2017 Gainesville Election Breakdown

2017 Gainesville Election Breakdown

Gainesville’s progressives swept the last month’s March elections beating out the only two Republican held seats.  Republican incumbent Craig Carter lost to 26  year old David Arreola 66% to 34% and Republican Perry Clawson lost to Harvey Ward in a three way race 27% to 51%.

On the surface it looks like the cause of these upsets  was an all around decrease in turnout, but that’s a very incomplete picture. The reason the City of Gainesville has the most progressive commission in recent memory is because nearly a thousand more Democrats and over a thousand less Republicans voted in 2017 compared to 2014.

But why did this happen? Three reasons stand out according to my analysis: Slight changes in districts, uniquely problematic Republican candidates, and most importantly, a Trump effect pushing new city voters to the polls and depressing Republican turnout.

The Electorate and Turnout:

Turnout was down 3.2% compared to 2014 but this was mostly due a large increase in people registered to vote in the City in 2017. The raw numbers amount to around the same number of people going out to the polls. The largest drop in turnout came in D3 with a near 6% decrease from 2014.

Turnout  2014  vs 2017 by district

District 2017 2014 Difference
D2 19.3% 22.3% -3.0%
D3 13.9% 19.6% -5.7%
D1 and D4 6.6% 8.2% -1.6%
Total 11.8% 15.0% -3.2%

There were about 16,000 more people registered to vote in the city in 2017 than in 2014 and nearly 9,000 of them were Democrats. Republicans still gained some 2,700 eligible voters giving Democrats a small, 1.7% registration advantage over 2014. Overall the largest change was a less than 3% net change in favor of Democrats in D3. But this small change can’t account for the major shift in D3 from 2014 when Carter beat Democratic incumbent Susan Bottcher 53% to 47%.

Registered Voters 2014 vs 2017 by Party

At Large 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif # dif %
Dem 37,322 51.99% 46,241 52.57% 8919 0.58%
Rep 16,156 22.51% 18,854 21.43% 2,698 -1.07%
Total 71,788 87,969 16,181
D2 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif dif %
Dem 10,040 49.61% 11,683 50.49% 1,643 0.89%
Rep 5,656 27.95% 6,143 26.55% 487 -1.40%
Total 20,239 23,137 2,898
D3 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif dif %
Dem 8,869 48.81% 11,086 49.62% 2,217 0.82%
Rep 4,594 25.28% 5,178 23.18% 584 -2.10%
Total 18,172 22,341 4,169
D1 and D4 2014 2014 % 2017 2017 % dif dif %
Dem 18,413 55.17% 23,472 55.24% 5,059 0.07%
Rep 5,906 17.69% 7,533 17.73% 1,627 0.03%
Total 33,377 42,491 9,114

The issue for Carter, Clawson, and possibly many Republicans in 2018 is about Democratic vs Republican turnout.  Overall Democrats had 970 extra voters from 2014 to 2017, keeping their turnout flat at 17% but Republican turnout dropped to 9%. The largest difference was in D3 where Republican turnout dropped 12% from 2014 levels. Another way to say this is that even with close to 9,000 more Democrats registered to vote in the city they still managed to turnout at 2014 levels. The 3% drop in turnout was almost entirely due to Republicans staying home.

Cast Votes 2014 vs 2017 by Party

At Large 2014 Voters 2014 Turnout 2017 Voters 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 6,690 17% 7,660 17% 970 0%
Rep 2,925 18% 1,773 9% -1,152 -9%
D2 2014 2014 Turnout 2017 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 2,485 25% 3,030 26% 545 1%
Rep 1,519 27% 995 16% -524 -11%
D3 2014 2014 Turnout 2017 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 2,121 24% 2,260 20% 139 -4%
Rep 1,058 23% 588 11% -470 -12%
D1 and D4 2014 2014 Turnout 2017 2017 Turnout dif dif %
Dem 2,084 23% 2,370 10% 286 -13%
Rep 348 8% 190 3% -158 -5%

Clearly low Republican turnout was a major factor in these upsets but a more illuminating way to look at this is by vote share, the percentage of the votes cast up by a party. In D2 Democrats netted a 30% gain in vote share on a 2.2% gain in registration advantage. In D3 Carter peeled off some Democrats in 2014 and 2017 but he couldn’t manage to make up for a 12% drop in the Republican vote share. Close to 75% of the votes cast in the city election were from Democrats in 2017. These numbers are staggering.

Vote Share 2014 vs 2017 by Party

At Large 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 62% 74% 12%
Rep 27% 17% -10%
D2 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 50% 68% 18%
Rep 34% 22% -12%
D3 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 59% 73% 14%
Rep 23% 11% -12%
D1 and D4 2014 Vote Share 2017 Vote Share dif %
Dem 77% 84% 7%
Rep 13% 7% -6%

Clearly there’s something important happening but who are those that chose to vote and what’s causing the uptick in Democratic turnout?

Categories of Voters:

It’s helpful to break the 2017 voters into three main classes:

  1. Regular city voters who voted in 2014 and 2017.
  2. Found voters who didn’t vote in 2014 but voted in 2017. These people were registered to vote in city elections in 2014 but chose not to vote.
  3. New city voters who weren’t registered in 2014 but were in 2017.

Chart 5: Voter Category

Number Percentage
Voted 2014; Voted 2017 5,884 54.9%
Registered but didn’t vote in 2014; Voted 2017 2,812 26.2%
Not registered 2014; Registered & voted 2017 2,023 18.9%
Total 10,719

The Regulars:

Turnout was depressed massively for Republican regular voters. In D2 Clawson was a problematic candidate to say the least and it showed in Republican turnout. A full 50% of Republicans who voted in D2 in 2014 chose not to in 2017. It might look like Republicans weren’t feeling it for Clawson but they also weren’t feeling it for Carter in D3. Carter had taken non-Republican positions such as supporting the wild places public spaces tax initiative and making the motion to raise the minimum wage for City workers which could have eroded his Republican base. But that story alone can’t account for a meager 49% retention of Republican voters from 2014 to 2017. Meanwhile Democrats netted a 70% turnout of people who voted in 2014.

Voted in 2014 and 2017 Gainesville Elections

At-Large Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 4331 70% 74% 1204 48% 20% 5884
Total Registered 6220 2531 9554
D2 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,689 73% 67% 672 50% 27% 2,529
Total Registered 2,326 1,346 4,040
D3 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,434 72% 72% 438 49% 22% 1,987
Total Registered 1,988 899 3,141
D1 and D4 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,195 63% 51% 95 33% 4% 2,354
Total Registered 1,888 287 3,155

The Found Voters:

There were 41,450 people who were registered to vote but didn’t cast ballots in 2014. A full 88% didn’t vote again in 2017 but of those that did 73% were Democrats. The Number of Republicans who didn’t vote in 2014 but chose to vote in 2017 was a pathetic 4% or 335 individuals. These are mostly long term residents of Gainesville and many of them have never voted in a city election before. The most likely causation here is the Trump effect. Indivisible, the Women’s March, and various resistance organizations have helped to fire up over two thousand new, long term city residents to vote.

Registered in 2014 and 2017 but did not vote in 2014

At-Large Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 2,153 9% 77% 335 4% 12% 2,812
Total Registered 22,873 55% 8317 20% 41,504
D2 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 925 14% 72% 203 6% 16% 1,284
Total Registered 64,07 51% 3,149 25% 12,446
D3 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 497 11% 76% 81 4% 12% 653
Total Registered 4,662 50% 2,132 23% 9,364
D1/D4 Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 729 6% 83% 51 2% 6% 874
Total Registered 11,803 60% 3,036 15% 19,691

The New Voters:

There were ~37,000 people registered to vote in the City of Gainesville in 2017 who were not registered to vote in the city in 2014. Most of these people are voters who moved into the City from elsewhere in the state or even Alachua County but this also includes people who registered to vote for the first time. The vast majority of these people didn’t vote but about 1,400 who did were again disproportionately Democrats. The largest vote capture is in D2 where 16% of these new voters turned out. Overall 68% of the newly registered voters were Democrats and 68% of those that voted were Democrats. Again, Republicans had a pathetic 4% or 293 people turnout from this category in 2017.

2017 New Gainesville City Voters

2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 1,367 5% 68% 293 4% 14% 2,023
Total Registered 25,144 68% 8,006 22% 36,892
D2 2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 464 16% 62% 141 9% 19% 747
Total Registered 2,948 44% 1,648 25% 6,649
D3 2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 371 8% 62% 93 4% 16% 594
Total Registered 4,422 45% 2,148 22% 9,818
D1 and D4 2017 GNV New Voters Dem Dem % Dem Share Rep Rep % Rep Share Total
Voted 529 5% 74% 59 1% 8% 713
Total Registered 9,772 48% 4,209 21% 20,433

Conclusions:

This progressive wave election in Gainesville happened because Republican candidates were uniquely problematic and because there was a strong Trump effect pushing new city voters to the polls and keeping Republicans from turning out. Republicans and right wing operatives will blame the Democrats registration advantage but a 1.7% gain from 2014 can’t be the sole cause.

The truth is that progressives fired up their base to turnout like never before. They not only made sure that over 70% of those who cast ballots in 2014 did so in 2017, they also made sure that over 3,500 newly registered and longtime residents voted. This could be a precursor to the so called “Indivisible wave” pundits are predicting in 2018 in which Democrats turnout is large numbers and take the US House and Senate.

But this is only half the story. The other important piece for Gainesville in 2017 and the nation in 2018 is that Republicans are highly discouraged. There were large drop offs in all categories of voters and it all can’t be blamed on problematic candidates. Many Republicans are facing a massive disillusionment from Trump’s actions and are becoming discouraged by politics. This could very well have resulted in a record number of Republicans giving up on the electoral process and deciding not to vote in this past election.

This combination of an energized left and a depressed right will make 2018 a very interesting year for politics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s