four counties, starting at 4 p.m. today. Voting continued through 5 p.m., so, except in Oconee County, the figures in the chart below are not final.

The Clarke County figures are as of 4:30, and the Oconee County figures are as of 5 p.m.

Click To Enlarge

Barrow County made up 9.1 percent of the registered voters in the 117th as of Oct. 1, but its 25 votes cast so far are only 2.6 percent of the total in the 117th.

Clarke made up 56.4 percent of the registered voters, but contributed 65.8 percent of the vote so far.

Jackson made up 11.3 percent of the registered voters, but only 1.8 percent of the votes cast.

Oconee made up 23.1 percent of registered voters, but it has contributed 29.9 percent of the votes.

In the 119th, 50.3 percent of the registered voters were from Clarke County on Oct. 1, and 49.7 percent were from Oconee County.

But Clarke County votes so far are 42.6 percent of the vote cast, with Oconee County contributing 57.4 percent.

I used the Oct. 1 data for registered voters because more recent data have not been released by the Secretary of State.

I also used both active and inactive voters, since both can vote.

Turnout Drives

A lot can happen to make my rough projections on turnout wrong.

The Oconee County Republican Party on Thursday evening dispensed with its meeting and asked the half-dozen who showed up to make phone calls to encourage people to cast an early vote or to turn out at the polls on Nov. 7.

The Democratic Party and the candidates are doing the same thing.

Voters do not register by party in Georgia, but, using voting lists from the Georgia Secretary of State, the candidates and party operatives can identify people who turned out in recent elections and the people who chose a Democratic or Republican ballot in recent partisan elections.

The March 2016 presidential primary is a good marker.

Presidential Vote

Another indication of what is possible for the candidates is vote totals in the presidential primary.

Candidates don’t know who voted for whom in the election, but the figures, which I presented in my post on Oct. 22, show possible parameters.

The chart below summarizes those data, taken from a national database on election outcome broken down by state legislative district. I verified the data for Oconee County as a way of checking on the data file.

Click To Enlarge

A natural target for Gonzalez is the 11,370 Clinton voters from the 117th. She needs to find, persuade and motivate them to vote for her.

Gaines needs to find, persuade and motivate enough of the 12,203 Trump voters to offset whatever success Gonzalez has.

Clearly there are enough Clinton voters for Gonzalez to win and enough Trump voters for Gaines to win, given that turnout is likely to be very light, perhaps as low as 3,000 voters, and only about half that number is needed to win.

Lord, Strickland and Wiedower are competing for the same Republican voters, and all have embraced Trump in questions in the candidate forums. (Gaines has been more circumspect regarding Trump.)

The chart suggests that there are 12,974 Trump voters in the 119th the three could obtain under ideal circumstances for them.

Wallace, if he could find and convince all of the Clinton voters to turn out and vote for him, could get 11,140.

Clearly, there are enough votes for Wallace as well as for any of the three Republican candidates to win, given the possibility that turnout could be 4,000 voters or less.

If none of the four candidates in the 119th gets more than 50 percent of the vote when the ballots are tallied on Nov. 7, the top two candidates will meet in a runoff on Dec. 5.

Campaign Finance

Each of the six candidates was required to file a campaign finance statement on Oct. 23, but none had done so as of the end of the day today (Friday).

The candidates have a grace period until Oct. 30 to actually file the returns, I was told by an officer in the Secretary of State Election Division yesterday.

Gaines and Gonzalez had filed returns for the period ending June 30, with Gaines greatly outperforming Gonzalez in money raised.

Both Gaines and Gonzalez were preparing to run for Quick’s seat even before she stepped down for the judgeship.

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