As I noted earlier, there is a Special Election today in Iowa State Senate District #45 in Davenport. Democrats have held this seat for a long time, and they nominated a high-profile candidate, State Rep. Jim Lykam, so they should hold onto this seat. However, the election is two days after Christmas, when many voters will still be focused on the holidays, and Democratic turnout in special elections tends to be down generally. So as the results come in, how will we know how the race is going?
To answer this question, and to help me understand both the size and partisan leanings of the precincts in this district, I created a “vote tracking” sheet to follow tonight’s results. It lists the precincts which comprise SD #45, and the two-party vote share in each from November’s Presidential race.
I then made a ballpark estimate of the number of votes I expected would be cast today. Was it scientific? Not really. I looked at the turnout in the most recent late December/early January state legislative specials in Iowa. Since each State Senate district contains two State House districts, one can double the number of votes cast in the House races to estimate how many votes would have been cast if it was a Senate race. After eyeballing the four such races held in December and January in 2014 and 2015, I came up with 5,500. Pretty much back-of-the-envelope-type stuff.
From there, I then allocated that total among the different precincts in the district, keeping each precinct’s relative size the same as in last month’s Presidential race. This produced an “expected votes” number for each precinct. Still keeping those proportions the same, I then computed the minimum 2-party vote share Rep. Lykam would probably have to attain in each precinct in order to win today.
As you can see, this district has a strong Democratic lean, especially in what is southwestern Davenport (precincts D31-34 and D41-44). This sheet will enable me to determine whether there is enough votes coming in from those precincts, and at sufficient margins, for State Rep. Lykam to hold on here.
This tracking sheet is also available as a pdf here.