Latest breakdown of city commission vote totals show Soden’s primary victory was widespread
If you have ever wanted to watch someone canvass a group of city commission candidates, you missed your chance recently. (No, it didn’t involve bundling them tightly in heavy cloth. I learned years ago that there is a reason there’s an extra ‘s’ on canvass.)
Instead, what I’m talking about is the process to certify the March 3 city commission and school board vote totals as official. Douglas County commissioners, under the supervision of the Douglas County Clerk, go through a process called a canvass in which they look at provisional ballots and other disputed ballots to come up with a final vote total. That was done last week, so now we have the official vote totals from the primary.
As was almost certain, none of the top six vote winners in the city commission changed their order in the race. To keep this short and sweet (which is not the most common of combinations in politics) the canvass basically gave top vote winner Leslie Soden a slightly greater victory than the unofficial vote totals on election night indicated. She ended up having a 719 vote lead over second-place finisher Stan Rasmussen rather than the 709 vote lead reported on election night.
That’s not all that significant because every candidate starts over at zero in the general election anyway. But normally, if people take the time to vote for you in a primary election, they’ll take the time to vote for you again in a general election. So, Soden goes into the April 7 election with good momentum.
But the more interesting numbers are the precinct-by-precinct vote totals. The Douglas County Clerk’s office has released those totals now that the results have become official. I always like to analyze those results a bit to see what they tell us. (Normally, they tell us that I need a better hobby.) Anyway, here’s a look:
• Soden was the clear-cut winner in large areas of the community. She was the top vote winner in 28 of 49 precincts. Second-place finisher Rasmussen won 10 precincts, third-place finisher Stuart Boley won 6, fifth-place finisher Matthew Herbert won 3, and fourth-place finisher and current City Commissioner Terry Riordan won 2. City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who won the sixth and final spot that moves onto the general election, didn’t win a single precinct. That was quite a change from his election four years ago when he was the top vote-winner in the city.
• The neighborhoods east of Iowa Street were very united in their support of Soden. She won 20 of the 26 precincts east of Iowa Street. Rasmussen, on the other hand, won just a single precinct east of Iowa. (Point of clarification: Some of these precincts, I believe, straddle the Iowa Street line. I count them east or west of Iowa based on the location of the polling place.)
• Rasmussen was the big winner in western Lawrence, but not by huge margins. Western portions of the city were much more divided. Rasmussen won 9 of the 23 precincts west of Iowa Street. Soden won 8 of the precincts west of Iowa Street. This continues a bit of a trend we saw in the November election for a sales tax to support a police headquarters. Eastern Lawrence was very united in its vote against the sales tax, while western Lawrence was generally supportive, but more divided.
• In what has been a trend for quite awhile, voters west of Iowa Street outnumber voters east of Iowa Street. By my tally, there were 4,958 ballots cast west of Iowa compared to 3,508 east of Iowa. It is tough for a candidate to win an election without winning some significant levels of support from west Lawrence voters. (A quick note: I used Iowa Street as the dividing line because that is the way a lot of people divide Lawrence in their minds. But Iowa Street doesn’t represent the center of the city any more from a geographic or demographic standpoint. The east-west dividing line would be farther west. Someday I plan to figure out exactly where that line is — Lawrence Avenue may be a good guess — but that day is not today.)
• The precincts with the largest voter turnout by percentage were: Brandon Woods, 4730 Brandon Woods Terrace, 25.98 percent; Lawrence Heights Christian Church, 2321 Peterson Road, 25.33; Pioneer Ridge, 4851 Harvard Road, 25.32 percent; Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 2211 Inverness Drive, 25.2 percent; American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth St., 24.67 percent. All of those precincts are in the western half of the city. Rasmussen won three of those, while Soden and Boley each won one.
• Students who live in Kansas University residence halls apparently haven’t yet caught city commission fever. There are 1,020 registered voters in Precinct 10, but it had only 1 ballot cast during the primary election. That is a voter turnout of 0.1 percent.
• Voter turnout in the primary election finished at 13.85 percent. The big question on the minds of candidates probably is how much higher voter turnout will be for the general election. If history is a good predictor of the future, we probably all are still wearing powdered wigs. (I don’t think that is the case.) But perhaps some historical numbers are useful here. Over the last 15 years, the highest voter turnout for an April election that did not involve school bonds was in 2007. A whopping 19.1 percent of voters went to the polls. More recently, the April 2013 elections produced a 16.5 percent turnout. It looks like a 5 percent to 6 percent increase in voters in April would be near the top end of what to expect.
But who knows, maybe voter turnout will be higher. Voters certainly do know how to get to the polls in April, when they want to. When we’ve had school bond elections in April, voter turnout has been just under 40 percent.
The general election will be April 7. Advance voting begins Wednesday. The top three voter winners from the field of six will win a seat on the five-member commission.