Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Low Turnout

If you want to scare a Democrat in Maryland (or most other places), mention three words - "Low Turnout Election".  Democrats just don't do well in low turnout elections.  It would be dangerous and presumptuous to project the reasons why, but I think there are two fair explanations: 1) the Republican message plays better with the electorate that turns out for Gubernatorial elections, or 2) the Republican base turns out more consistently and, in the absence of a counter-weight, can be expected to win close seats.

There are some who consistently project these tides to reach further than they actually do.  It may be hard to remember (or believe), but Gonzales Research (a firm still used by many of the candidates you hear quoting polls today) projected Ken Ulman to squeak by Trent Kittleman 49% to 41%. 

Close.  Ulman 63% Kittleman 37%.

From being on the ground, on the phones, and in the community, I'm fairly certain we will have strong turnout in Howard County.  Voters were a little checked out after a drawn-out Primary, but in places like Ellicott City/9B/Council 1 we saw Democratic turnout as high as 32% with 29% Democratic turnout County-wide.  The state-wide turnout was 23%.

Howard County's strong performance in the Primary (at least among Democrats; HoCo GOP turnout was 20%) bodes well for similarly strong turnout in the General, if for no other reason than the fact that Primary voters often see their votes through in the General.

Nevertheless, none of us should be satisfied with a low turnout election.  There is something inherently unrepresentative about it.  A strong argument can be made that people who don't want to vote shouldn't be compelled to do so due to the likelihood of making an uninformed decision, but I think we underestimate the value people place in their votes.  Voters do their homework, particularly here.

Comptroller Peter Franchot is often cited by the GOP as "endorsing" their positions on fiscal policy.  He's acknowledged that Maryland is in a tough spot after the recession and that Marylanders are concerned about taxes.  However, he said something else when I saw him last night - "I'm confident Maryland Democrats will win most of these tight elections."  I agree.  I think all of the talk about low turnout is going to be a self-canceling prophesy.  Voters are not inspired, but they are concerned.  Not just about the economy, but also about the future in general and what kind of society we are creating with every decision made in Annapolis.  Concern and frustration can be paralyzing, but I don't think we're there yet.  Maryland voters are still engaged.

Particularly here in Howard County.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!