2013 Senate v. 2011 City Council Elections: Who voted?

As soon as the Lowell tally in the US Senate special election was announced back on June 25, 2013, most political observers were struck first by the scale of Ed Markey’s victory over Gabriel Gomez in the city (58% to 42%). Then came the intriguing observation that almost the exact number of people had voted in this special Senate election as had voted in the last city council race back in 2011 (9901 for the Senate and 9946 for the Council, a difference of only 45 votes). The question then became, was it the same 9900 voters who participated in both or was it a type of Venn diagram with two slightly overlapping circles?

We won’t know the answer to that question for sure (or to what extent) until the voter file from this just completed election is available which should be sometime soon. With that, we can match up exactly who voted in both and quantify the differences with some precision. For now thought, looking at the precinct-by-precinct turnout in both elections does demonstrate that there was a substantial difference in the electorate that participated in the two elections.

To put things in perspective, there are slightly more than 50,000 registered voters in the city. Those voters are divided by total population (not by registered voters) into 11 wards and each ward is divided into 3 precincts for a total of 33 precincts. Right now, the precinct with the most registered voters is Ward 1, Precinct 2 in Belvidere with 2406 while the one with the fewest is Ward 10, Precinct 2 with just 1163 (that’s in the Acre). There are two ways to measure changes in turnout: by actual numbers and by percentage change. Percentage change while important, can be a bit deceiving because a precinct with a small number of registered voters can see a big jump in percentage of participation as a result of not too many additional participants. Anyway, here are some numbers:

All of these comparisons are of the 2011 city council election and the 2013 Senate special election:

The three highest precincts for additional voters participating were:

  1. Ward 2, Precinct 2 with an increase of 88 voters (66% increase)(Downtown)
  2. Ward 2, Precinct 3 with an increase of 75 voters (27% increase)(Downtown)
  3. Ward 7, Precinct 1 with an increase of 68 voters (48% increase)(Acre)

The three precincts with the largest drop in voters participating were:

  1. Ward 1, Precinct 2 with a decline of 209 voters (21% decrease)(Belvidere)
  2. Ward 8, Precinct 3 with a decline of 201 voters (26% decrease)(Highlands)
  3. Ward 1, Precinct 3 with a decline of 112 voters (13% decrease)(Belvidere)

While I won’t give the stats for all 33 wards (perhaps in another post later), I can provide the numbers for each ward.  Here are the Ward number followed by the actual change in the number of people who voted in the Senate vs the City Council election with that number then shown as a percentage change:

  1. down 295 votes (decrease of 14%)
  2. up 181 votes (increase of 36%)
  3. up 5 votes (increase of 1%)
  4. down 59 votes (decrease of 9%)
  5. up 74 votes (increase of 11%)
  6. up  8 votes (increase of 1%)
  7. up 78 votes (increase of 19%)
  8. down 242 votes (decrease of 18%)
  9. up 95 votes (increase of 11%)
  10. up 68 votes (increase of 14%)
  11. up 42 votes (increase of 5%)

No conclusions from me yet although they’ll be forthcoming over the weekend.  In the meantime, please share your thoughts.

2 Responses to 2013 Senate v. 2011 City Council Elections: Who voted?

  1. Linda Copp says:

    Voter Turnout is low but voter participation in the process of choosing candidates and electing them is even less. When there are over 50,000 registered voters in Lowell and we see 9901 turn out to vote, naturally the question is Why? There are many reasons offered for the lack of participation. It was too hot, it was a time of vacations and graduations, people were otherwise engaged, Neither Markey nor Gomez inspired voters, canvassing targets were off and the beat goes on and the list of questions along with it. We will never know definitely why, these numbers, low as they were, were the culmination of all this time and energy spent trying to connect with the voters, or in the Markey campaign, our democratic voters. You talk to people, you tell them why you care and what you care about and why your guy, is the one and you hope it resonates. Sometimes you walk away and you know you made a difference and the voter is going to think about what you said and you hope it is a vote. Or you walk away and know you changed their mind because you gave them that elusive something to consider, that issue, you did not know would be the deciding factor before you knocked on the door. However, you found your voice after you heard theirs and your input about your candidates position on the matter resonated in their book of concerns in their lives. Voter turnout to me depends on the voter having a concern, an issue that is important enough to galvanize them into action and turn them out at the polls to make those feelings both felt and heard. Perhaps if we network more and really listen carefully, in our daily lives, we will be better able to discern the voters concerns, versus our own and find common ground. This is what I will be doing in the days ahead listening and learning as we work in the local elections where turnout is usually even lower than a normal national election, but certainly not in this case, a Senate special election. It would seem a majorty of the electorate seems to feel these local elections do not matter much to them and fail to see the importance of them. They do not see good people and good candidates for our future direction as a nation come from such elections and they do not see the need to engage because the government, that entity they may eye with much disdain and suspicion is beyond them. When in reality the government is actually of them, depending on whether they vote or chose not to. Someone will run and someone will win, it just remains to be seen if they will represent your views or someone elses. In short, more people will bother to vote when more people are bothered!

  2. kad barma says:

    My thoughts are less concerned with Belvidere’s turnout, (which always returns to be robust whenever their direct interests are on the line as with City Council elections), and more encouraged that Downtown and the Acre are continuing their trend for greater participation. Not for nothing, but the city’s grudging improvements to downtown poll access are indeed showing positive benefit, though there is still great need for further progress towards achieving adequate facilities with reasonable access and signage.