We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Thursday, November 4, 2010

SD Voter Turnout Higher in GOP Counties, Lower in Dem Counties

Mr. Woodring points out an interesting party-related phenomenon in Tuesday's voter turnout figures here in South Dakota. He notices that the six counties where voter turnout was below 50%—Buffalo, Corson, Dewey, Shannon, Todd, and Ziebach—all tilted for Scott Heidepriem for governor. Those counties also all have high Native American populations.

Mr. Woodring got me wondering if Dems really did sit on their hands in this general election. I haven't found a turnout breakdown by party on Secretary of State Chris Nelson's awesome results website yet. But we do have turnout figures by county as well as the final voter registration totals as of October 18, the final date to register for the November 2 vote.

Some quick number-crunching produces these correlation numbers:

Correlations with turnout
...with GOP voters as percentage of county total
...with % Dem -0.642
...with % Indy -0.285
...with total voter registration -0.074

Counties with higher proportions of Republicans (top five: Campbell, Harding, Haakon, Douglas, Jones) tended to have higher voter turnout. Counties with higher proportions of Democrats (the six Woodring listed are the top six) tended to see lower voter turnout.

Another view: Of the 29 counties where Republicans make up more than 50% of registered voters, 23 met or beat the statewide voter turnout of 62.3%. Of the 13 counties where Democrats make up a majority of the electorate (such places do exist in South Dakota!), five beat the statewide voter turnout average.

Turnout does not appear to correlate significantly with number of voters available. The ten counties with the most registered voters were all within four percentage points of the state average, six above, four below. The ten counties with the fewest voters varied much more, from 43.4% turnout among Buffalo County's 1050 registered voters to 83.7% turnout among Jerauld County's 1365 registered voters.

(Interestingly, folks in Jerauld are almost evenly split between the parties, with 614 Republicans and 608 Democrats. They broke for Daugaard 54-46, Herseth Sandlin 51-41-8.)

This result suggests the enthusiasm gap played a role in the results in South Dakota. Given two Democrats at the top of the ticket who ran away from the Democratic label, Democrats appear to have been more inclined to stay home Tuesday.


  1. Mike Henrickson11/04/2010 12:37 PM

    Nice summary, Cory.
    I think you are on to something with it.

    While I am not a Dem, I heard lots of Dems commenting that they thought it was a mistake for candidates to distance themselves from the party.

    Other that West Virginia's Joe Manchin, I dont think the tactic helped too many.

  2. Thanks, Mike. I'm very interested in figuring what factors allowed the Dems to lose again in South Dakota. I thought we were doing a lot of things right... but I obviously can fall victim to wishful thinking as well.

    Distancing from party: Note that nationally, a majority of SHS's Blue Dog Coalition got whacked. If your selling detergent, and you brand yourself as "Just like Tide™!" people are going to buy more Tide.

  3. Mike Henrickson11/04/2010 1:21 PM

    It is an interesting side effect with the mjority of Blue Dogs getting "whacked", too.

    If the Blue Dogs were the moderate wing of the democratic party, and they all (or mostly) get removed from the overall caucus, then what is left is actually a more liberal caucus.

    I wonder how that will play out for the next couple of years.

  4. Bingo, Mike. You are seeing the same phenomenon as a lot of national pundits: both parties losing their moderates and thus tending toward the ideologically tougher wings. Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich -- all hard left, all kept their seats.

    Redistricting will be very interesting, as both parties will likely finagle to redraw the strongholds of various party leaders on both sides. Nationally, that will be big fun. At the state level, the GOP supermajority in Pierre will simply carve Minnehaha up into new stripes to dilute the liberal voting precincts with the conservatives who elected Hickey, Haggar, Liss, Hunt, et al.... or maybe just concentrate them all in one distict.

  5. Anyone more in the know than I am is certainly welcome to correct me, but when I asked people working for the coordinated campaign about their plan for turning out the vote in Indian Country, I was given the distinct impression there wasn't one. Not sure what the thinking was there, except perhaps a lack of resources and staff to cover the whole state.

  6. Jessica Giard11/04/2010 1:58 PM

    Party-affiliation aside. What keeps these voters from the polls? I don't think you can look pointedly at party-affiliation in these counties you mention, when so many other factors come to play.

    Perhaps a better comparison would be analyzing Democrat vs. Republic turnout in counties off the reservations.

  7. Agreed, Jessica—lots of possible factors. I haven't seen the county-by-county turnout totals yet (if anyone has 'em, send a link!). We could also look at correlation between turnout and income, age, and other factors. And the rez vote certainly pulls those numbers. But even when I factor out the six lowest turnout counties, all high-rez vote, the correlations are still there (and they get stronger neg for Indy proportion).

  8. Mike Henrickson11/04/2010 2:25 PM

    I always hated redistricting.
    I dont care if it favors my party or not. I tend to look at things in terms of what is fair. Some of the district lines that get drawn are so obtuse you know it is only that way to benefit some talking head.

    Also, never been a big fan of super majorities. There is nothing worse that a political party (either of them) thinking they have a mandate to do anything they want. I feel the current goverment was an overcorrection to the Bush mess, and this midterm has been a correction to that overcorrection. Hopefully we can stop the wild swings back and forth and just have a balance of opinions. I think that is where the best legislation comes from. Debate is essential.

  9. It's hard to get fired up to vote for a lesser of two evils. SHS's policy positions had been moving further and further right up to the elections. The choice was really to either vote for someone extremely far right or someone towards the middle right.

    If Noem actually follows her narrative and aggressively cuts government spending, this could be a disaster for SD. Since, we are a welfare state.

  10. I agree with Tony, I know of 2 people personally who did not even vote ,just for that reason. Neither one of them had ever been interested in politics before 2008 and have reverted to this non interest after being disappointed with the way SHS voted on health care. As for Noem I predict that her and the GOP won't put forward any substantial budget cuts.I see her towing the party line except when it comes down to torquing off a financial supporter in South Dakota, and the party line is going to be all about health care repeal because aggressive spending cuts will create too many enemies.

  11. Cory,I find it somewhat amusing that the county that Congresswoman Noem carried by the highest percentage, Harding County, 73.3 percent is a county that she has never been to.
    Bret Clanton

  12. When I grew up in Minnesota, we called the Democratic party the "DFL party" (for "Democratic, Farmer, and Labor"). I guess they still call it that.

    I was raised to imagine that the Democrats best represented the working class, the unions, and in general the blue-collar force, while the Republicans were the elitists.

    I remember a saying: When a Republican mixes a martini, she measures quantities with a shot glass; when a Democrat mixes a martini, he just pours.

    Now those attitudes seem to have reversed.

    The Dems seem to have adopted a certain arrogance, a certain intellectualism that comes off to a lot of folks as simply phony. The Republicans now seem to stand for thrift and hard work -- but also the large and powerful corporations.

    The true worker, the toiler, the person who holds our society together -- he or she feels left out of the system altogether. Hence the frustration, almost an instinct to hurl a wrench into the whole rotten apparatus.

    If my theory is correct, then it's no wonder South Dakota has shifted steadily toward the red end of the spectrum in recent years. There's nowhere else to go except into total oblivion.

  13. Stan, I'm trying to figure out how to reverse that perception... because on policy, it's still the Democratic Party that is the real friend of farmers and workers.

    Bret, that is amusing... but I'll bet it went the other way: Noem knew a frog with an R stamped on it would carry 3/4 of Harding, so she didn't waste resources campaigning way up in the corner. Perhaps that's the same thing that motivated her to skip the KTOA debate: she knew she had West River sewed up, so she didn't have to take the chance of appearing side by side with the woman who'd make her look incompetent and icy by comparison.

    Tony, yes: there was a clear lack of enthusiasm. And the messaging didn't work: if Dem candidates brand themselves as imitation Republicans, Dems won't buy it, and Indies will say, "Why buy imitation when I can get the real thing for the same price?"

    Mike, you're right: and we won't get real debate from an imitation party.

    And Barry, Noem seems ill-equipped to do the bipartisan olive-branch-extending that will be necessary to move things in the split Congress. She can't afford to alienate the Tea Partiers who sent her big money by turning around and compromising.


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.