ANALYSIS: A Sterner Turnout Test is Two Years Away

By George Bromley
Special to the Falls Church Times

November 7, 2013

As expected, the city’s first November election of municipal officers saw a significantly higher turnout than was achieved in recent May elections.  According to unofficial totals, 54.6% of the registered voters turned out last Tuesday, slightly more than double the percentage reached in May 2012.

However, as a substantial number of people did not vote for city council or school board candidates, the actual city election turnout was somewhat lower.  Furthermore, given previous results, it seems unlikely that anywhere near half of the registered voters will stroll to the polls in the next city election in November 2015.

Although nearly 5,000 people voted on Tuesday the best showing by a non-partisan candidate was by Marybeth Connelly, who won 3,515 votes.  This was far short of the number that voted for any of the Democrats running for constitutional offices or that voted on the referendum to sell the water system.

The other four candidates running for council averaged around 2,800 votes.  Since voters could vote for more than one candidate it is impossible to determine exactly how many people cast votes for council.  If Ms. Connelly attracted 7 of 8 council voters, then the rough city turnout would be around 4,000 or 44%, a percentage below that reached in several May elections in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Odd year November elections always have lower turnout rates than those held in even years, especially in the years not featuring a gubernatorial contest.  City turnout in such elections has been declining since the mid-1990s.

In November 1995 over 2,900 residents voted in the November races for Virginia delegate and senator, a turnout of about 50%.  Turnout in such elections then began to fall, declining to around 47% in 1999 and to 42% in 2003.

In November 2007 only 28% turned out, a number below that for some of the contested May elections held since 2000.  The turnout in 2011 was only 31%, even with the controversial referendum to move local elections from May to November on the ballot.

These trends indicate that the level of turnout in 2015 probably will much lower than Tuesday’s and perhaps only several points higher than the 26% of May 2012.  Without a hotly contested gubernatorial race to lure them to the polls, most local voters may again choose to ignore the municipal election.

November 7, 2013 


5 Responses to “ANALYSIS: A Sterner Turnout Test is Two Years Away”

  1. Barry Buschow on November 8th, 2013 9:01 am

    Bottom line, there were more voters, but many unwilling or not knowledgeable enough to vote for city Council or School Board.

  2. FCC Voter on November 8th, 2013 3:44 pm

    Some additional points to consider: 1. Some voters “bullet balloted” – they only voted for some of the candidates, not all; 2. The elections were scheduled for off-years as there was debate that if the elections were held on even years, the local issues would get muddled in with the national elections; 3. Maybe, just maybe, the local elections in 2015 will increase the November non-gubenatorial voter turnout. I think it is terrific that the voter turnout in Falls Church City, again, was higher than the average of all of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Good job!

  3. Lou Mauro on November 8th, 2013 6:04 pm

    Kudos to the candidates, the Falls Church Republican and Democratic Parties, and yes, amazingly, even our local hard-copy “news”paper, for keeping partisan politics out of the campaigns! Politicization of the electoral process was one of the major reasons I was an outspoken opponent of changing the election date from May to November. What a pleasant surprise. Now let’s perpetuate this trend into the future.

  4. FC taxpayer on November 12th, 2013 10:07 pm

    Yeah..wouldn’t want to politicize the political process!

  5. Lou Mauro on November 13th, 2013 1:15 pm

    FC Taxpayer. You are coward. If you want to make fun of people, come out from your little hiding place and give your (real) name. Are you capable of being serious about anything? You are also a coward who is dead wrong. See if these facts will fit into your brain—- in NON-PARTISAN elections, such as in this City, the process of electing people is the ELECTORAL process. What elected officials do after they are elected may involve the POLITICAL process.

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