Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ask and You Shall Receive
In the comments to the polls thread below, Wilson asks about the turnout in Williamson County, TN. Williamson is a heavily GOP county just south of Nashville. How GOP is it? In 2004, Bush won there 72-28. And it's no small place. In that election, only 5 counties (out of 95) cast more votes than Williamson. So one of the things we would hope is that the turnout in Williamson County is down this year. Luckily, the TN Election Commission releases this information every day in a handy-dandy chart. The news is good and bad.

We're hearing how high early turnout is compared to the last time we had a mid-term election (2002), the year we elected a Democratic Governor.

In 2002, Williamson accounted for 3.1% of the early and absentee vote in all of TN. In 2004 that number was upped to 4.1%. So far this year (with only 1 day left in early voting) Williamson accounts for 3.1% of the early vote. So, yes its totals are up, but they are up across the state. Williamson hasn't increased its share of early vote influence over what it had in 2002 and is down a good bit from its 2004 influence. And in general the model is fairly stable and consistent with 2002 on a county-by-county basis (that doesn't tell us which precincts are turning out most but it's something) with a couple exceptions: Ford's Shelby County is up (16.5% of the state so far this year; 13.1% in 2002; 14.3% in '04) and Corker's Hamilton County is up (3.8% in '02; 4% in '04; and 4.5% so far in '06). Republican Knox County is also down. (7.8% now; 9.1 in '02; 9.7 in '04).

So, how does the big picture look?
Here's one way of comparing turnout: In 2004 the 8 counties that gave Bush the largest vote margins *in the early and absentee vote* amounted to 27.25% of the total early/absentee vote state-wide. Remarkably, the 8 counties that gave Kerry his largest margin also added up to 27.25% of the state-wide early/absentee vote. So far in 2006, those 8 Bush counties only count for 23.82% of the early/absentee vote; and Kerry's 8 counties add up to 28.12% of the state-wide turnout. On that evidence alone, it looks like turnout slightly favors Democratic-leaning counties over Republican. But, to be fair, that comparison looked better 3 days ago than it does today, so the day-by-day trend is not positive.

Another comparison: in 2002 the 8 counties that gave Democratic governor Bredesen his largest vote margins (he only won by 2 points state-wide so his is the model we have to more closely hope for here) amounted to 28.49% of the early/absentee vote and Republican Van Hillary's strongest 8 counties made up 21.43% of the state-wide total. So far in the 2006 early vote/absentee count, those 8 Bredesen counties amount to 32.1% of the early vote, while the same 8 Van Hillary counties count for only 20.3%, a slight decline. So strong Bredesent counties are having an even stronger influence. Strong Van Hillary counties a slightly weaker one.

This still doesn't tell us a ton. But it does say that in turnout we're at least not out of it. If Shelby weren't getting out, and Knox and Williamson were surging there'd be no chance at all. The worst news is that the last few days have seen Knox and Williamson gaining. This comparison looked better early in the week.

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