Early birds fly right: Voting trends spell trouble for Mitchell

In general, between 25-35% of the Austinites who vote cast their ballots during the 17-day early voting period preceding each election. And almost invariably, these voters tend toward the right; conservative candidates see their highest percentage leads right at the beginning of Election Night, when the early-vote totals are released. On May 3, that boded very ill for Ronney Reynolds, who was effectively tied with Kirk Watson in the early vote and saw his numbers go downhill from there.

Does early voting skew right because more folks vote early in conservative boxes and neighborhoods, or because the most conservative folks in each neighborhood avoid the E-day rush? As far as the May 3 vote is concerned, as the chart shows, the answer is "Both." Early-voting turnout (as a percentage of the total vote cast) was higher in the more hawkish Northwest, Southwest and East than in the leftie Central and South/Southeast sectors, with the North occupying the middle ground. At the same time, the margins for the conservative candidates -- Reynolds and Eric Mitchell -- in the mayoral and Place 6 races were invariably higher in early voting than they are on election day.

When we look at the amount of Ronney and Eric's E-Day drops, though, we see that Reynolds did much better at holding on to at least some of his base. In the conservative Northwest and Southwest, Ronney only gave up about four percentage points to Watson on Election Day, compared with an 8% decline in the South/Southeast, and double-digit drops elsewhere. (These are the differences between the early-vote and E-day margins; the difference between the early-vote and total-vote margins are naturally smaller.)

Mitchell, on the other hand, took a huge bath on E-Day, giving up at least 17 points to Willie Lewis in every part of town and seeing a healthy early-voting lead cut by well over half. Drops like this are not easily explained by the inherent rightward skew of the early vote; clearly, during the last three weeks of the campaign, a lot of people made up their minds (or changed their minds) in the Place 6 race, and most of them chose Willie over Eric.

This is borne out by a look at the number of boxes that switched sides on Election Day -- while Reynolds gave up a net 22 boxes to Watson (losing 28, picking up 6), Mitchell lost 36 boxes outright to Lewis without picking up any of Lewis'. A closer look at the margins in these swing boxes shows that, while most of them split narrowly in the mayor's race, quite a few boxes in which Mitchell had enjoyed solid, if not spectacular, leads in early voting went strongly for Lewis on Election Day. To the degree that this is a measure of momentum, it may have been Mitchell, rather than Reynolds, who'd have been better off skipping the runoff.


Vote Margins by Region -- Early Voting and Election Day

TOTAL CENTRAL EAST NORTH NORTHWEST SOUTH/SE SOUTHWEST
TOTAL VOTE

62,839

18,878

5,337

10,849

10,785

6,530

10,460

% Early Voting

27.9%

23.4%

30.2%

28.3%

34.5%

25.7%

29.2%


Mayor's Race

Early Voting

Reynolds
+36 (0.2%)

Watson
+1,079 (24.4%)

Reynolds
+122 (7.6%)

Reynolds
+216 (7.0%)

Reynolds
+606 (16.3%)

Watson
+96 (5.7%)

Reynolds
+267 (8.7%)

Election Day

Watson
+5,729 (12.7%)

Watson
+5,632 (39.0%)

Watson
+203 (5.5%)

Watson
+185 (2.4%)

Reynolds
+858 (12.4%)

Watson
+549 (11.3%)

Reynolds
+312 (4.2%)

Total Vote

Watson
+5,363 (8.5%)

Watson
+6,711 (35.6%)

Watson
+81 (1.5%)

Reynolds
+31 (0.3%)

Reynolds
+1,464 (13.6%)

Watson
+645 (9.9%)

Reynolds
+579 (5.5%)


Place 6 Race

Early Voting

Mitchell
+3,662 (20.9%)

Lewis
+354 (8.0%)

Mitchell
+698 (43.3%)

Mitchell
+829 (27.0%)

Mitchell
+1,279 (34.4%)

Mitchell
+291 (17.3%)

Mitchell
+919 (30.1%)

Election Day

Lewis
+2,082 (4.6%)

Lewis
+4,544 (31.4%)

Mitchell
+538 (14.4%)

Mitchell
+198 (2.6%)

Mitchell
+1,171 (16.6%)

Lewis
+265 (5.5)

Mitchell
+820 (11.1%)

Total Vote

Mitchell
+1,580 (2.5%)

Lewis
+4,898 (26.0%)

Mitchell
+1,236 (23.2%)

Mitchell
+1,027 (9.5%)

Mitchell
+2,450 (22.7%)

Mitchell
+26 (0,4%)

Mitchell
+1,739 (16.6%)


Number of Boxes Won

Watson Reynolds Mitchell Lewis
Early Voting Results 74 77 118 33
Gains on Election Day 28 6 0 36
Election Day Results 96 55 82 69

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