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In a Wednesday fact check post, we investigated ex-mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio’s claim that he had outperformed Republican voter registration in the city despite his Nov. 6 loss.
We found DeMaio’s statement true, as only 27.1 percent of county voters are registered Republicans, but the conservative candidate took 47.6 percent of the vote in the recent election.
After we posted our conclusion, we got a few comments and emails from readers that are worth sharing.
The first comes from Vlad Kogan, a political science professor at Ohio State University who recently relocated from San Diego.
Here’s what he shared in an email:
I think DeMaio’s claim, and your analysis of it, misses an important point: The reference point should not be the percent of registered voters, but rather the percent of actual voters (e.g., those who actually vote). You could easily get this from the registrar’s voter information file, which lists each voter in the city, their party of registration, and whether they voted in this particular election.
The file Kogan mentions is definitely worth checking out but won’t be released for at least a few weeks.
A little background: The San Diego County Registrar of Voters puts together voter files after election results are certified. (The county deadline is Dec. 4 this year.) As Kogan notes, the files list each voter’s party affiliation and whether he or she voted in the most recent election. Actual votes aren’t included in the report but some data-crunching can reveal just how many Republicans, Democrats and independents showed up to vote.
Not just anyone has access to this information. Requestors must pay a fee and detail plans to use the data for scholarly, governmental, political or journalistic purposes, according to a spokesman for the county Registrar’s Office.
We won’t rule out requesting such data in the future. It could prove pretty insightful, but unfortunately it wasn’t available in time for our fact check.
Kogan also weighed in on Democrats’ weaknesses and the relatively high number of San Diegans who haven’t declared a political party:
As I’ve pointed out before,the roll off is only part of the problem. The other reality is that Democrats are much less likely to turn out than Republicans. This is true everywhere, because the same factors that predict being a Republican (income, being white, etc.) are also the factors that predict political participation. So using the pool of registered voters, rather than actual voters, greatly inflates DeMaio’s numbers.
The other side of the story is that there are few true independents. Most are closet partisans. So a good chunk of the “independents” are Republicans, and they almost certainly voted for DeMaio. This says nothing about his cross-over appeal, since these voters would’ve voted for any Republican. This point has too been made before.
Reader Chris Brewster made another argument:
Independents (and by this Mr. DeMaio presumably means those who decline to state a party preference) are by definition NOT a “party.” Thus, Republicans cannot be a third party in rank. A party is a group people of generally like-minded political views who tend to support people with a similar ideology and who use the network of party membership to encourage voting for selected people. Those voters who decline to state a party preference may do so for many reasons, but I know of no survey that suggests a particular preference of those not aligned with the Democrat or Republican parties.
Reader Jeffrey Davis, who goes by the user name Augmented Ballot on our site, was skeptical too:
At the risk of arguing over nothing, the 21 percent figure is meaningless. More people voted for DeMaio than are registered as Republicans? Well, sure. A third of San Diegans are (decline to state) or other. By the measure above, “over performing” the Republican registration only means that some (decline to state)/other registrants voted for DeMaio.
That said, DeMaio may have over performed his party to some degree. If we assume that (decline to state)/other choose to be unaffiliated but reflect the same split in the city as Democrat/Republican registrants then DeMaio should have received 40.3 percent. He received 47.5 percent by current count. Pretty good.
That said, there’s good evidence that the past few years have seen a big a shift of conservatives away from GOP registration. If that’s true locally, then DeMaio should “win” (decline to state)/other. That looks like over performing, but not in a meaningful sense. Here’s TPM on this dynamic at the national level.
You can read Brewster and Davis’ full comments here.
We found DeMaio’s math to be accurate, but was his method of calculating his performance the best way to assess the support he received?
As always, we’d love to hear what you think.
Note: Comments have been slightly edited for grammar, clarity and style.
Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0528.
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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.