Over the past decades political participants have come to employ new strategies, new resources, and new ways of plotting out and assessing an election campaign. The internet has turned politics on its head. Mountains of data with endless crosstabs feed politicians with a great deal of information; maybe too much. Not all of these developments have been for the good.
My mentor in politics, the late Joe Crangle, knew a thing or two because, as the commercial goes, he had seen a thing or two. He served as Erie County Democratic Chairman for 23 years, ending in 1988. He was the state Democratic chairman in the mid-seventies. He came close to becoming national chairman in the early 1980’s. He would be fascinated by the new information and tools at the disposal of political practitioners today, although I think he would have used the new analytic resources alongside what his experience had taught him.
Joe’s wide range of political experience allowed him to offer advice and counsel to the many Democrats who worked for and with him. One of my favorite pieces of advice was a simple sentence that politicians today often don’t understand: “don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t want to see in the newspaper tomorrow morning.” The updated version, of course would end, “that you wouldn’t want to read on Twitter or Facebook five minutes from now.”
Joe was dedicated to reviewing campaign numbers in great detail both during campaigns and after the results were in. Party registrations and election results were reviewed on all levels of campaigns – local, state, and federal. The process was cumbersome. Adding machines and good old-fashioned long division took a long time. The info is much easier to accumulate and analyze today.
Coming off our recent elections there has been a lot of speculation about party turnout. The suggestion locally and nationally was that Republicans turned out in greater numbers than Democrats. Undoubtedly that was true in some places. Hard facts analysis of such commentary is not readily discernible from the published Board of Elections data.
Joe suggested a simple way of analyzing party turnout: take a look at the results in an election for a judgeship where one candidate has all the lines on the ballot. Joe’s theory was that it is likely that Democratic and Republican affiliated voters would be inclined in such an election to vote for the judicial candidate on the party line they are registered with considering that the election of the candidate is a foregone conclusion. An approximation could be made about party turnouts.
I decided to apply the Crangle theory to Erie County in November 2021. I reviewed the Democratic and Republican votes for Sharon LoVallo, the incumbent Family Court Judge who was unopposed for re-election. Local contests or the lack thereof can create variances between party registration and Democratic and Republican vote totals in the judgeship race.
Here’s what I found.
- Countywide, LoVallo received 59 percent of her votes on the Democratic line and 41 percent on the Republican line, suggesting that overall Republicans did turn out slightly better than their party registrations would indicate. The whole, of course, is equal to the sum of its parts. Poor Democratic turnout in several towns where the party had no local candidates or a weak slate contributed to Democratic countywide vote totals that are under the registration numbers.
- In the City of Buffalo LoVallo’s votes on the Democratic line came close to the party registration figures, a result undoubtedly due to the high energy mayoral election. The same would not be true in an analysis of most other mayoral elections in recent years.
- In the 27 towns and cities in the county outside of Buffalo the vote results in nine towns closely matched party enrollments, suggesting that both parties did a good job of turning out their vote.
- In 15 towns plus Lackawanna and the City of Tonawanda Republican votes in the judicial race outpaced party registrations, in some cases by significant numbers. In several of these municipalities the local elections were not contested by both parties.
- In only one town, Aurora, was the Democratic vote split in the Family Court election greater than the party registration numbers. Aurora Democrats elected two Town Board members.
I wouldn’t claim that Crangle’s method of analysis is perfect or fool-proof. He would never have made such a claim either. But crunching the data Joe’s way does provides for some interesting reading.
I’ll close this post with a list of the Crangle-styled analysis for Erie County and its municipalities indicating the Democratic/Republican vote split in that judgeship race along with the Democratic/Republican voter registration splits. I would suggest that a difference of 3-4 percent between the vote and the registration numbers would indicate that the parties had a turnout among their affiliated voters that was close to equal for party-to-party turnout. Something larger would indicate that performance outran registration numbers.
Take a look and make your own judgment about this analysis.
Jurisdiction D/R Vote % D/R Registration %
Erie County 59/41 65/35
Buffalo 84/16 88/12
Lackawanna 68/32 84/16
Tonawanda (City) 51/49 60/40
Alden 33/67 38/62
Amherst 57/43 59/41
Aurora 51/49 49/51
Boston 35/65 44/56
Brant 38/62 47/53
Cheektowaga 58/42 70/30
Clarence 38/62 40/60
Colden 37/63 40/60
Collins 36/64 48/52
Concord 36/64 38/62
Eden 36/64 45/55
Elma 34/66 41/59
Evans 50/50 58/42
Grand Island 42/58 49/51
Hamburg 54/46 58/42
Holland 29/71 36/64
Lancaster 43/57 53/47
Marilla 28/72 34/66
Newstead 32/68 36/64
North Collins 29/71 45/55
Orchard Park 45/55 49/51
Sardinia 26/74 29/71
Tonawanda 59/41 63/37
Wales 29/71 38/62
West Seneca 51/49 63/37
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