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Retrospective on Belmont's Numbers from the 2012 Election

A look at Belmont's per-precinct numbers for president, senate, and state rep races.

Let's look at some of the 2012 election numbers in Belmont, by precinct, from last week.

Belmont's turnout was 84% (counting all registered voters from a few months ago), with a range of 78% in pct 4 to 87% in pct 6. Statewide, it was in the mid 70s.

First, let's get a picture of registered party affiliation: 54% of us are Unenrolled, 36% Democrat, and 9.3% Republican. By precinct, it's fairly consistent, with Unenrolled ranging from 50% in pct 7 to about 59% in pct 2 and 8. Pcts 2 and 8 are higher for Republicans (10% and 12%, respectively), and least Democratic (29% and 31%). Democrats have higher representation in pcts 6 and 7, at 40%.

How does that line up with presidential and senatorial picks? Overall, Obama won with 64.7% vs 33.6% for Romney, with 1.7% (110 votes total) going to Stein (Green) and Johnson (Libertarian). Romney did best in pcts 2 (44%) and 8 (41%) and worst in 6 and 7 (both 29%) and lost his current home precincts by a little worse than 2-1.

For the US Senate Warren won with 60% vs 40% for Brown, townwide. The stronger and weaker precincts followed the presidential tally, with Waren just passing 50% in pct 2 and over 65% in 6 and 7.

The Massachusetts State Rep race for the 24th district was quite a bit more interesting, and harder to follow, with three candidates and three towns. Overall (district-wide) Dave Rogers was at 57%, with Jim Gammill getting 23%, and Tomi Olson 20%. Within Belmont, Dave was just shy of 47%, with Jim getting almost 28%, and Tomi 25%. Dave was strongest in pcts 1, 6, and 7, with around 50%, while weakest in 2 (31%) and 8 (41%). Jim was strongest in his home precinct, 2 (41%), and 8 (30%), and weakest in 5, 6, and 7 (22-23%). Tomi was strongest in 8 (29%) and her home precinct, 5 (28%). Jim only won one precinct, 2, and was behind Tomi in 5, 6, and 7.

In Arlington, Dave got between 65 and 71% in each of the five precincts. Jim and Tomi polled in the 13-19% range, with each getting second in a few precincts. As you'd expect for Cambridge (two precincts), Dave cruised, getting 85%, with the others getting 7-8% each.

Observations

When I first starting paying attention to such stuff about 10 years ago, precinct 1 ("people's republic of precinct 1") was usually the most progressive-leaning and generally had the highest turnout. That has passed to precinct 6 (where I live) in the past few years.

In local elections, 4 and 7 tend to have the lightest turnouts, which stands out more in local (April) elections. They tend toward conservative candidates and issues, but that was definitely not the case Nov 6. Pcts 4 and 7 were Belmont's strongest for Obama and nearly so for Warren. It could be they are indeed conservative on local issues (eg, pct 4 was the only one to vote against a new Wellington), or that relatively more conservatives make it to the polls in April.

I never did buy into the "we need someone from Belmont argument" that many made during the State Rep campaign. A few who supported Margaret Hegarty in the primary (including Margaret herself) supported Jim in November, with some citing that reason. Even some of what I'd consider staunch Dems voted that way. Quite a few on the Warrant Committee (WC) were visible supporters too, but then I'm finding the WC to be increasingly out of step with the rest of town. All that said, I thought Jim's numbers would have been a bit higher in Belmont (I'd have bet a 50%-35%-15% split), though that was a bit off on my part, given the expected high Democratic turnout for the races higher up on the ballot.

Do people vote for the candidate most like them? Tomi and Jim did better in their home precincts, while in Belmont Dave did better the closer you got to Cambridge (and farther from Belmont Hill). Looking at demographics and housing stock (mix of single, and multi-family houses), the Watertown side of the tracks in Belmont is much more like North Cambridge (Dave's home) than Winn Brook and Belmont Hill neighborhoods. A few friends in Arlington said Belmont has enough representation in the state house, with State Senator Brownsberger, and kind of sneer at Belmont Hill. (I lived in one of those Arlington precincts in the late 80s to mid 90s.)

I was very pleased how respectful and thoughtful the candidates and their supporters were in Belmont this entire season. And I'm definitely glad it's over.

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Dave November 17, 2012 at 04:07 AM
I don't know why people talk about the precincts like everyone knows them. I've lived here for a decade and I still forget my precinct number. It's a lingo that serves to exclude casual observers (but maybe that's what folks want?). Would it be so hard to include a geographic identifier the first time the precinct number is mentioned. Eg "Precinct X - Belmont Hill", "Precinct Y -- Concord Ave". ?
John Bowe November 17, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Great point, Dave. Some of us are too immersed in it. (I have a 2x2-foot map on the wall with precincts marked. My kids even refer to them sometimes. Geeze.) A single-sheet townwide precinct map is surely a big help: http://www.town.belmont.ma.us/Public_Documents/BelmontMA_Clerk/precinctmap.pdf The Town Clerk also has per-precinct maps, http://www.belmont-ma.gov/Public_Documents/BelmontMA_Clerk/geninfo. People in three precincts have to go to neighboring precincts to vote, causing more confusion. Some precincts mostly map to neighborhoods - 8 is Winn Brook, 7 is Harvard Lawn (assuming people know that term, Cambridge side of School St), 2 is almost all of Belmont Hill (down to Pleasant St). 6 is the "big block" of Cushing Sq to Chenery and out to School; 1 is from Washington (pct 6) to the RR tracks, east of Common; 4 is the Butler side of Trapelo, to PQ; 5 is mostly between Cushing Sq area and Beech St; 3 is everything else, Beech St to the Center railroad station, and all the way to the Lexington line. I use "mostly" since borders are often on minor streets and shift occasionally to balance population of each.

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