Friday, August 15, 2014

JUICE: Analysis of Governor's Race Between Anthony Brown & Larry Hogan, MD Transportation Funding Crisis and More!

Below Maryland  Juice provides a round-up of news of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: ANTHONY BROWN VS. LARRY HOGAN ANALYSIS // IS THIS GOING TO BE A CLOSE GUBERNATORIAL RACE? - Maryland Juice had been hearing about a poll for November's gubernatorial race allegedly showing Lt. Governor Anthony Brown ahead by only single digits against GOP activist Larry Hogan. I had not actually seen a copy of the polling memo, but earlier this week (excerpt below):
CENTER MARYLAND: A recent statewide poll that was shared with me the other day, which was not conducted for either of the candidates for governor, showed Brown with a 46 percent to 40 percent lead over Hogan. The survey was taken by a highly reputable D.C.-based pollster who has vast experience querying Maryland voters. So, a 6-point lead. Not time to hit the panic button, if you’re a Democrat. But nothing to be too comfortable about, either. Could Brown lose? It’s hard to see at this point....
(as recent as July 2014) showed Brown with dougle-digit leads against Hogan, so I'm slightly skeptical about the accuracy of the supposed 6-digit Brown lead. It's hard to tell where that number is coming from without looking at the turnout modeling and the sample used in the new poll. If you have a copy of the results and care to share them, feel free to send them to .

RECENT HISTORY OF TURNOUT IN GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS: In the meantime, here are a few shorthand numbers showing the difficulties facing the Maryland GOP in November. First, in 2010 (the last gubernatorial General Election), we witnessed a match-up between two candidates who had both served as Governor: Martin O'Malley and Bob Ehrlich. Note that 2010 was a fairly low turnout election year, and we were then in the midst of the national Tea Party wave. :
  • Democrats 993,674 (50.77% Turnout)
  • Republicans 546,962 (59.09% Turnout)
  • Unaffiliated 168,634 (35.39% Turnout)
As you can see, even in a bad turnout year for Democrats, Republicans are still far outnumbered -- even if every independent voter who showed up voted with the GOP

PARTISAN POLARIZATION IN MARYLAND: Has the political world changed enough since 2010 to produce a plausible Republican victory? I am skeptical. For that to happen, there would need to a huge number of persuadable/movable voters within the state's Democratic and unaffiliated voter pools. But one insightful analysis of the 2010 O'Malley-Ehrlich election cycle indicates that Maryland has America's most polarized electorate, meaning that there are hard lines between Democratic and Republican voters -- with very few swing voters that will shift allegiances. In 2011, (excerpt below):
LDI BLOG: Maryland is by far the most polarized state we have come across. Sure, there are other states with districts far more Democratic than the rest, but that is a natural feature - metro areas are going to produce these sort of bumps. But generically, the middle 50% of districts are within a fairly narrow electoral band +/- 10% or so. Now, those districts might favor one party of the other, but the central point is that there is a large swath of the electorate that is of a relatively similar composition - the ability to win them over to your side probably translates into electoral success for your party.

In Maryland however, that middle section is totally absent. I believe the kind of data we're seeing here makes a strong case for campaigning to your base rather than the middle in Maryland, as there isn't a homogenous middle-group to court. It immediately brings to mind some of the ridiculous cynical campaign tactics employed by the Ehrlich and Steele campaigns - fake brochures advertising Republicans as Democrats, ground campaigns to designed to cause confusion and uncertainty within the Democratic base, rather than winning over those middle, "independent", Maryland voters. While their tactics were absolutely indefensible, they were operating them along the only path to victory they saw - bolstering turnout among their supporters, and counting on that huge Democratic base to miss out on election day.....
LARRY HOGAN PIVOT? - We're already seeing GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan half-heartedly trying to remain in contention with the state's moderate voters. For example, , and Hogan was quick to distance himself from the crazy (excerpt below):
SEVENTH STATE: Anne Arundel County Council Candidate Michael Peroutka was until recently the rare political bird who refused to talk to the media. When he finally did agree to talk to reporters, one cannot help but think that the original refusal was the better bet....

Peroutka has been active in the John Birch Society but it is his current board membership on the League of the South that has attracted scrutiny. Labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the League advocates secession from the U.S. Indeed, the video above shows Peroutka asking people to “stand for the national anthem” of Dixie–not the Star-Spangled Banner....

As a result, Republicans have started running for the hills. Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan wisely didn’t wait to disassociate himself from Peroutka and his campaign says that Hogan “absolutely disavows” him. Peroutka now whines that Hogan didn’t “dialogue” with him.....
But is distancing yourself from a local candidate advocating for secession enough to win over Democratic and independent voters in a liberal state like Maryland? I hardly think so.

OTHER FACETS TO THE 2014 GUBERNATORIAL RACE: In contrast to 2010, Anthony Brown (who has been on the statewide ballot twice) will be more well-known by voters than first-time candidate Larry Hogan. Moreover, the 2014 primary turnout differences between Democrats and Republicans were quite vast, even with contested races for both parties:

  • Democrats: 470,528
  • Republicans 217,707
IMPACT OF FUNDRAISING ON THE GOVERNOR'S RACE: One final note to consider is the fundraising differentials between Anthony Brown and Larry Hogan. to use public financing for his campaign (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Republican nominee for Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, has become the first candidate in 20 years to participate in the state’s public financing system in the fall election, a move likely to leave his campaign with far less money to spend than his Democratic opponent.

Hogan will receive a grant of about $2.6 million from the state, and his campaign will not be allowed to spend more than that on the race, election officials said Wednesday. The decision cements Hogan’s financial disadvantage in the race against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who spent about $9 million this year to win the Democratic primary and has started to replenish his war chest....
One wrinkle to these fundraising dynamics is that since Hogan is receiving public financing, he will have access to cash much quicker than Anthony Brown. The Lt. Governor likely had to spend down the millions he raised during the primary for his battle against Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur. Indeed, as of June 8th (before the primary was completed), the Friends of Anthony Brown campaign account had only $543,510.55 cash on hand.

So as I see it, to keep the Brown campaign on track to defeat Larry Hogan, our Lt. Governor needs to start rebuilding his cash advantage as quick as possible and should start finding ways to excite the Democratic base in our highly polarized state. But hey, what do I know!  Just my two cents.

PAUL BESSEL: This year (November 4, 2014) there will be two proposed Maryland Constitutional Amendments on the ballot.... That's fewer ballot questions than in many previous years.

The first ballot question asks voters if the Maryland Constitution should be amended to make it more difficult for money in or intended to go into the state's Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to be used for purposes other than transportation. In the past, this money was sometimes used to balance the overall state budget, not for transportation needs.

If this Constitutional amendment is adopted, in the future any use of this TTF money other than for transportation would first need a formal statement by the Governor that there is a "fiscal emergency" and then 60% of each house of the legislature would have to approve it.

The other proposed Constitutional amendment would allow counties such as MoCo to provide for special elections to fill any vacancies in the office of County Executive, just as now can be done for vacancies on the County Council....
MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING CRISIS: Of the two ballot questions, I find the one about the Transportation Trust Fund to be the more intriguing one. By all measures, the United States and Maryland are facing huge transportation funding crises. (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Fearful they may lose the Senate in November, Democrats want to force Congress to come up with a long-term method to pay for transportation funding in the lame duck session. Republicans, hopeful they will be in control next year, want to set a May 31 deadline for the task....

The issue is of mind-numbing complexity and might be ignored were it not for the fact that, without a temporary funding extension and then a long-term plan to find new revenue, federal money to build and maintain the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems will begin to run dry in August.

The Highway Trust Fund that relies primarily on fuel taxes no longer brings in enough cash to pay the bills submitted by the states. The White House has warned that it will run into the red next month, requiring an immediate infusion of money to keep current projects going, and then a creative way to bring in more revenue for the long haul....
Indeed, infrastructure funding has never been a sexy priority for policymakers -- until we start seeing levies break and bridges fall (aka after the damage has already been done). But closer to home, the problem for Maryland is one of economic stagnation, especially while Virginia is now kicking our asses in quickly building 21st century transit projects.

VIRGINIA CRUSHING MARYLAND FOR INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT: I truly believe that Northern Virginia's faster build-out and funding of transit projects is a much greater threat to Maryland than their lower tax rates. Virginia, after all, has always had lower taxes than Maryland, but their race to build infrastructure is a new development. Take a look what's going on in the former heart of the confederacy:

WASHINGTON METRO SILVER LINE TO VIRGINIA OPENS: In case you haven't heard, the new WMATA Silver Line to Virginia has opened. provided a hint about the economic development impact of this transit project for the state (excerpt below).
WASHINGTON TIMES: Gerald Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax Economic Authority, said the commitment to the Silver Line was crucial to the area economy. “The initial impact of the Silver Line was having major corporations come to Tysons specifically because of the Silver Line and having companies remain in Tysons because of it,” Mr. Gordon said....

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors is expecting almost 100,000 jobs to be added by 2050 as a result of the line, according to a 2010 report. Mr. Gordon said the line will help establish Tysons as a major city — not just in the region but the world. “You can’t be a world-class city unless you have a rail system,” Mr. Gordon said. “Now we can compete with cities that do have a rail system and become a world-renowned city.”
Here's a video about Virginia's Silver Line:

VIRGINIA "METROWAY" BRT SERVICE OPENS THIS MONTH: Coming right off the heels of the Silver Line opening, (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Washington region’s first bus rapid transit system is set to open next month. The service, called Metroway, will feature bus-only lanes along a five-mile stretch of roadway in Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Arlington and Alexandria. It introduces a new bus experience to the Washington region: buses will travel much of the route traffic-free, they will be frequent, and riders eventually will be able to pay their fare before boarding. Buses will serve stops equipped with shelters, benches and lighting between the Braddock Road and Crystal City Metro stations....

The service will offer faster rides and shorter waits at the bus stop. Buses will travel most of the route in bus-only lanes. Bus rapid transit is viewed as a way to speed public transit without the huge costs involved in building rail lines.... “We are extremely pleased to launch Metroway in the (Crystal City-Potomac Yard) Corridor, a first for Metro and the region,” Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said in a statement. “This new premium service will provide faster commutes, better connection to existing and developing retail areas, and expand economic growth within the Arlington and Alexandria communities along Route 1.”
Here's a video about the Virginia Metroway BRT system:

NORTHERN VIRGINIA STREETCAR PROJECT GETS FUNDING: Lastly, expected to generate a large revenue boost (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Virginia will increase state funding for the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar project by up to $65 million, the state transportation chief told officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties this week, allowing the streetcar line to be built at least a year faster and without federal funds.... The long-planned streetcar line, which is expected to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax to the Pentagon City Metro station, has been projected to cost about $358 million. Arlington dropped that estimate to $333 million Friday because of the faster completion time. County officials hope it will be done by 2020....

Not using federal funds means that the county can assume its normal inflation rate of 3 percent for the project, not the federal transit agency-suggested 4 percent. Local elected officials say no homeowner-financed general obligation bonds or residential taxes would go toward building the project, although operating costs are expected to be borne by taxpayers.... The project is closely tied to Arlington’s plans for redeveloping the aging corridor, which county officials say will preserve more than 6,000 affordable apartments for several decades.

A county-funded consultant’s study released in March said the streetcar would generate $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in new real estate value for Arlington and Fairfax counties over 30 years. It also estimated that the streetcar would produce $455 million to $895 million in new tax revenue for both counties over 30 years, attract 6,600 new jobs within 10 years, and increase state income and sales taxes....
Here's a rendering of the :

WHAT DOES VIRGINIA'S TRANSIT PUSH MEAN FOR MARYLAND? - So while Maryland policymakers have fixated on Virginia's tax rates, our neighbors have been focusing on something else altogether: building modern transit infrastructure that will attract investment, boost tax revenues, and provide better commutes for residents.

Notably, Maryland has multiple transit projects on the books (Baltimore's Red Line, the Montgomery County/Prince George's Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, the Montgomery County rapid transit system, etc). But it seems quite likely that all of Virginia's transit projects will be funded and built before Maryland even breaks ground on any of its new transit lines. Given these facts, can we really afford to pay for these projects (that are critical to economic development), if we continue on the path of voluntarily cutting our revenues (eg: through more tax cuts)?

JUICE #3: FBI DEBATING MOVING HEADQUARTERS FROM DC TO PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY - One bright spot in our regional competition for jobs, is that the feds are thinking about moving the FBI headquarters (and its 11,000 jobs) to Prince George's County. (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL: After more than a year of anticipation, the General Services Administration on Tuesday named three sites — one in Springfield and two in Prince George's County — on its short list of potential locations for a new FBI headquarters.

Greenbelt and the Landover Mall in Prince George's and the GSA warehouse in Springfield in Fairfax County made the list, ruling out a range of wildcards such as the Westphalia Town Center and Exxon Mobil's Merrifield campus. The short list excludes D.C. from the running, but many real estate experts regarded Mayor Vincent Gray's proposal, Poplar Point, as a long shot at best.

The Greenbelt and Springfield sites were long expected to be high on the GSA's short list, while Lerner Enterprises surprised many by offering up the former Landover Mall as a contender in January. Lerner Enterprises is owned by the Lerner family, which also owns the Washington Nationals....

The new headquarters, which will house 11,000 employees, must be at least 2.1 million square feet and will cost an estimated $2 billion to build. Sites were required to be no more than 2 miles from a Metro station and 2.5 miles from the Capital Beltway....

Will Maryland beat out Virginia on at least this project? We shall see!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TURNOUT ANALYSIS: What's Really Going On? // Maryland Juice Dissects Voter Turnout in the June 2014 Primary Elections

UPDATEWhen I first went live with the post below, I didn't have complete numbers of independent voters in each Maryland county. We've now updated the post with these figures (Hat-tip to Maryland Reporter's Len Lazarick for pointing us in the right direction), along with an explanation of how counties without nonpartisan primaries have inflated turnout percentages. I've also added some information on counties where independent voters are outpacing Republicans. Scroll down for these updates below.

THE FUTURE OF MARYLAND JUICE: Alrighty folks, after months of absence, Maryland Juice is back in action! Before I kick-off a lengthy article about voter turnout in Maryland, I thought I'd take a second to discuss some changes that this blog will be pursuing in the coming months.

In case you haven't heard, I won my Democratic Primary election for the House of Delegates, and that means that by the time the legislative session starts in January 2015, I'll have to step back from my writing duties. But not to worry -- over the course of the next few months, I hope to introduce a new set of writers who will keep the Juice torch and information pipeline burning into the future. In 2015, I  may still write an article here or there, but likely not with the vigor and frequency you've become accustomed to (for various obvious reasons). In any case, keep your eyes open as we roll out new Juicers in 2014! Now onto my first article in over three months....

MARYLAND JUICE 2014 PRIMARY ELECTION TURNOUT ANALYSIS - Numerous political pundits have fretted about Maryland's declining voter turnout, especially in Democratic strongholds like Montgomery County. (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: There’s been much opining among Montgomery’s elected officials about the anemic primary turnout last month, when just 16 percent of registered voters came to the polls. They cited, among other factors, the inconvenience of the new June 24 election date, the lack of urgent issues, and a less-than compelling primary race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination at the top of the ballot....
Turque's article was triggered by (excerpt below):
CENTER MARYLAND: At presidential election time, voter turnout in Montgomery County is pretty decent: Almost three-quarters of enrolled voters showed up at the polls on Election Day 2012 to choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney....  But when it comes to acting locally, when it comes to selecting their leaders at the state and county levels, Montgomery County residents fail miserably.

In the recent statewide primary, just 16 percent of registered voters in Montgomery County bothered to vote. Sixteen percent!.... That’s lower voter turnout than in Garrett County (27 percent), where cousins marry, or in Somerset County (24 percent), where the raging issue is chicken waste, or in Baltimore city (22 percent), where they’re selling drugs on every street corner, or in Prince George’s County (18 percent), where every public official has a palm extended.....
But to accurately build a solution to the problem of "low turnout," it helps to understand what's really going on.  Indeed, rushed analyses have led some to hastily conclude that recent voting reforms like early voting were "unsuccessful" and that we are in some sort of existential crisis in Maryland with respect to civic engagement. However, many variables impacting voter turnout (eg: demographic changes, resident turnover, and the national mood) are out of state and local policymakers' control. Below are a few points to consider about turnout trends in Maryland and Montgomery County.

RAW DEMOCRATIC PARTY ELECTION DAY TURNOUT BY COUNTY: First, not all voters are the same. Turnout in Maryland varied wildly depending on your party registration, and all is not what it seems. In terms of raw Democratic Party turnout, simply more Democrats from Montgomery County voted at the polls on election day than Democrats from any other county:

Montgomery DEM 68,179
Prince George's DEM 64,982
Baltimore County DEM 59,980
Baltimore City DEM 51,730
Anne Arundel DEM 24,655
Howard DEM 19,193
Charles DEM 12,314
Harford DEM 11,795
Frederick DEM 11,201
Carroll DEM 6,306
Calvert DEM 4,451
Washington DEM 4,433
Saint Mary's DEM 4,023
Cecil DEM 3,508
Wicomico DEM 3,349
Allegany DEM 2,748
Queen Anne's DEM 2,303
Worcester DEM 2,173
Dorchester DEM 1,952
Talbot DEM 1,888
Kent DEM 1,299
Caroline DEM 1,018
Somerset DEM 919
Garrett DEM 790

If you include early voters, Montgomery County was second place in Maryland for raw Democratic turnout - Prince George's was first, Baltimore County was third, and Baltimore City was fourth.

% OF ELIGIBLE DEMOCRATIC TURNOUT BY PARTY - One caveat to MoCo's large Democratic turnout should be noted. Even though more MoCo Dems turned out than Dems around the state, Montgomery County's turnout ranking does indeed drop when looking at the percentage of eligible Democrats who participated (as opposed to the absolute number of Democrats who voted).

But even still, in terms of the percentage of Democrats turning out for the primary election, Montgomery County was in a respectable 8th place out of 24 counties (including early voters). Of the large jurisdictions, only Baltimore County Democrats turned out at a rate higher than Montgomery. Prince George's was in 14th place, and Baltimore City was in 17th place:

Kent DEM 30.22%
Queen Anne's DEM 28.68%
Howard DEM 27.77%
Talbot DEM 26.94%
Baltimore County DEM 26.51%
Charles DEM 26.18%
Frederick DEM 25.05%
Montgomery DEM 23.90%
Harford DEM 23.77%
Carroll DEM 23.55%
Calvert DEM 23.08%
Dorchester DEM 22.90%
Anne Arundel DEM 22.85%
Baltimore City DEM 22.75%
Garrett DEM 20.79%
Allegany DEM 19.90%
Prince George's DEM 19.46%
Cecil DEM 19.02%
Saint Mary's DEM 18.96%
Worcester DEM 18.49%
Caroline DEM 18.44%
Somerset DEM 17.70%
Wicomico DEM 16.82%
Washington DEM 15.80%

MOCO'S POPULATION SURGE DISTORTS ITS TURNOUT PERCENTAGES: In other words, MoCo's sheer size of population means that we have among the most Democrats who vote in Maryland, but we also have a large number of MoCo Democrats who do not vote, thereby bringing down Montgomery County's turnout percentages. Why might this be?

where he delved into some of these turnout dynamics. One of the facts he pointed out is that Montgomery County has had a huge surge in Democratic voter registrations over the last 14 years. Based on his graph below, MoCo had about 230,000 Democrats in 2000 compared with about 355,000 in 2014:

NUMBER OF MOCO DEMOCRATS VOTING BASICALLY UNCHANGED IN OVER 2 DECADES - MoCo Democrats have basically voted in equal numbers over the last couple decades, even while our turnout rate has dropped. How can that be? Some historical Democratic turnout numbers provided by Jonathan Shurberg provide some insight.

Here is one telling comparison. In 1990, roughly 86,000 MoCo Democrats voted out of 195,000. In 2014, roughly 84,000 MoCo Democrats voted. So the raw turnout is almost the same, but today there are 354,000 Democrats on the rolls in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Democratic Turnout (Gubernatorial Primary Years)
  • 1990: 86,167 turnout out of 195,523 registered Dems (44.07%)
  • 1994: 89,452 turnout out of 217,007 registered Dems (41.22%)
  • 1998: 75,485 turnout out of 227,863 registered Dems (33.13%)
  • 2002: 110,518 turnout out of 246,779 registered Dems (44.78%)
  • 2006: 108,337 turnout out of 271,008 registered Dems (39.98%)
  • 2010: 83,827 turnout out of 321,759 registered Dems (26.05%)
  • 2014: 84,622 turnout out of 354,078 registered Dems (23.90%)
It is worth noting that the two election cycles with unusually high turnout for MoCo Democrats both occurred during the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld era (2002-2006). Extrapolate what you will from that data point.

A PROBLEM FOR THE NEW MONTGOMERY COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CENTRAL COMMITTEE - What all of this tells me is that as MoCo's population has surged over the last couple decades, we have likely failed to engage all of the new Democratic registrants that have chosen to reside here.  MoCo's Democratic turnout stayed the same over 24 years even though we added over 150,000 new Democrats to the voter rolls (almost twice as many as vote in Primaries).

Indeed, the vast majority of candidates seeking office in Montgomery County (and everywhere else) spend most of their resources contacting voters with a demonstrated history of voting in Democratic Primaries (aka the decisive elections). As a result, save for the occasional nonprofit voter mobilization drive, there is really nobody trying to pump primary turnout by engaging new registrants and less likely voters in primaries. This seems like a challenge for MoCo's new Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) to tackle. After all, we are living in a new world in Maryland politics, where literally zero Republicans hold elected office in Montgomery County. It seems sensible that the MCDCC should shift its activities to meet the evolving needs of our county's politics.

SO WHY DOES MOCO HAVE THE OVERALL LOWEST VOTER TURNOUT RATE IN MARYLAND? - Okay, so now that we've got the Democratic turnout analysis out of the way, it still remains true that MoCo had terrible turnout when looking at voters from all parties. When you look at turnout figures from voters of all parties and unaffiliated voters, Montgomery County had the lowest turnout percentage in all of Maryland but we still had the second highest number of actual voters in the state this year. See these tables of overall voter turnout from all parties below:

  1. Talbot - 35.22%
  2. Kent - 30.60%
  3. Dorchester - 29.00% 
  4. Queen Anne's - 28.33%
  5. Garrett - 26.62%
  6. Baltimore County - 24.68% 
  7. Carroll - 24.53%
  8. Somerset - 24.43%
  9. Anne Arundel - 24.25%
  10. Caroline - 24.19%
  11. Cecil - 23.60%
  12. Frederick - 23.34%
  13. Baltimore City - 21.65%
  14. Charles - 21.47%
  15. Harford - 21.26%
  16. Wicomico - 20.24%
  17. Worcester - 20.21%
  18. Allegany - 19.95%
  19. Calvert - 19.24%
  20. Prince George's - 18.00%
  21. Saint Mary's - 16.77%
  22. Washington - 16.54%
  23. Montgomery - 16.34%

  1. Baltimore County - 105,171
  2. Montgomery - 103,000
  3. Prince George's - 91,782
  4. Baltimore City - 70,508
  5. Anne Arundel - 65,396
  6. Howard - 38,946
  7. Frederick - 34,872
  8. Harford - 33,773
  9. Carroll - 28,049
  10. Charles - 21,441
  11. Washington - 14,765
  12. Calvert - 11,571
  13. Cecil - 11,258
  14. Saint Mary's - 10,773
  15. Wicomico - 9,495
  16. Queen Anne's - 9,297
  17. Allegany - 8,460
  18. Talbot - 7,714
  19. Worcester - 6,424
  20. Dorchester - 5,138
  21. Garrett - 5,102
  22. Caroline - 3,625
  23. Kent - 3,257
  24. Somerset - 2,803

UPDATED: UNAFFILIATED VOTERS DRIVE DOWN TOTAL TURNOUT PERCENTAGES - Maryland Juice would point readers to some fairly obvious facts that may explain why MoCo had overall turnout of 16%, even while MoCo Democrats turned out at nearly 24%. First, Montgomery County now has 147,000 voters who are not registered with any party. Since Maryland Democrats and Republicans have closed primaries (meaning only registered party members can vote), independent voters have very little reason to turnout for primary elections. Indeed, in MoCo only 2.59% of unaffiliated voters participated in the June 2014 primary election.

Moreover, as Maryland Reporter's Len Lazarick pointed out to me, multiple counties have no races where independents are eligible to vote in primaries. Montgomery County, for example, has nonpartisan school board races, while other counties do not. As a result, counties without nonpartisan races will appear to have higher voter turnout percentages than the rest (where anemic turnout from independents drags down the countywide participation rates). The counties without nonpartisan primaries are: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Somerset, and Wicomico.

What's more, MoCo has a much larger number of independent voters than many other Democratic strongholds, according to the Board of Elections stats as of May 2014. Indeed, there are now more MoCo independents (147,904) than Republicans (122,349). Below you can see the numbers of :

  1. Montgomery - 147,904
  2. Baltimore County - 83,015
  3. Anne Arundel - 74,718
  4. Prince George's - 60,039
  5. Baltimore City - 46,313
  6. Howard - 43,623
  7. Frederick - 33,625
  8. Harford - 30,505
  9. Carroll - 21,560
  10. Washington - 17,854
  11. Charles - 16,399
  12. Cecil - 13,249
  13. Saint Mary's - 12,767
  14. Calvert - 12,012
  15. Wicomico - 10,342
  16. Worcester - 6,545
  17. Allegany - 6,428
  18. Queen Anne's - 5,906
  19. Talbot - 4,451
  20. Caroline - 3,427
  21. Dorchester - 2,715
  22. Garrett - 2,311
  23. Kent - 1,918
  24. Somerset - 1,718
It should be obvious that if Montgomery County has significantly more independent voters than other counties, and these voters cannot vote in most races in primary elections, these voters will not turnout (as demonstrated by their 2.59% turnout rate). This clearly drags down MoCo's statewide ranking for voter turnout.

VOTER TURNOUT AND REGISTRATION DECLINES SPELL TROUBLE FOR THE MARYLAND GOP - But more importantly, these numbers raise the question about who these independent voters are. Are they disaffected Republicans (aka would-be moderate Republicans who have no home in today's Republican Party)? It is stunning that indies outnumber the GOP in Montgomery County, but then again the era of moderate Republican officials like Connie Morella is now long-gone, mirroring a national trend of partisan realignment.

That the Maryland GOP cannot energize its voters in the vote-rich Democratic strongholds is not a theory, it is fact. Look at the percentage of Maryland Republicans who voted in the June Primaries:


County Party Turnout
Talbot REP 44.06%
Dorchester REP 37.76%
Queen Anne's REP 37.46%
Somerset REP 34.00%
Garrett REP 33.53%
Carroll REP 32.80%
Frederick REP 31.84%
Kent REP 31.09%
Caroline REP 29.43%
Cecil REP 27.93%
Harford REP 26.15%
Anne Arundel REP 25.92%
Allegany REP 25.57%
Wicomico REP 24.50%
Worcester REP 24.46%
Calvert REP 23.51%
Washington REP 23.46%
Saint Mary's REP 21.93%
Baltimore County REP 20.55%
Charles REP 20.43%
Howard REP 19.22%
Montgomery REP 11.74%
Prince George's REP 11.23%
Baltimore City REP 11.00%

UPDATED: THE MARYLAND GOP IS A REGIONAL PARTY - In places like Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore City, barely 1 in 10 registered Republicans decided to participate in contested Republican Primary Elections. Furthermore, in all three of those jurisdictions, independents outnumber Republicans:
  • Montgomery - 147,904 independents vs. 122,349 Republican
  • Baltimore City - 46,313 independents vs. 30,325 Republicans
  • Prince George's - 60,039 independents vs. 43,636 Republicans
Interestingly, in democratic-trending Howard County, independents are beginning to approach the same strength as the GOP. This does not bode well for the strength of the Republican electorate in the long-term:
  • Howard - 46,623 independents vs. 56,696 Republicans
Given what a large share of votes these counties represent, it seems clear that the Maryland GOP continues on the path of becoming a regional party. But these anemic GOP turnout levels are making us all look bad, since they bring down the overall turnout percentages for our counties.

The obvious solution for the Maryland GOP is to hold open primaries and allow independents to vote -- especially since indies now outnumber MoCo Republicans. But I'm not holding my breath for that.

PRIMARY TURNOUT IS DECLINING NATIONALLY - In the meantime, I would add just one more piece of data for folks to consider. And that is that the hand-wringing over low voter turnout is nothing unique to Maryland. It is happening nationally.  across the nation (courtesy of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate):

So take a deep breath, folks. There is much more going on with voter turnout both nationally, regionally, and locally than has really been discussed in many of the news articles I've read recently. I'll be back with a JuiceBlender before too long.  Thanks for sticking around!

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