Public Notice: A Numbers Game

Low turnout means the results of the run-offs can be hard to predict

Public Notice

Our election coverage in this issue, beginning on p.32, describes each of the run-off races, identifying frontrunners in each City Council race, whose vote totals range from 49% of the vote (Ora Houston in D1) to 21% (Susana Almanza in D3). And of course the obvious question for each of them is: Where do I find those extra voters to get above 50%? For Houston, that looks pretty easy: pick up just a few of the 36% of voters who voted for someone else in the first round, and she's there. For Almanza, or her opponent Pio Renteria at 19%, the task appears more daunting: Either one could double their level of support, and still lose in a landslide. And even Mandy Dealey, the frontrunner in D10 at 31%, may not see a way forward in a district where her four GOP opponents combined for 54.5% of the total.

Or so it would seem. Look at the numbers of voters, instead of the percentages, and you could come to a very different conclusion.

The County Clerk has begun issuing daily reports on Early Voting Daily Totals, and the numbers of people voting are about what you might expect: The total turnout for the first three days (which include a bump of mail ballots received earlier but counted on Monday), is at 2.7%, compared to the 5.7% reported for the first three days of the general election, also a Monday-Wednesday. Put that another way: Turnout is at about 47% of what it was in October. That's not an unusual drop-off from a general to a run-off, and with the same 12-day EV schedule, there's no reason to expect that ratio to change dramatically as the election goes on. So, extrapolate that projected turnout onto the individual Council races (as in the chart below), and you begin to see how important turnout is going to be over the next couple of weeks, and how open the door might be for an upset or two in this second round.

Take that contentious D3 race, for instance. At 2,142 votes and just 21% of the vote, how far is Almanza from clinching a seat? Well, if there are only 4,800 voters total in her run-off, she barely needs any extra votes; she's close to winning if she just gets everyone who voted for her the first time around to come out again. And as for Dealey, if she can keep her high-turnout close-in boxes energized, while a higher proportion of suburban, anti-rail voters sit this one out, maybe she is the frontrunner after all.

The same effect, of course, would apply to the AISD and ACC races: The hotly contested AISD Dis­trict 1, for instance, recorded just 10,480 votes in the first round; if there are just 4,600 this time around, both Ted Gordon and David "D" Thompson already have more than enough votes to win. And in a bad sign for Mike Martinez in the Mayor's race: Districts 2, 5, and 9 – where no council run-offs could mean lower-than-average turnout – were some of his stronger areas; in fact, he swept every precinct in the low-turnout D2.

Of course, we're a long way from the end of this thing, and this is an election with several unusual circumstances, so things could look very different as the election cycle unfolds, but for now, these turnout projections seem like as good a guess as any. (And I should note that even a projected 13-14% turnout would be an improvement on the figures from recent city elections held in May.) We'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, for fun:

Finding Rover is a free mobile app for finding lost dogs in real-time, using facial recognition technology and social media to identify dogs and reunite them with their owners. They're having a launch party, in partnership with the city's Austin Animal Center and other area animal shelters, at an event at 3pm today, Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Austin Animal Center, 7201 Levander Loop. Get a download, app info, and a gift bag from the Finding Rover company ( City Chief Animal Services Officer Abigail Smith said she's "thrilled that Finding Rover has chosen Austin as their launch city in Texas, and are pleased that this app will help reduce dogs entering the shelter in the first place."

The Austin EcoNetwork Mayoral Debate happening tonight at Threadgill's, 7-8pm, is also being shown live on ChannelAustin, cable ch.16, and will be re-broadcast repeatedly before the election. Also see the EcoNetwork's Election Navigator at

Turnout in the Council Races – General Election, and Projected for Run-Off

D1 D2 D3 D4 D5 D6 D7 D8 D9 D10 Total Mayor
Registered Voters 44,508 35,108 42,736 28,845 59,231 67,835 54,753 55,377 65,809 63,516 517,718 517,718
First Round Votes 13,090 8,479 10,205 8,470 21,252 15,396 19,522 21,538 20,448 27,927 166,327 175,165
Turnout 29.4% 24.1% 23.8% 29.3% 35.8% 22.7% 35.6% 38.9% 31.0% 43.9% 32.1% 33.8%
Run-Off Votes? 6,152 3,985 4,796 3,981 9,988 7,236 9,175 10,123 9,611 13,126 78,174 82,328
Turnout? 13.8% 11.4% 11.2% 13.8% 16.9% 10.7% 16.8% 18.3% 14.6% 20.7% 15.1% 15.9%

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, statistics, and other useful grist to [email protected].

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro at

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December 2014 Run-off, Mayoral & City Council, AISD Board, ACC Board, voter turnout

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