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LL’s been crunching the numbers all night, trying to figure out whether Carol Schwartz and Patrick Mara have a shot to upend Michael A. Brown for the non-Democratic at-large seat.
LL has come up with three scenarios, based on the level of turnout.
All are based on some assumptions: (1) that undervoting (not casting one or both of your two at-large votes) increases as turnout increases—-this is based both on historical performance and the idea that more informed voters are more likely to vote; (2) that Kwame Brown will take 55 percent of the total number of at-large votes—-that’s based on historical performance and Brown’s strong campaign this year; (3) that David Schwartzman will take about 7 percent of the vote—-based on typical Statehood Green performance since 1996, with recent trends taken into account; and (4) that Dee Hunter and Mark Long together will take about 9 percent of the vote—-this is admittedly a seat-of-the-pants figure from LL, based on the historical performance of similar challengers.
- Turnout matches the 2004 general election, when there was about 60 percent turnout. If that’s the case, and the same rate of undervoting holds, then about 335,000 votes will be cast for at-large candidates. Given the assumptions above, LL projects that the Three Contenders would split 95,000 votes. As few as 32,000 votes (9.6%) could win the race; 38,000 would represent a “safe” 40 percent showing among the three.
- Turnout slightly increases over 2004, with about 65 percent showing up. In that case, the proportion of undervotes will increase slightly, leaving about 355,000 at-large votes. LL projects that the Three Contenders would split 101,000 votes. As few as 34,000 votes (9.6%) could win the race; 41,000 would represent a “safe” 40 percent showing among the three.
- Turnout is massive, hitting 300,000 raw votes and a 70 percent turnout. In such a case, undervoting is likely to be much more common, but 375,000 votes will likely be cast for at-large seats. LL projects that the Three Contenders would split 105,000 votes. As few as 35,000 votes (9.3%) could win the race; 42,000 would represent a “safe” 40 percent showing among the three.
Based on what LL and others have seen at polling places so far, the mid-level turnout scenario looks most likely, with the high-turnout scenario not out of the question. It comes down to this: You get 40,000 votes, you probably win.
Some things to ponder:
- In her last three runs, Schwartz has garnered 73,668 (1996), 76,173 (2000), and 93,743 (2004) votes. If she can get half of her 2004 voters to write her in, she wins.
- Patrick Mara has been written off by some, but not so fast: There’s precedent for a tyro carrying a strong Washington Post endorsement—-10 years ago, Beverly Wilbourn was in a similar position, and she won about 12 percent of the vote. If Mara were to pull those numbers, he could get 40,000 to 45,000 votes and pull this off. Two things working against him: Wilbourn was a black independent; Mara’s white, and he’s a Republican.
- There’s a number of possible oddities that could have small but significant effects on the vote: Will Schwartz voters, baffled by her omission from their ballots, vote for Schwartzman instead? Will Michael Brown pick off Schwartz’s base of older black women? Will the Kwame Brown/Michael Brown factor be enough to put Michael Brown over the top? There’s 30,000 registered Republicans in the city—-will their split cost either Schwartz or Mara the election?
- Long story short: Michael Brown still has the clearest path to victory—-through the blunt force of robocalling and flyering his way to 40,000 votes—-but Schwartz and Mara are by no means out of it.