Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cornelius and Davidson had elections, too!

With all of the attention given to the election results in Huntersville, it might be tempting to forget that all of the local municipalities had elections two weeks ago.  Not much has been said about the elections in Cornelius and Davidson, but voters there also trekked to the polls earlier this month.

Last week, some more detailed numbers were available from the Mecklenburg Board of Elections that  are worth a look.

As one might expect Huntersville had the largest number of voters heading to the polls.  With competitive races and by far the largest population, that is not surprising.  However, when it comes to turnout rate, that top “honor” goes to Davidson.

14.61% of Davidsonians headed to the polls, followed by 13.93% of Huntersville’s registered voters, with only 13.25% of Cornelius’s voters making it out.  While saying the “honor” goes to Davidson for the highest turnout is true, that needs to be said with some serious air quotes around it.  It is a pretty sad state of affairs when all three towns had less than 15% turnout.

A closer looks at the numbers in the Mayoral races also revealed some interesting tidbits.

By now most people are aware if how lopsided the contested race in Huntersville turned out to be.  But what may surprise people are a couple of things that occurred in the uncontested races in Cornelius and Davidson.

At first glance both contests had margins of victory for the incumbents reminiscent of what you might see in Castro’s Cuba or the Kim Dynasty in North Korea.  Chuck Travis won in Cornelius with 93.9% and John Woods won in Davidson with 87.9%.

Write in candidates got a cumulative 6.1% and 12.1% respectively in the two towns which actually seems a bit high – particularly for Davidson.  However, after looking at the turnout data provided by the Board of Elections, it is clear there was a significant protest vote beyond even just the write-ins.

in North Carolina only votes where a candidate is actually selected actually end up being  counted – meaning if a ballot is left blank for a given race, that ballot is not counted in the total winning percentage.  These ballots are considered “spoiled” for this given race where they are left blank.  Not counting these ballots, makes the actual winning percentage look artificially high versus the overall total of voters who went to the polls.

So, what were the actual winning percentages when these “spoiled” ballots are included?

In Cornelius, Mayor Travis got 74.20% of actual ballots cast.  In Davidson, Mayor Woods got a little less, coming in at 72.66%.  In fact in PCT 127 on Davidson’s east side, Woods actually slipped below 70% with only 69.6% pulling the lever for him.

So, what does it mean when more that 25% of voters won’t cast a vote for the only name available on the ballot?

An inquiry with the UNC School of Government did not turn up any academic research on the subject of “protest votes”, but a quick comparison to Huntersville sheds some light on it.  In Huntersville where people had two choices and both candidates were reasonable options, the overall protest vote was just 0.4%.

It would seem that Davidson and Cornelius just need more candidates and more options. If they had them, those candidates would likely be starting from a pretty solid base to make a run at the top spots in these two towns.  In fact, if  those options had existed, we very well may be taking about replacing all three Mayors in North Mecklenburg rather than just one.

Clearly, the main issue driving the electoral shellacking in Huntersville was the I77 HOT lanes.  It stands to reason, that same issue was at work creating the high level of “protest” voting in Davidson and Cornelius where both mayors had similar stances as Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain.

This post originally appeared in this week's Herald Weekly at

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