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Votes

Letter: Analyzing Voting Results

To the Editor:

How is it that the official election results show the City Council’s top vote-getter Allison Silberberg with only 12.30 percent when she got almost 7,000 more votes than Andrew Macdonald with 39.91 percent in losing to Mayor Euille?

The Virginia State Board of Elections bases its percentages on adding up each candidate’s vote total for a total of 298,593 — twice Alexandria’s total population including infants and other nonvoters — because voters can vote for six. If every single voter voted for Allison, then split their remaining five votes among the remaining candidates, even though 100 percent voted for Allison, according to the Board of Elections she would only have 16.67 percent of the vote. This calculation is accurate in the grade school sense, but meaningless to the general public who want to know the percentage of the voters voting for each candidate. The Gazette-Packet quite rightly left these meaningless percentages out of the front page election results data display.

The Board of Elections doesn’t even keep track of how many ballots were invalidated because the voter voted for too many candidates or the number of voters who skipped the contest entirely and didn’t vote for anybody, so the best way to estimate the “real” percentages is to use the 65,112 votes cast for mayor on the theory of a high incidence of overlap. This method gets us as close as we can to a real apples-to-apples comparison and shows Allison with 56.40 percent, almost as much as Mayor Euille’s 59.20 percent. And the Libertarians, whose presidential candidate got 1 percent of the vote statewide and in Alexandria, are probably doing a shout-out about 12 percent backing their City Council candidate.

Another important finding is that the 65,112 votes cast for mayor is 88.83 percent of the 73,298 votes cast for president, showing a high level of voter participation in this down-ballot contest. When the District of Columbia consolidated its odd-year school board elections into its even-year elections, as much as 40 percent of the voters skipped the school board contests, so the high level of participation in Alexandria’s down-ballot contests refutes at least one concern opponents of switching from a springtime election raised.

Using the 65,112 model, voters voted for an average of 4.6 candidates, but this could mean 38,145 voting for five and 26,967 voting for four or it could mean 18,416 voting for only one and 46,696 voting for six. Who knows? Not the Board of Elections whose computers don’t count such things even though it would be useful to know how many voters over-voted city council; how many voted for only one, perhaps not realizing they can vote for up to six; and how many skipped this contest entirely?

Dino Drudi

Alexandria