Georgia and Gerrymander

Now that the media and the Brocialists have all decided that the Democrats are a failed party because they lost GA06, I though it worth while to take a look at the numbers. I had originally thought to write up lessons (though there are some here) the way I did for Lessons of Montana, but there is something here that needs to be brought out.

First, let’s look at the election numbers. The overall turnout for the special election was 259,622, the highest number ever for a special election in GA, about 58% of registered voters. In the November 2016 general, turn out was higher, 322,163, about 72%.

Year Rep Dem Total Win %
2016 201,088 124,917 326,005 61.6% – R
2017 134,595 124,893 259,622 51.8% – R
Decline -66,493 -24 -66,517

So what does this tell us? It tells us that Republicans blew chunks. In a virtually uncontested general election, Price won 61.6% of a reasonably high turn out. If you only look at percentages, Handel at 51.8% doesn’t seem so bad, especially for a non-incumbent. But look at the loss of Republican voters, down just over 66K voters. Ossoff, on the other hand, has a decline of 24 people – and this deficit may go away when all mail in ballots are counted. The win differential becomes even more problematic when vote totals are examined. Price won by 76, 171 votes, Handel by a bare 9,702. Price’s margin of votes was over 50% of Handel’s total votes, 56.6%.

In short, exactly like Montana, the reduction in turn out was due to Republican attrition, not Democratic. Ossoff’s near victory owed a lot to the opposition staying home, just as Quist benefitted in MT, and Ossoff was even closer, getting within 3.6% of a much more competitive candidate than Gianforte.

Much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments ha been wasted on how allegedly unappealing Ossoff was to the voters of GA06 because of his [argle-Bro-bargle] negatives, yet it is clear that it was Handel who failed to bring out her voters. Ossoff got within 25 votes of the last Democrat in a general election, and handily beat the vote totals from 2012 and 2008 general elections.  And this was a special election.

I’m going to do a cost per vote estimate as I did with Montana, but the dollar amounts are all over the place. The best I have at the moment is from Open Secrets (CRP), and their numbers are incomplete. Taking the Outside Spending tab (which is the only one showing totals for both candidates), there was more money spent on anti-Ossoff than on pro-Handel, anti-Handel and pro-Ossoff combined. Taking the total of anti-Ossoff + pro-Handel, the winning margin cost the Republicans $1,877.66 per vote.

Given the billions they are going to rake in with tax breaks and other government welfare for the wealthy, I think they’ll consider it a cheap investment.

The opposition spending matters because of how negative advertising works. It’s not meant to get people to switch sides. It’s meant to disgust the opposition’s supporters and encourage them to stay home.

Now, for the most interesting angle. In MT, there is one congressional district, so it’s easy to compare the representative election to the presidential election – same voter pool in the same geographic space. It’s harder to do that with multi-district states because the presidential numbers are reported by county, not by district. You’d have to go and do precinct comparisons to really get the relationships, and I admit to being too lazy to try. However, when I wandered into the GA Secretary of State site and perused the voting info, what jumped out at me was the power of the gerrymandering.

GA 06 has voters in three counties – Cobb, Fulton & DeKalb. It does not include all of any one of those counties, just parts of them selected to maximize Republican votes and dilute Democratic votes. How much?

County HRC DJT Total
Cobb 160,121 152,912 313,033
DeKalb 251,370 51,468 302,838
Fulton 297,051 117,783 474,834
Totals 708,542 322,163 1,090,705

A shitload. HRC won these three counties 2-1, yet they produce a Congressional district that has almost exactly the opposite vote balance. This is doing a very careful selection job with surgical precision to pluck out and join together bits of this county and a smattering of that one to create an artificially safe seat for the Republican candidate.

This is why Ossoff lost. He ran in a place engineered to advantage the Republican and then was buried under a mountain of negative advertising and campaigning (66% of all outside spending was anti-Ossoff) to shove their candidate slightly ahead in what should have been a cakewalk election for her.  Even with that, the Democratic voters of that district remained (by %) more energized than the MT voters and turned out in a number equal to the general. Polls indicate that if Ossoff had not been hit with the advertisements about the deranged Sanders campaign worker shooting Republican MoCs, he might just have pulled it out. That was Ossoff’s “Comey letter.”

In 18 months, with Russia investigations in full swing and the insurance markets in collapse, this could be a competitive seat.



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