by Michael Lowrey
Yes, the UPoR headline will be that Jennifer Roberts was elected mayor, but the big underlying issue was turnout. Or rather the lack of turnout. In 2013, 96,356 people voted for mayor. This year, only 79,769 did, 17 percent less than in 2013 despite the city having added population since then. Roberts received 9,440 fewer votes less this year than Patrick Cannon got two years ago (41,690 vs 51,130) while Edwin Peacock saw the number of votes he received fall by 7,069 (37,967 now vs 45,036 two years ago). This wasn’t just a matter of the black vote not turning out — it was everybody everywhere not turning out as much.
Fewer people voted this November than in 2011, when 83,288 ballots were cast in a blowout (Anthony Foxx got 67 percent of the vote).
Surprise election story: Republican John K. Powell, Jr. coming within 252 votes of being elected to City Council at large (!). Yes, really. And I say that because two years ago, the top Republican at large was 5,500 votes behind the bottom Democrat and over 13,000 votes behind the top vote-getting Democrat. So maybe there is some reason for hope for the GOP in the Queen City. Which gets us to…
A structural change as compared to 2013: No more straight ticket voting. Yes, that matters and helps Republicans in the pick four city council at large race. In 2013, nearly 44 percent of those that went to the polls cast a straight-party ballot, and Democrats started out with an 11,000 vote advantage from this, and that applied equally to popular Democrats and not-so-popular Democrats. That was a hugely difficult gap for Republicans to make up.
It’s hard to know the exact impact of this change. You could argue that it would be seen in fewer people voting for four candidates at large. And indeed, the number of votes cast for Charlotte City Council at large was down even more than in the mayor’s race — 27 percent to be exact, 261,320 this year, as compared to 357,940 two years ago. There’s a huge “but” though: Only three Republicans ran at large this year. The 2013 general election also featured a Libertarian running at large. So a significant portion of the drop of is presumably from conservative/libertarian types opting to not cast their fourth vote at all simply because they weren’t going to vote for a Democrat.
No four-year terms for county commission: That idea went down in flames. Not sure who besides seven members of county commission was really in favor of the idea.