Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Norristown's Voter Turnout in Numbers and Attitude

Yesterday was my first full-time experience as an Inspector at the polls. Here are a few of my observations.

District 3-3 has an incredible amount of people named Davis, and the majority of them seem to be related. There may actually be more Smiths or Jones than Davises, but the cool thing about the Davis families is -- THEY SHOW UP TO VOTE. Whatever they're teaching their kids about the democratic process, they're doing it right. The rest of us can learn a lesson from them.

The church that wins the prize for the most voters showing up in the 3rd district is St. Pat's. At one point there were so many parishioners standing around chatting after they voted that someone said they might as well just send for Father Puleo and let him say mass. Which would have been rather unconstitutional given the whole separation of church and state thing. But anyway, congrats to St. Pat's churchgoers for coming out.

We had many people ask if we had "I Voted" stickers. Our standard response by the end of the night was "This is Norristown. We don't do stickers; we do tattoos." (Just kidding, of course.)

Of the 584 people our table checked in yesterday, only one person had a lousy attitude. Everyone else was polite and patient, even if we had problems finding their names on our rolls. Most people were smiling, a lot of them joking. Most were happy to see and greet their neighbors. They made our jobs much, much easier and very enjoyable. Voting SHOULD be a happy occasion.

Now the numbers. My co-workers said 3-3 had a really great turnout for a mid-term election. We seemed busy enough to me that the hours went by pretty fast. When I crunched the numbers, our turnout rate was about 40%. I think 3-1 did about the same (they had more voters than 3-3, but I think they also have more people registered).

If you look at the chart above, you can see a history of mid-term versus presidential election turnout for the whole US. Up through about 1828, the mid-term turnout was actually HIGHER than the presidential turnout. (Worth noting, I think, that 81% of electors turned out to vote in Abraham Lincoln, but only about 62% to vote in Obama, and that was the highest presidential turnout since 1968.) The midterm turnout plunged in 1902, and since 1970 has hovered around 40%.

So yesterday in Norristown's 3rd district, we were only about par with the national average, and THAT, I was told, was better than we usually do. There was a lower turnout for the primary last spring. Lots of room for improvement.

But I have to say, I loved meeting so many of my Norristown neighbors yesterday. I've said it before, we have wonderful, friendly, caring residents in this town. We need to never forget that.

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