Reading the Tea Leaves

We know that both Moses Carey and Valerie Foushee won the Commissioners race, but how did Valerie come out on top? Let's take a look at what really went down in the Orange County Commissioners race.

To draw out some conclusions about the County Commissioners race, I split up the precincts into five (value neutral) groups based on the results in this race. At the bottom of this post you will find those groupings (inadequately) defined.

DISCLAIMER: There is no significance to the order in which the Groups were lettered. There is nothing implicitly better about Group A versus Group D, for example. They are just identifying terms. Also, I hope I am merely presenting what I found, rather than what I wish that I found, so please do not read this post as reflecting what I think about merger etc. For the record, I voted for Val and Moses, just like almost all voters in my precinct.

Looking at those Groups, here is what I conclude (initially):

African American precincts supported Moses and Valerie pretty much equally.
For example, Moses out polled Val in West Hillsborough (by 30 of 773 votes cast), and Val out polled Moses in Northside (by 30 out of 583 cast). But in both precincts, Val and Moses finished very nearly equal. Differences in vote totals in these precincts reflect more variation in the voting patterns of the white voters, rather than in the voting patterns of African Americans, I would guess.

Central Chapel Hill/Carrboro precincts do not place as much emphasis on merger as suburban Chapel Hill/Carrboro.
Group C precincts are among the most liberal precincts in North Carolina. These precincts were only slightly stronger for Val than for Moses. Contrast that with Group E, which are mostly at the edges of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area where Val was significantly more popular. Note: Val did out poll Moses in both places. Maybe Group C does not care as much (on the whole) about merger. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that Group E is especially concerned. I can think of two reasons why this might be:

1. Perhaps suburban residents live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro to some degree especially for the school system, whereas Group C is here to a somewhat larger extent for the cultural/downtown benefits. Although, of course, most of us in Groups C, D and E are here for both the schools and the culture. Afterall, the two are in reality one.

2. The bussing issue would presumably have more impact on families that are closer to Orange County schools, because they would presumably be the most likely ones to be moved over from CHCCS to OCS if the systems were to be merged.

There was significant split ticket voting in the Commissioners Race.
Many of the precincts where Valerie significantly out polled Moses (Group E) had relatively low single-shot voting rates. For example in North Carrboro only 12% of voters voted for just one candidate. But Val out polled Moses by 150 votes in North Carrboro. Libertarian Artie Franklin got about 130 more than other Libertarian candidates got in that precinct in other races. Republican Jamie Daniel got about 50 more votes than other Republicans got in other races in that precinct. So that makes it look like 100 or so voters cast Val&Artie ballots and 50 or so cast Val&Jamie ballots. And that is out of a total of 721 voters who showed up at the North Carrboro precinct. Therefore (maybe) some 20% of voters in North Carrboro voted a split ticket Dem/Rep or Dem/Lib in this race in order to avoid voting for Moses. A similar pattern is apparent in other Group E precincts.

Group Definitions:

GROUP A: Eight precincts went for Jamie Daniel (rep) over the Democratic County Commissioner Candidates: Caldwell, Eno, Cameron Park, St. Mary's, Efland, Cedar Grove, Tolars, and Cheeks. These are all conservative northern Orange precincts that normally vote just this way. Among Democratic voters in these precincts, Moses lead by 10-30 votes in four precincts and Valerie lead by a similar margin in the other four of these precincts.

GROUP B: Four Precincts in central Orange County preferred Moses over Val by a few votes (from 5 to 32 votes): Orange Grove, West Hillsborough, Hillsborough and Carr. Carr is really more of a northern Orange precinct, but it had results that were more like central Orange.

GROUP C: Thirteen central Chapel Hill/Carrboro precincts delivered very nearly as many votes for Moses as for Val: Battle Park, Lincoln, Lion's Club, Carrboro, Northside, East Franklin, OWASA, Westwood, Mason Farm, Town Hall, Weaver Dairy Satellite, and Country Club. In these precincts Moses got 90 to 99% of the number of votes that Val did. These precincts are usually the most liberal precincts in Orange County and some of them are among the most liberal precincts in all of North Carolina.

GROUP D: Seven suburban Chapel Hill/Carrboro precincts showed a small preference for Val: Coker Hills, Eastside, Booker Creek, Grady Brown, White Cross and Greenwood. Grady Brown is not really suburban Chapel Hill – it is more like suburban Hillsborough, but it voted with these others, so I lumped it in. These precincts preferred Val, but only by a small margin

GROUP E: Eleven suburban Chapel Hill/Carrboro precincts showed a distinct preference for Val over Moses: Cedar Falls, North Carrboro, Dogwood Acres, Coles Store, Patterson, St. John, Weaver Dairy, Damascus, Kings Mill, Colonial Heights, Ridgefield and Estes Hills. In these precincts Moses got less than 87% as many votes as Valerie. Most dramatically, in Dogwood Acres Moses got just 64% as many votes as Val. That is the precinct that includes Southern Village, for example.



Thanks Mark C., I was hoping you were going to do a post like this, because it started a great discussion when you did it for the primary and I haven't had time to study the numbers.

Seems like the County Commissioner race was the only one with significant voting for a third party candidate. While I suspect that means merger was an issue that took votes away from Carey, I don't see the overall numbers providing a mandate against merger. Carey has been in office for a very long time and during the primary there was quite a bit of criticism against him other than just the merger issue.

Maybe OPers should do exit polling during the next election so we will have more data upon which to speculate.

Gerry reported in response to my question in the "Vote Early" thread that the early votes won't be reported back by precinct until 2006.

Based on the numbers in the Absentee column, I think that it has to include the early voteres.

Look at the numbers for the GOP candidate Jamie Daniel – although he lost by about 20,000 votes, there is one Chapel Hill precinct in which he came in second place behind Valerie by 87 votes, defeating Carey by 99 votes. I believe voters in this precinct were supporting a true no-merger ticket of Foushee and Daniel for commissioners. Daniel also came in first place in seven other precincts.

Mark, do you think that straight ticket voting might've exaggerated support for Mr. Carey? I handed out a lot of sample ballots in the last couple weeks and one of the things most people didn't realize that a straight-ticket vote on the front of the ballot extended to the commissioners race on the back-side. I looked at some of the precincts you mentioned and there seems to be a rough correlation between what might be straight-ticket votes and the commissioner races.

Might the data from early voters and absentees not being included in their precinct totals change any of this analysis? The four candidates received some 57K votes, and even though we can't conclude that everyone voted for two, that still a lot of votes coming out of the precinct totals and could significantly change those margins.

My guess would be that Weaver Dairy Sat. would be the only precinct that might not have experienced much of an impact because of the early voters, but maybe that might not be a valid assumption either.

Were all early votes counted as Absentee? I know our precinct chair got numbers for early voters in our precint but the numbers on the BOE website are those of Nov 2 only (I was end of night observer and have a copy of the counts).

I agree Fred. Statistically the overall Nov 2 results are probably sufficient for drawing broad conclusions about trends, but they may not be adequate for a precinct-by-precinct analysis. I think my precinct had close to 50% turnout for early voting making our numbers (Group E) only very rough estimates of what really happened.

Yes, Fred, Terri et al. My analysis is only for votes cast on election day - which is only about half of all votes, I think.

Still the split ticket pattern is discernable among election day votes.

And, Will, definitely many, many voters mark straight ticket without considering the Commissioners race. That is true. I think we might even be able to get a count of people who marked straight ticket. I'll call the Board of Elections to ask that question.

It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to view this result as a mandate for or against merger. Still, there is a message here and it does not take a statistician to hear it: Some folks are really upset about merger.

But we knew that.

It would really be nice to understand if this year's early voters in Orange were different as a group. Did they vote straight ticket with the same frequency as election day voters? This might be a key in understanding the OCC outcomes, plus knowing the degree to which people only voted for one candidate.

Were early voters "informed" voters to the same degree? [As an aside, I wonder if the media who wrote the stories about the increases in early voting got the hint that they need to get their voter guides out much earlier?]

I voted early because we were going to be out of the country on election day, but I suspect some of those who did it because they thought it would be less time consuming, didn't find that to be true. Will they vote early next time? Did some who voted early do so because they had made up their minds and weren't concerned about last minute info?

These and many other questions make it hard for me to conclude very much about the behavior in precincts, unless I'm willing to conclude the two voting groups behaved similarly. Fortunately, it won't be a problem in 2008.

I voted early when I turned in my out-of-state son's absentee ballot. No line, took me five minutes, tops. I consider myself an informed voter. I generally DON'T use a voter guide...even for the judges...though I do take a "cheat sheet."

As to Cary/Foushee conundrum--I think Cary won because he's an incumbant, and the commissioners are about more than JUST schools and merger.

Amen Melanie.

Additionally, WillR is correct in my view, the straight ticket voters in Orange Co., particularly in a Presidential election year, helped Moses.

The media and a few columnists have been the one's trying to weave a story for merger (mandate) based on Moses' re-election. There is more to his re-election than merger, or his race. His positive long-term service to the County being the main reason. Unfortunately, he is wrong on merger and it would be a shame (in my view) if the merger debate was his legacy in Orange Co.

Mark, is it possible that folks in the burbs care more about the merger issue because there are more parents in the burbs? As a percentage?

Joan, maybe. And it would be interesting to look at whether that is really true.

I realize the following is not your point, but that type of argument has been used before the CHC School Board to claim that the views of suburban voters are somehow more valid than those in central CH/C. Drive down the bypass at school bus time and watch how many kids get off the bus at the various apartment complexes. A lot. Like a whole lot.

Mark, the burbs' perspective is not more valid, but perhaps more passionate. Even though the downtown areas are compact, or perhaps because of it, it does seem like there are fewer kids--perhaps because it's so expensive and because the yards are smaller, or perhaps a combination.

Anyway, I'll see if I can dig that up, the number of kids.

I'd be interested in seeing an analysis of who voted yes on amendment 1. Orange had more nos (if I recall correctly), as did Wake, as did... Swain. It'd also be interesting to see how it broke down within Orange.

Could someone please describe what is meant by "burbs" in CH/C?

I echo this question about "burbs" - - - if it really means anything in the analysis at all. In a County with a total population of what, 120,000 (?)comprised of a few "towns," it is very hard to think of anything like a suburban model of electorate - - - it is fair however to consider what was alluded to in terms of the "aging" of neighborhoods in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, with fewer young families (= school age kids) in these areas. As well as the influx of non-traditional households in Orange County (still can't consider Orange County "rural"). Here we see professional families with two income households and kids.

I consider the northern part of Carrboro, and the northern and eastern parts of Chapel Hill pretty suburban.

Off the top of my head, "burbs" around here would be most of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro precincts except: Northside, Lincoln, Town Hall, OWASA, East Frankin, and Battle Park. The southern precincts like Greenwood, Westwood, Country Club, and Mason Farm seem semi-suburban to me.


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