Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MoCo Demographics and Voting, Part Three

Conventional wisdom holds that voters of color do not turn out at the same rate as white voters. How true is that in Montgomery County?

As we detailed in Part One, we have collected precinct-level data on population percentages of Hispanic, white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic and Asian non-Hispanic residents and merged it with precinct-level turnout and voting data. This does not allow us to see the turnout percentages for each group, or the voting behavior of each group. But it does allow us to see whether precincts that are dominated by each group tend to behave differently from other precincts.

Following are the turnout rates by different demographic category of precinct in the 2006 primary. These rates include all voters, not just Democrats.

The countywide turnout rate was 24.0%. In precincts with white population shares of more than 90%, that turnout climbed north of 29%. In precincts with Hispanic and Asian population shares of more than 33%, turnout dipped to below 20%. In precincts with black shares of more than 33%, turnout was 23.1% - not that different from the countywide average. That may be because African Americans are concentrated in District 20, and that district saw a barnburner of a Senate race (Ida Ruben vs. Jamie Raskin) in 2006.

The turnout rates differ by precinct demographic, but not that much. Compare these differences to turnout rates by raw geography.

There is actually more variation on geography than there is on demographics. Several Upcounty areas had turnout rates in the mid-teens, while Takoma Park topped 32%. Now perhaps the Upcounty areas had more Republicans and unaffiliated voters, who have fewer voting options in a primary, and that explains their lag. But at least in the 2006 primary, geography was as good – and maybe even better – a predictor of turnout than race or Hispanic status.

So did demographically diverse precincts vote differently from white precincts? We’ll look at the 2006 at-large primary to answer that question tomorrow.