Local Politics by the Numbers

Number Lottery Balls This is a local post, so for those who read DB for national news or analysis – or to follow the rants on the favorite house topic (economics/politics) – please hold on for a second while I play with some numbers.

Consider the information in the following table:

County Democrats Republicans Turnout %
Carson 8310 11562 60.7
Churchill 2651 6895 61.1
Douglas 4650 15491 61.9
Elko 3137 10558 55.6
Esmeralda 60 313 65.9
Eureka 98 617 74.9
Humboldt 1092 3446 69.02
Lander 378 1431 82.6
Lincoln 309 1496 60.4
Lyon 5247 14223 47.4
Mineral 367 1075 52.07
Nye 4056 10573 51.4
Pershing 442 1087 70.36
Storey 425 1137 78.3
White Pine 743 1998 63.5
Total 31965 81902  

* the registration numbers are active voters as of October 2014, turnout percentages are from the Secretary of States’ office including early, absentee, mail-in, and election day totals

The total number of active registered voters in Nevada as of the end of October 2014 was 1,213,193; the election day turnout was 20.36%; the Early Voting turnout was 21.96%; and absentee ballots made up 3.9% of the total. The total turnout was 552,380 or 45.51%. [SoSNV]

All of the rural counties showed turnout rates significantly higher than the statewide returns.  This is probably obvious, since those of us in the outback attend high school athletic events and amateur theatricals; we’re so Off Broadway they wouldn’t even know we were here.  Voting is at least a nice social event, and in General Elections there are usually some “hot” local non-partisan races.  Either things were very dull or extremely interesting in Eureka and Lander counties, their election turnout could demonstrate both.  However, there doesn’t seem to have been as much enthusiasm in Elko, Lyon, Mineral, and Nye counties. 

County Population Voting Age Registered  
Carson 54080 42723 25158 17565
Churchill 24877 18907 12240 6667
Douglas 47118 38401 29257 9144
Elko 52384 37664 18456 17362
Esmeralda 832 699 545 154
Eureka 2076 1599 880 719
Humboldt 17363 12571 6333 6238
Lander 6032 4421 2427 1994
Lincoln 5245 4075 2693 1383
Mineral 4614 3737 2738 999
Nye 42297 34387 23808 10579
Pershing 6877 5563 2292 3271
Storey 3942 3370 2433 937
White Pine 10057 7844 4431 3414


If we take the population, subtract the number of those the Census Bureau counts as under 18 years of age, and subtract again for foreign born persons residing in the county, we can roughly estimate the voting age population in each of the rural or suburban counties. There’s obviously some wiggle in the count because, of course, not all foreign born persons are necessarily non-citizens. However, to keep things on the low ball side of estimations, the assumption is made that all foreign born are possibly not eligible to vote.

When the voting age population is aligned with the actual number of registered active voters the difference shown in the last column are those who are of voting age, probably eligible to vote, and who have not registered to do so. The total number of people in the counties listed above who are of voting age and have not registered comes to about 63,000 souls.

Numbers are lovely. However, these don’t tell us all that much about the outcomes of elections in any predictive way – the number which might be instructive is that during the Primary Election in Nevada (2014) the turnout was 222,240 voters or approximately 19.27% of the total number of active voters statewide.  No one was particularly “energized” and they stayed that way.

What we can see from the second table is that all of the political parties in Nevada have left a significant number of “votes on the table,” and many of these are in the suburban or rural counties.

The problem for any political party is essentially to (1) pull votes from the faithful; (2) get votes off the sidelines (register voters); and (3) get voters to turn out – early, absentee, mail-in, or in person.   The 2014 general election showed that the Democrats didn’t do a particularly good job in these three essential segments.   For that matter, the low statewide turnout showed the Republicans, while successful by all accounts, didn’t really do a much better job either.

However, my interest is in the Democratic Party so here come the fractious observations.

For all the time and effort expended by a few Solid Citizens who have obviously given their all for party efforts – the structure of the Democratic Party State Central Committee indicates some valid weaknesses in the process.  It’s my understanding that each county is guaranteed at least one seat, and that a county gets 1 seat for every thousand registered party members.   Churchill County has 2651 registered Democrats and 1 seat – they couldn’t find another person?  The same question applies to Elko County, with 3589 registered Democrats and only 1 seat?  Lyon has 7823 registered Democrats and 2 seats filled…. and so it goes.

If the Democratic Party in Nevada wants to be considered a Statewide operation then it surely should provide more support for the local leadership and leadership training efforts.  And, if the state leadership is to allocate personnel and resources for rural party development then at least a significant amount of national attention should reward these efforts. To have a handful of people trying to carry the load in multiple counties is not only unconscionable it’s obviously not the best way to carry on.

Electricity is a Wonderful Thing

What the rurals DO have is an excellent base for electronic communications.  The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus has an excellent blog site.  Humboldt County Democrats maintain an updated site.  Heaven only knows what’s happened with the State Party Blog? Nor does it link directly with the NRDC or HCD sites from the Blog Page.  The Carson City Democratic Party link takes you back to the state site.  The Douglas County site links to the NRDC, and covers local events and items of interest.  Lyon County maintains a web presence, advertizes local events, but doesn’t link directly with other rural communications – clicking on the blog roll takes you nowhere.  The Nye County party has a web site, and links to the State site, the National Site, the NRDC, Blue Nevadan, Democracy for America, Nevada Stonewall Democrats, and two independent blogs, Turbokitty, and The ObamaCrat.   Here’s a thought —

What might happen if the Nevada State Democratic Party put together an updated blog roll of (1) Local Party Websites, and (2) an up to date list of Democratic, progressive, and liberal bloggers in the state?

What might happen if the Nevada State Democratic Party sent a list of updated and current Local Party websites, and a list of current independent blog sites with links which the parties and the bloggers could insert in their sidebars?  Instead of, say, relying on the parties and bloggers to try to find each other on their own?  What might happen if the NSDP looked for even more and newer means of electronic “social media” use?

What might happen if the State Democratic Party took an interest in having a web presence for every county in the state?

Avoiding Sclerotics

Allow me to take a wild flying guess that one of the issues in some rural counties  concerns the aging process; some Democrats are getting Older—and Older—and Older. And more tired, and more tired … Granted in any organization it’s nearly always 10% of the people who do 90% of the work. However, in the words of the very old business bard/mentor – if you aren’t growing you’re dying.   Another notion, which the Republicans are probably going to have to deal with sooner rather than later, is that a Party is not a monolithic creation. No one is ever going to be completely satisfied with everything.  Nothing will so advance the sclerosis of an organization quite as well as having the direction of the glacier moving toward ideological purity, of any stripe.  Avoiding the Purity Trap and the Sclerotic Trap requires getting some new hands on the deck.

From this perch in the outback, it looks as though the State Democratic Party might do well to (1) put some major resources into leadership training and (2) create an atmosphere such that the Party is perceived not merely as the delivery vehicle for election purposes but also as a coalition of those interested in democratic issues and values.  Where to find these people?

If you want to keep a person engaged give them something to do.  It’s a good business practice to give new hires increasingly larger roles in the operations; and the same is true of most political organizations.  There’s nothing wrong with starting small.  For example, what might happen if a county party leader gave a younger individual the task of going through the voter registration list or a precinct listing and creating a phone tree or contact list?  What might happen if the State Party helped with the costs involved in creating the “Can We Count On Your Vote?” contact lists? One of the more beneficial bits of advice from the Leader is “Can you find a friend to help you?”  Now, you’ve got two people for the price of one task.

The numbers in the charts above indicate some voters who aren’t registered.  Another small chore might be to have someone to conduct a “little voter registration” drive-let.”  “Can you find us three more eligible voters to register?  “Can you compile a list of people in the county who run blog sites?  Calendar sites? Special events sites?”  “Could you attend (fill in some local event) and report back to us for our web page?” 

On a heftier scale, what issues are important in the area?  Are there groups interested in improving a local airport? Are there issues revolving around school building maintenance problems and funding?  [PVT]  Land use planning issues?  No one will notice you if you aren’t there.  Engaging in reasonable and civil discourse while working on projects in which there are several layers and levels of interest may not be a route to recruitment but can mitigate “image” problems, which in turn makes recruitment an easier matter.  Does the communication structure (system) of the local party include postings on topical local issues?

All this rambling leads to some central questions.  Is the State Party sufficiently interested in, or fiscally capable of, strengthening and encouraging the development of rural and suburban party elements? Is the State Party in a position to and interested in assisting in the coordination of the Democratic Party message on a statewide basis? 

In the end, “All politics is local.”

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