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Precinct analysis: The microcosm

If studying all the precinct data for Harris County seems too daunting, you can get a pretty good representation of the county in a smaller scale by studying HD133, where Rep.-elect Kristi Thibaut unseated freshman Rep. Jim Murphy in a rematch of 2006. With one lone exception, the result in HD133 mirrored the countywide result for every single Democrat that was on the ballot; the exceptional case was for the 333rd Civil Court, where Democrat Goodwille Pierre nipped Judge Tad Halbach in the district. No other district I’ve looked at comes anywhere near to this similarity.

There’s another aspect in which HD133 offers a good lesson on Harris County as a whole, and that’s in the matter of turnout, especially when compared to 2006. To illustrate, let’s look at how Thibaut did in each year. There’s not that many precincts in HD133, so we can look at them individually. Unlike some other districts, HD133 is basically split between CDs 07 and 09, with Westheimer being a dividing line through the district separating the 7th to the north and the 9th to the south. Here’s a look at the precincts in each CD from 2006:

CD07 - 2006 Pcnct Votes Turnout Murphy Thibaut T Pct T Margin ====================================================== 130 1295 54.09 918 320 25.85 -598 356 1249 39.51 786 386 32.94 -400 395 901 49.32 608 246 28.81 -362 437 1100 50.39 766 255 24.98 -511 438 1023 54.71 737 246 25.03 -491 483 1576 34.58 884 598 40.35 -286 492 1029 36.55 652 328 33.47 -324 493 862 45.46 581 242 29.40 -339 499 1267 54.15 896 321 26.38 -575 504 1176 51.47 777 348 30.93 -429 625 856 44.75 501 303 37.69 -198 626 1102 36.83 598 428 41.72 -170 706 182 33.09 103 65 38.69 -38 727 513 19.96 193 280 59.20 87 Total 14,131 41.93 9000 4366 32.66 -4634 CD09 - 2006 Pcnct Votes Turnout Murphy Thibaut T Pct T Margin ====================================================== 96 209 16.76 40 153 79.27 113 338 1067 23.96 355 636 64.18 281 429 823 20.64 230 536 69.97 306 487 653 19.87 216 393 64.53 177 503 349 24.15 105 215 67.19 110 508 846 26.81 261 518 66.50 257 559 707 20.75 238 410 63.27 172 565 517 14.14 101 391 79.47 290 620 1500 28.45 741 660 47.11 -81 765 950 26.55 399 467 53.93 68 Total 7621 22.76 2686 4379 61.98 1693

You wouldn’t realize it if you just looked at the number of votes cast, but there were actually a few more registered voters in the CD09 half of the district as there were in the CD07 half – 33,490 in CD09 and 33,353 in CD07. But in 2006, the voters in the precincts that largely favored Thibaut stayed home in droves, and she lost by what looked like a large margin, 57.2% to 42.8% using two party numbers. That was close to the average countywide performance, which was 58.0% for the GOP and 42.0% in HD133 for the Dems. It was clear that this wasn’t really representative of the district (or the county), and that Thibaut would get a boost from the fact that 2008 was a Presidential year. I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation by applying 2004 turnout numbers to each precinct, and assigning it the same percentage of the vote for each candidate, and estimated Thibaut would net between 46 and 47 percent of the vote under those conditions. Given that everyone expected more robust Democratic turnout this year compared to 2004, it was fair to assume the race would be close to even, before anyone did any campaigning.

Well, it was that and then some. Compare to 2008:

CD07 - 2008 Pcnct Votes Turnout Murphy Thibaut T Pct T Margin ====================================================== 130 1858 78.90 1383 410 22.87 -973 356 2136 71.65 1245 811 39.45 -434 395 1333 74.43 910 376 29.24 -534 437 1527 73.41 1097 371 25.27 -726 438 1379 77.70 1058 276 20.69 -782 483 2784 64.59 1381 1283 48.16 -98 492 1750 67.15 988 705 41.64 -283 493 1321 72.90 876 388 30.70 -488 499 1810 79.74 1346 410 23.35 -936 504 1688 75.42 1172 473 28.75 -699 625 1330 72.48 798 474 37.26 -324 626 1905 67.43 968 867 47.25 -101 706 342 63.10 174 155 47.11 -29 727 1430 62.83 409 964 70.21 555 Total 22,593 71.24 13,805 7963 36.58 -5842 CD09 - 2008 Pcnct Votes Turnout Murphy Thibaut T Pct T Margin ====================================================== 96 698 62.04 72 600 89.29 528 338 2463 54.86 735 1540 67.69 805 429 2164 55.20 469 1574 77.04 1105 487 1576 50.08 484 997 67.32 513 503 729 51.52 234 450 65.79 216 508 1740 56.92 594 1045 63.76 451 559 2092 64.63 491 1492 75.24 1001 565 1569 46.52 233 1274 84.54 1041 620 3913 67.71 1738 1965 53.07 227 765 2216 60.56 827 1246 60.11 419 Total 19,610 59.06 5877 12,183 67.46 6306

Now this begins to look like a district with an even partisan distribution of voters. In fact, CD09 increased its advantage in registrations to 33,402 to 31,712, but thanks to its near-tripling of turnout over 2006, it actually looks like it’s of equivalent size. The CD07 precincts jumped by 75%, but that wasn’t enough to hold the seat for Murphy. The rising Democratic tide swamped his boat. And that was reflected across the county.

All this is easy to see, and to my mind provides a quick and dirty refutation of Dave Mann’s thesis that the Democratic Party in Harris County somehow failed to turn its voters out, but a closer look reveals something else. Thibaut increased her margin in each precinct in CD09, which included flipping Precinct 620 from red to blue. She also cut into Murphy’s margin in four of the CD07 precincts – 483, 492, 626, and 706 – while building on the lead in 727. I don’t want to reduce this to one precinct, but the gain Thibaut made in 727, which remember is in CD07, is greater than her margin of victory. Obviously, she needed the huge boost she got in the CD09 precincts, which is what everyone expected to happen. The point I’m making, the recurring theme throughout this election, is that she didn’t make it on gains in Democratic districts alone. She needed the help she got in the CD07 precincts where she gained as well. At the county level, or in this microcosm of the county, that’s the story of this election.

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One Comment

  1. Peter Wang says:

    Dexter, Dexter, Dexter!