City Council Election: Seismic Sniffle

“Voice of Scottsdale” reported recently that

…the seismic shift in how candidates finished in the Primary Election compared to the General Election was unheralded.  It was like a game of political musical chairs. Jennifer Peterson fell from second to fifth place.  David Smith jumped from fourth to second.  Kathy Little moved from fifth to third.  Dennis Robbins, running for his second consecutive term, slid from third to fourth. Incumbent Linda Milhaven was the only candidate who stayed put in both elections by finishing in first place.

I think that once the kooks (Bill Crawford, Michael Auerbach) were weeded out after the primary election, there were so few votes separating the remaining six real candidates that it didn’t take a lot of change to effect a shift that might look dramatic without the context of the spread.

  •    Candidate                  Early     Total    Percent
  • 1 Linda Milhaven       22896  27866    17.82
  • 2 David Smith             21660  26359    16.85
  • 3 Kathy Littlefield      21015   26352    16.85
  • 4 Dennis Robbins      21516   26298    16.81
  • 5 Jennifer Petersen   21058  25964    16.6
  • 6 Cindy Hill                  18780  23564    15.07

Less than three percentage points covered all general election candidates, and a half-percent covered the 2-3-4 finishers. With such small spreads, it’s easy to see how the shuffling took place during the counting of ballots as something other than a dramatic shifting of positions.

The only thing that really matters is that we were barely able to hang onto what little real citizen representation we had on the council. The “2” in the regular 5-2 council vote splits will now include Kathy Littlefield instead of her husband Bob, along with Guy Phillips.

I submit to you that the real story of this election is turnout, or lack thereof. Thanks to analyst-in-chief and sadly soon-to-be-former-Councilman Bob Littlefield, I can share these Scottsdale voting statistics with you:

August 26, 2014 Primary:

  • Total Registration 149,829; Total Turnout 44,122 (29.45%)*
  • Non-partisan Registration 52,586; Non-partisan Turnout 763 (1.45%)
  • Republican Registration 63,353; Republican Turnout 31,430 (49.61%)
  • Democratic Registration 32,720; Democratic Turnout 10,992 (33.59%)
  • Libertarian Registration 1,156; Libertarian Turnout 244 (21.11%)

November 4, 2014 General:

  • Total Registration 145,987; Total Turnout 78,314 (53.64%)*
  • Non-partisan Registration 51,857; Non-partisan Turnout 21,531 (41.52%)
  • Republican Registration 61,757; Republican Turnout 38,629 (62.55%)
  • Democratic Registration 31,275; Democratic Turnout 17,674 (56.51%)
  • Libertarian Registration 1,086; Libertarian Turnout 410 (37.75%)

 *total registration numbers are slightly different between primary and general elections for technical reasons.

The “non-partisan” (aka “independent) turnout in the primary may as well have been zero. Otherwise the more citizen-friendly candidates (Littlefield and Hill) might have won seats outright in the primary and skipped the general election.

So why the low turnout? It starts with the AZ State Legislature’s under-the-radar efforts to disenfranchise independent voters. Thanks to efforts by Michele Ugenti and John Kavanagh (among others), as well as now-lame-duck Secretary of State Ken Bennett, municipalities were forced to shift from spring elections (where city-only issues had greater impact on elections) to fall in order to take advantage of the Republican registration advantage and the Republicans’ tendency to vote the party line.

Then Bennett chose to send primary election ballots to non-partisan registrants ONLY if they requested a partisan ballot, rather than sending out a ballot specific to only the non-partisan contests, like city council elections.

And with no leader or party structure to raise the alarm (let alone put up a fight), the independents largely registered no complaints. Which proves the adage that they will continue to get the government they deserve.

To circle back to the Scottsdale focus of this article, I’ll point you to a recent David Smith-related post-election comment in an AZCentral article:

The results, which were generally divided between two camps of candidates, do not show divisiveness in the city, Smith asserted.

Rather, he said “each candidate brought to the table a different set of priorities.”

“I think we had a slate of highly qualified candidates, and that’s what I would attribute this close election to,” Smith said. “Each of us were highly qualified and appealed to perhaps a different constituency.”

I don’t know if the self-contradiction between the first sentence and the last is a reflection of David Smith’s ignorance of the issues, his desire to gloss over them, or simply ignorance on the part of the reporter. Regardless, this assertion doesn’t square with reality.

There is, and has been for some time, significant divisiveness perpetrated by those who want to ignore the rules for intelligent growth and development in Scottsdale for their own gain or the gain of their cronies.

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