Sunday Commentary: Measure G Is a Reminder That We Need to Count All of the Votes

Publicly many were putting on a brave face—we need to count all of the votes.  Privately, however, most conceded what we believed—Measure G, the parcel tax that would add $3 million for teacher compensation, had lost.

It’s a cliche that we have to count every vote. I certainly accept that as a legal and moral imperative for our democracy. But as a prognosticator, for the most part, we know who is going to win long before the final vote is counted. In part, that is because most elections are not close.

Take Measure Q for example. It was at 80 percent after election day and needed just a majority. That one was safe to call.

We also knew that the Angel Barajas and Duane Chamberlain race, which was separated by 90 votes on election day, was too close to call. Small swings in votes would have—and in fact did—change the outcome.

But Measure G was a gray area. The first results had it at 63.9 percent of the vote—good but short of the two-thirds, and by the end of Election Day it was at 65.1 percent.

I like to run the numbers because it shows us what happens when trends continue and how much they have to change to affect the outcome.  Over the years, it has been extremely reliable.

But that may be changing.  One person I spoke to on Saturday noted that in a lot of the congressional race, the late votes, often people registering and voting the same day, leaned heavily to the left and they swung many of those close races into the blue column.

Indeed, it appears that many of the precincts on and near the campus are the ones that pushed this over the top.  Whereas the more “conservative” and more “peripheral” precincts were still in a majority, but failed to reach the two-thirds majority.

Our initial take on March 4 was we found it would take about a 68.8 percent yes vote percentage in those additional 10,000 votes we estimated were remaining, in order to push the ballot measure to victory.

The verdict: “Our view is that is not exactly impossible—other tax measures have cleared that number. But we view it as unlikely. That would be two full percentage points higher than the election day vote percentage. While not impossible, it seems like a lot of ground to make up.”

The running assumption is that in general the voting make up of those who turn in their absentee ballots on election day mirrors the electorate. And since this was a district-wide tally, there was no reason to believe that the votes would vary markedly from what was counted.

That might need to be revised in elections that are likely to attract a high number of same day registrations.

One astonishing factor is that more people voted late than voted early.  The number of ballots counted after election day has now exceeded the number that were turned in beforehand plus the number that voted in the polls on election day.  We have not seen that before.

A big factor here might have been the nature of the Democratic Primary, which had whittled down from a huge number to a handful of active candidates by the time we reached California.

Still, what happened was pretty remarkable.

We projected it would take at least 68.8 percent.  Given that only 63.9 percent supported it in the early ballots, and 66.9 percent on election day, that seemed a high hurdle—but again that was assuming similar voting populations, and I think if we can ever dig deep enough here, we will find that they in fact weren’t similar voting populations.

So what happened was that instead of the 68.8 percent needed, it received 69.4 percent of those late votes.

In addition, we had projected about 10,000 new votes, and that number is currently 13,563, and likely to end up at 14,500 and perhaps as high as 15,000.

As it turns out, that number is not that important; what was important was the 69.4 percent yes vote.

  • Pre-election day votes: 63.9
  • Election Day votes: 66.9
  • Up to March 13 votes: 69.2
  • Last 3300 votes March 27: 74.5

The 7282 votes tallied over the last three weeks come to 71.5 percent.

These numbers appear to be too strong to be mere random occurrence.  It appears that the voting population got steadily more progressive as the election cycle wore on.  The voters who voted by mail early were the most conservative and those who voted late were the most liberal.

We learn something new all of the time.  Next time, when I see something within two percent of the target, I will be less likely to make the call.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Matt Williams

    Just for grins I have captured the precinct by precinct data for each of the three major waves of data from the Elections Office.  The color-coded graphic below shows how the results for Measure G changed from data release #2 to data release #3 tells an interesting story.

    The six precincts with the darkest blue color had a Yes vote percentage in the third wave of votes that exceeded 78%, and also had a high proportion of the total vote count for that precinct that was counted in the third group of votes (ranging from 32% to 59%).  What do those four of those five precincts share in common?

    F Street Apartments
    North Davis above U-Mall
    University Mall
    University and B
    UCD Main Campus
    UCD Dorms West Village and Patwin

    The twelve precincts with the medium blue color either had a Yes vote percentage in the third wave of votes that was smaller than the first group or a lower proportion of the total vote count for that precinct that was counted in the third group of votes.  Those precincts swung the overall vote to Yes, but were slightly less influential than the first group of six precincts.

    The seven precincts with the light blue color also swung the overall vote to Yes, but were slightly less influential than the second group of ten precincts.

    The ten precincts with no color have two things in common.  With one exception all of them had Yes vote percentages lower than 66.7%, and with one exception all of them had low percentages of their total votes that were cast in the third wave.

    The three precincts with orange color all had low Yes vote percentages and high proportion of votes cast in the third wave.  If those precincts had been larger the story might be different.

    NOTE: the precincts from top to bottom start on the eastern edge of Davis  and progressively work their way to the west edge of Davis.  That progression also tells several interesting stories.


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