Battleground Ohio - General Assembly House District 2
District 2 in the Ohio House comprises all of Richland County. Richland County is a largely rural county in Northern Ohio between Columbus and Cleveland on the lake. The largest population center in the County is Mansfield. I know for my family on drives up to Cleveland or other parts of Northeastern Ohio the Mansfield exits provided a must needed rest point.
This seat is held by Republican Mark Romanchuk who first won the seat last year. This seat has been challenged by a Democrat in each of the last two cycles. It is a tough district for Democrats for sure, but if we back them up, headway could certainly be made here. The data does reveal opportunities to grow support for sure.
QUICK LOOK DISTRICT 2 ELECTION PROFILE
- Residents: 123,387
- Registered Voters 2016: 81,942
- Total Vote in 2016: 56,106
- 2016 Turnout Rate: 68%
- Total Republican Vote 2016: 36,168
- Total Democratic Vote 2016: 15,725
- Registered Voters 2014: 88,834
- Total Vote in 2014: 27,297
- 2014 Turnout Rate: 38%
- Total Republican Vote 2014: 22,615
- Total Democratic Vote 2014: 9,741
There are 85 precincts in Richland County and District 2. When I began profiling districts for state legislative races I began with Virginia. Most of their districts have 20 to 30 precincts. Given the large volume of precincts in Ohio I will be doing a few overall summary slides and then some breakouts. Admittedly the breakouts are a touch arbitrary, so bear that in mind as you go further.
OVERALL DATA VIEW
As we dig into deeper details I will look at both 2014 and 2016 data. There is some change between the years for sure on the total voters registered front. I will just look at this overview from the 2016 perspective wince this will be the most relevant to working a campaign in 2018.
Ohio, as one of the states, admitted as part of the Northwest Territory, has some legacy municipality structures in place that add to the complexity when looking at the district. Ohio counties are broken into townships, many of which overlap with incorporated villages, towns, and cities. In Richland there are 3 cities, the largest being Mansfield with 29,297 registered voters. The other cities are Ontario and Shelby, which combined make up 11% of the registered voters in the district.
Townships, mostly, but not exclusively even more rural areas, make up 46% of the registered voters. To start digging more deeply into the data I hake broken the 85 precincts into 3 groupings. Mansfield, Cities and Townships (Townships that include at least 1 shared polling locations with an Incorporated city precinct), and, finally, Townships Only. Here is the breakout based on those categories:
So now we have an understanding of how the groupings were set up, and the share of voters in each, let's start looking at election history from the last two cycles. The focus will be on both the 2016 and 2014 election. You have to look at both because those election years are radically different in terms of turnout. Just look at the QUICK LOOK summary above. 2016 saw a 68% voter turnout compared to 38% in 2014. That 30 point drop is massive. When planning a campaign for the next cycle focusing on 2014 patterns is key, 2016 just helps to understand a bit the nature of the challenge facing any Democrat that picks up our banner here.
There are 29 Mansfield precincts. Here is the partisan vote across those precincts in the 2014 election:
The red is Republican, blue Democrat and no fill is people who did not vote. From left to right these precincts are arranged by lowest margin of victory for the Republican to the highest. In these Mansfield precincts, the Democrat did well, particularly compared to the other groupings in District 2. The Democrat won 11 of the 29 precincts. They won no precincts in the other groupings. This data confirms our perceptions. The more dense the population the better our chances. The encouraging thing is the Republican lost to Did Not Vote in every precinct as well!
The above graph does give us a good look at some opportunity here, but the next graphic gives a little more clarity:
The yellow bar represents the total number of Registered voters in the precinct. The red bar is the vote total for the Republican and the orange is the total margin of victory the Republican. The reason I focus on the Republican margin is that we are trying to find the Republicans weak spots. So obviously the precincts where the Republican margin is negative serve as our opportunity to score wins.
More importantly, however, presenting the data this way finds other opportunities too. For example, if I were trying to flip this district, the first areas I would dig deeper than this summary district profile would be precinct MAN 6 - E and MAN 1 - C. The Republican vote total drops below the curve in those precincts with a robust volume of Registered voters to work.
That said, how did things look in 2016?
If you compare this graphic with the same set for the 2014 campaign There is quite a bit of good news. The rate of Demacratic growth in vote outpaced the Republican vote. Focusing on this group might be a good tactic indeed. Before we decide that though, let's look at the scale of opportunity chart for 2016:
While growth in Democratic vote outpaced the Republican from 2014 to 2016, the further to the right on this chart the stronger the Republican growth in margin was. They even won a few more precincts overall, but Democrats narrowed the margin in others. MAN 6 - E and MAN 1 - C both fall into that category, so again they would be good targets for an early deeper look by a Democratic candidate for this district. Other targets because fo the shrinking Republican margin would be MAN 2 - B and MAN 3 - B.
CITIES AND TOWNSHIPS
There are 28 precincts with 26,164 registered voters. Here is how they voted in 2014.
Now that we have left the largest population concentration in the district (Mansfield) things shift even further rightward here. Democrats did not win a single precinct in this grouping of smaller cities with Townships that overlap them. That said, this data reveals some decent targets to begin working. Madison Township G jumps out, but also Madison Township A & D and Ontario 1-A as well as Lexington B. Let's look at the scale of opportunity next.
This graphic does not reveal too much different than the first one outlining the partisan vote. The only add this reveals might be a good look at Mifflin Township D since the Republican total is higher than surrounding precincts, but the margin is comparatively lower. As an aside, we need to work all of the precincts to begin to turn the tide, the point of this analysis to look at areas to begin to build broader support in the area.
Let's take a look at the 2016 results in the Cities and Townships group of precincts.
The Republican vote grew fairly consistently across the board. Meanwhile, the Democratic vote did increase, but not with the consistency of the Republican vote. Comparing the 2016 data tot he 2014 data points out that Madison G and Lexington B to provide the best chances still. If we are to ever win this district, that will mean flipping Republican votes though. Even if Republicans turn out a rate of voters comparable to 2014 and Democrats turn out their 2016 numbers in the next race (not going to happen), Republicans would still win the next race.
That is not to say it is not worth working the district and working it hard. We need to turn things around across the country, even in these tough districts. Build relationships precinct by precinct to begin to turn this more our way, if not flipping it completely. let's see what the scale of opportunity graphic reveals if anything.
The best opportunities revealed here are Ontario 1-A and Madison G. The difference between actual Republican vote v the Republican margin shows we did better here in a district that potentially the Republican vote is near maxed out. That spells opportunity.
There are 28 precincts with 26,498 registered voters. Here is how they voted in 2014.
The interesting thing here, is that while Support for the Republican is fairly stable, it is not overwhelming in any one spot in the election type we will have in 2018. Of course, there is no one spot Democrats do particularly well in, in this group of precincts anyhow. Madison Twp is definitely where I would begin to work hard based on the above data alone, with a precinct in Mifllin and a precinct in Plymouth grabbing my eye too. Let's take a look at the Scale of Opportunity slide and see if anything else surfaces.
Madison Township E and I and Mifflin E stand out, much as they did on the first graphic. If you want to attack a stronger Republican precinct, and it is worth going right at them sometimes, Weller Township could be a decent target to start that assault. As noted elsewhere in this post, it is important to work all precincts, this data is meant to reveal some of the best opportunities to pursue early in any campaign.
So, what happened in 2016?
Looking at the 2016 results is a bit daunting. Looking at 2014 data I would think Madison E would be my top priority. Overlaying this dataset now drives me to Madison Township I followed by Plymouth. Madison Township E still has some room to maneuver, it just does not present quite as much as those other precincts mentioned. Again, I am not delusional, this set of precincts don't show any area of overwhelming opportunity to pursue, but to work these areas you got to exploit what opportunity there is, no matter how slim.
Madison O actually catches my eye here. E and I still look good, O just joins the ranks because the margin is only half the total Republican vote as well. Again, not screaming huge weakness for the Republican, but sometimes you got to take what you can get!
FINAL THOUGHTS AND TRACKING VOTER SUPPRESSION
The make-up of this district more than confirms the accepted idea that we do better the denser the population. That said, we must start doing better across the country and working these more rural districts precinct by precinct is the best way to get that done. Let's find a great candidate, and give them some support. Once we have that candidate, they should begin to find precinct chairs for their campaign that should work to organize one precinct at a time!
As far as the voter suppression issue is concerned. Unlike District 1, no precincts were closed between 2014 to 2016. That said, there was a decline of about 6,700 voters between 2014 to 2016. It is difficult to peg specifically the cause here, it could just be emigration from the area. I did look at totals of voter loss by precinct. All precincts lost voters. The precincts that had higher Democratic votes totals in the 2014 Governors race did have about 3,700 of the lost voters vs only around 3,000 lost in the less supportive precincts.
Once again, a voter purge may have occurred here, but the data does not show it was necessarily targeted in Democratic areas. I would need access to actual Vote History files on each voter to begin to draw a strong conclusion, combined with a better understanding of the decline is more the result of people leaving the area. If the latter is the case, it makes sense that the more populous precincts would see most of the flight since they are areas of denser population.
Something is going on here, it could be nefarious in nature, but it could as easily be a "naturally" occurring phenomena. The county might have removed a bunch of deceased people as well for example, something that does not happen automatically. More data is needed to make a final judgment on what happened in this district/county on that front.