If, like us, you're still hankering for more post-game analysis of Philly's unusually interesting 2017 municipal elections, former Econsulter Jonathan Tannen's new blog, Sixty-Six Wards, is going to be your new favorite site.
You might recognize Tannen's byline from a series of posts he did for Econsult that we linked to this spring, calculating the effects of ballot position and other factors on judicial candidates' electoral fortunes. That analysis led to a neat real-world experiment with the Philadelphia Bar Association that could potentially give their recommendations some more electoral oomph in the future.
Tannen now works for Facebook, but is still based in Philly, and he started the Sixty-Six Wards blog as a hobby. There's a lot of interesting poli-sci content already, and there was one finding in particular we wanted to highlight that really drives home the importance of competitive elections for improving voter turnout.
Everybody should of course vote twice a year, every year, regardless of what's on the ballot, but nobody's perfect, and people are much more likely to show up to vote if there's a competitive election.
Primary turnout is volatile. Every time a race has a competitive democratic primary, turnout surges. President, Mayor, and Governor all show clear incumbent valleys. It appears voters actually behave quite rationally: when races aren't competitive they spend their days doing other things. (Of course, this could also be a function of a lack of awareness and no get-out-the-vote in non-competitive years).
This year saw a competitive D.A.'s primary and a general election that was closer than usual. Still, 2017's turnout, in both plots, represents larger swings than any D.A. swings we've recently seen. Something is fundamentally different.