The vote count on Tuesday morning had me worried. When the Turnout Tracker crawled above 198,000 voters before 10am--half of 2014 turnout through just three hours of voting--I scrambled to my computer to double, triple check the calculations. But my code wasn't off, it was the voters that had completely changed. By 8pm that night, over 547,000 Philadelphians had voted, a 43% increase over four years ago.
I'll dig into the tracker in another post, but let's do a quick hit of the actual final turnout and some maps.
* Quick Note: In everything below, I use the votes cast for President/Governor, rather than actual turnout. This will be short by however many people leave that race blank, which appears to be < 1% of voters in past years. These results are also preliminary, representing only 99.5% of precincts.
Some 537,231 Philadelphians cast votes for Governor. This is a 157 thousand increase over the 379,046 of 2014. The absolute size of this increase is unprecedented since at least 2002, and would have been the largest proportional increase in that span if not for the *82%* increase to elect Krasner in 2017. As the plot makes jarringly clear, in the aftermath of 2016, something is different.
And Philadelphia somewhat outpaced the rest of the state, where votes grew by 41%. So not only did turnout surge, but Philadelphia eked out some more statewide clout, too.
Where the votes came from
The turnout boom was not evenly distributed. As we saw in 2017, it was driven by the wealthier, predominantly white wards, and especially those that have gentrified over the last twenty years.
Immediately in the morning, the Tracker made one thing clear: Ward 27 saw the biggest turnout growth. It ruined the color scale on the map.
The 27th, in University City, saw an increase in votes of 135%. That manages to dwarf even the 95% growth of Wards 31 and 18 (in Kensington/Fishtown), in second and third.
This is worth digging into more. How did a ward possibly see this much growth? It's all Penn. The division right along the river, containing most undergrad dorms, went from 116 votes in 2014 to 585 in 2018. That manages to make the second and third place divisions look a weaker green, even though they quadrupled(!!) their votes, from 88 to 363 and from 82 to 322, respectively.
This is mostly a problem of denominators, though. Turnout at Penn was tiny in 2014. It's not as if Ward 27 all of a sudden has the most votes in the city. Instead, the student-heavy ward just this year performed like the average center-city-ringing neighborhood.
As evidence, consider instead 2018 votes as a fraction of 2016. I like this comparison, because the Presidential election of 2016 probably represents the highest plausible attainable turnout for a midterm; you're just never going to get someone who doesn't vote for President to vote for Governor.
)By this comparison, Wards 9 and 22 (Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy) look great, but typically so, with 88% and 87% of the 2016 voters coming out again in 2018. In third place was Ward 31 in Kensington, and Ward 18 below it was sixth, with 87% and 85% of 2016 turnout, respectively. Notice that these two also saw the second and third most *growth* since 2014, and have quickly ascended the ranks of top voting wards in the city.
Meanwhile, many of the Black wards that always come out in midterms continued to do so, including in Overbrook and Wynnfield in West Philly, and in Cedar Brook and West Oak Lane in the Northwest. These wards didn't see their turnout grow a ton, mostly because they always, always vote (at least relative to the rest of the city).
Many of the divisions in Ward 31 to the North saw triple the 2014 turnout, whereas divisions in Ward 18 below it merely doubled.
[Edited: My map was incorrectly handling new division 18-18, so I’ve removed it until I have a fix].
The growth in these districts aren't always what a candidate will care about. Growth in a division doesn't matter all that much if it started at a very low point, or if nobody lives there. For candidates, what might be most useful is just density of votes, which will be a function of population density and turnout. In this metric, Fairmount and West Center City glow, along with Ward 46 in University City. These are all divisions with high turnout and a ton of people.
Finally, here's turnout as a function of the population over 18. This has some benefits over the typical reported turnout of voters divided by registered voters because it (a) doesn't rely on efficiently taking people off the books, which is notoriously slow in Philadelphia, and (b) bakes into the calculation any systematic differences in getting registered to vote, which I claim should be considered part of the voting process. It's main (large) downside is that it includes in the denominator non-citizens or other residents not eligible to register, which will make immigrant communities look particularly bad.
Grad Hospital, Fairmount, and Chestnut Hill shine by this metric, while North Philly, the lower Northeast, and even Penn despite all its growth have low percentages.
Sadly, one demographic has been under-represented in every single map in today's post: the Hispanic communities in North Philly. For example, Ward 7 is the darkest ward in the map of 2018 vs 2016, meaning that despite its 63% vote growth over 2014 (11th best growth in the city!), it still had the worst turnout relative to 2016: only 52% of the votes from 2016 came out for 2018. This community already has the lowest turnout in Presidential races, but it shrinks even farther in non-Presidential elections.
Two straight elections of something different
Philadelphia's turnout since 2016 has been astounding. Across the city there were 43% more votes than four years ago, and every single Ward's turnout grew.
While voters always come out in Center City, Chestnut Hill, Overbrook, and Cedar Brook, we saw unprecedented booms in Fishtown, University City, the rest of the neighborhoods ringing Center City.
These changes have now stuck around for two straight elections--2017 and 2018--and could presage a fundamental change in our city's political calculus for years to come.
Forecast: Who will win the PA House?
The race for the Pennsylvania Senate
The race for the Pennsylvania House
Evaluating the Live Election Tracker
So you wanna be a Committeeperson